Who doesn’t love a good hypothetical?
This one comes in the form of our weekly Minnesota Vikings mailbag question.
If Sam gets healthy the same time Teddy is ready (let's say right after the bye and we are 6-2) who do you think starts Sam, Teddy or Case?
— Lance (@All_Day_Two8) October 19, 2017
That means Sam Bradford’s injured left knee, which he saw a specialist for within the last week, is healthy enough to play at the same time Teddy Bridgewater is ready to go and Case Keenum is still starting on an interim basis. OK, got it.
For all intents and purposes, let’s simplify this timetable and say all those things are in play after the bye week when the Vikings travel to Maryland to play the Redskins.
While Bradford has missed the last two weeks of practice, coach Mike Zimmer said he believes the quarterback will play this season. Since this hypothetical is based after the bye week, Bradford would be good to come back for one of the final eight regular-season games.
If Bradford continues to miss time and isn’t back at practice next week, Minnesota will face more questions about his long-term future and the uncertainty that comes with his knee injury.
Meanwhile, Bridgewater spoke to the media during the week about his long journey back from being injured and the confidence he has in his left knee that allowed him to return to practice.
Bridgewater practiced in only controlled environments (i.e. individual drills) for the last 13.5 months. He had to stay on the PUP list for the first six weeks of the season, but said he felt like he could have returned a couple of weeks ago.
“Honestly, I probably could have practiced a while ago but we wanted to be smart about everything,” Bridgewater said. “I probably wasn’t ready to be around moving guys and things like that, so using those six weeks just helped me with different drills and things like that, that apply to practice, that apply to the games. Maximize those six weeks and I’m happy to be back practicing.”
To me, that statement tells me Bridgewater might be further along that was anticipated. I completely endorse and support the Vikings' decision to bring him back slowly. That’s why I’ve said there’s no need to rush him back, especially when Keenum has been able to manage this offense in the short term.
But let’s get to the point. If it’s Week 10 and Bradford, Bridgewater and Keenum are all in play to start, I think the Vikings make their decision based on who will get them wins this season and be the guy they want to sign for 2018 and beyond.
I don’t think it’s a surprise to many that my answer is Bridgewater, for a couple of reasons. First off, even if Bradford is healthy enough to go right now, I’m not sure there’s 100 percent confidence that the issue with his knee won’t arise again down the line. I don’t believe he’s the long-term answer the Vikings are looking for.
Second off, Keenum is a good fix on a temporary basis. He’s playing like a top-10 quarterback right now, but he’s not expected to consistently over the course of a long season. Minnesota’s road to a playoff berth gets a lot harder in the second half of the season when it faces five top-12 defenses, with three of those games coming on the road.
There’s a reason he is a backup, and he has been a good one so far. But long term, he’s not the answer.
Third, you don’t have to bring up the argument that Bridgewater won’t be ready to execute the full playbook even if he’s physically a go in Week 10.
The benefit of Bridgewater doing his rehabilitation in Minnesota is that he has been in all of the position meetings and the Vikings don’t expect him to be limited by a scheme he hasn’t played in. He has had the game script to go off of each week on his own and has made it a point to learn the offense and get back into game prep so his transition can be seamless.
Will there be some hiccups along the way? Probably. The rest of the offense, which has gone through changes due to injuries in the last few weeks, has to get used to Bridgewater’s command and build the chemistry that made it successful with Bradford and now Keenum.
Bottom line, if we’re looking at full health for both quarterbacks whose left knees have been a problem, and the team is 6-2 going into the bye, I expect the Vikings to ride with who they anticipate being their best chance to lead the team to a division title, playoff run and wins beyond the 2017 season.