The return of Teddy Bridgewater combined with the Vikings’ 5-2 record with Case Keenum under center have all the makings for a good old fashioned QB controversy.
It’s the ultimate drama and the dream of every network that covers the NFL. The daily debates have already started. Stick with Keenum until he loses? Turn to Bridgewater as soon as possible? It’ll be a talking point on NFL Network and ESPN for weeks. But inside the Vikings’ building, there is no controversy.
No matter how things play out, you won’t be hearing “schism” or “split locker room.”
“Right now we’re playing some good football and me coming back, I just want to be the best teammate I can be, continue to be a great leader in the locker room, motivate the guys to continue to put their best effort out there each day,” Bridgewater said Thursday.
Bridgewater was activated on Wednesday, marking the first time he became eligible to play since August 2016. Head coach Mike Zimmer has not given any indication if or when the Vikings plan to turn the ball over to Bridgewater.
The Vikings’ head coach, however, is confident in the personality of his 25-year-old QB.
“Everybody just likes to be around him, he’s like the anti-me,” Zimmer joked. “He’s smiling all the time. He’s always joking around with the guys. He’s just got a great personality.”
When the Vikings signed Keenum, they knew his personality be a good fit for a potentially awkward quarterback situation. He’d been benched for No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff in 2016. The year before that he came in to relieve Nick Foles. In 2014, he played two games filling in for Ryan Fitzpatrick. Keenum’s first career action came in 2013 when he took over for Matt Schaub. Later in the year, Schaub took the job back.
This year’s in-flux situation is probably a relief for Keenum because includes his team winning with regularity.
“I think a lot of things in my life have prepared me for future things,” Keenum said. “I just got asked a few questions about Jared Goff. Last year every interview I did was about Jared so I’ve been prepared whether it’s Sam [Bradford] or Teddy [Bridgewater] or whoever else, I’ve been prepared for these types of situations.”
Bridgewater has been active on the sideline during games, giving Keenum his observations of the opposing team’s defense.
“Teddy’s been awesome, he really has,” Keenum said. “From when I came in the Spring, being able to help on how to communicate with different guys offensively, then seeing things from a different point of view during games. He was a big help.”
Make no mistake, both quarterbacks want to be under center. Another few wins and Keenum could set himself up for a starting job next season. A couple wins for Bridgewater could put him back on track to be the Vikings’ franchise quarterback.
But it’s nearly impossible to conjure up a situation in which Keenum and Bridgewater would become a distraction. Even if Bridgewater took over and struggled, Keenum has shown that he can handle that scenario just fine. When Sam Bradford returned in Week 5 against the Bears and re-injured his knee, Keenum came off the bench and went 17-for-21 in a win.
The Vikings’ locker room is also key to the equation. It’s Teddy’s locker room, but there is belief in Keenum. There is also a wide-ranging group of veteran players who have seen everything under the sun when it comes to quarterbacks.
Zimmer said Thursday he’s been impressed with the zip on Bridgewater’s passes and how quickly he’s dropping back from under center. Bridgewater said he has no concerns about the knee. It seems like only a matter of time before the Vikings have Teddy back. But if he stays on the bench, it will only be because Keenum keeps winning. That’s a pretty good formula for avoiding a QB controversy.