Teddy Bridgewater finally threw his first career touchdown pass in Sunday’s 17-16 loss to the Bills. Before that, though, the rookie quarterback threw a pair of picks, pushing his season total to five.
All that got me thinking today about how long it has taken other recent first-round picks to throw their first touchdown passes and whether they threw a handful of picks early in their first seasons, too. And because I couldn’t think of anything more relaxing to do on an off day than dig through box scores and write blog posts, I decided to share what I found. You can draw your own conclusions.
ANDREW LUCK, COLTS: The first overall pick in 2012 started from Day One and was asked to throw a lot. He got his first TD pass on the 37th throw of his debut. He threw five picks in his first four games, with the fifth coming on his 159th career pass, but had seven touchdowns over that span.
ROBERT GRIFFIN III, REDSKINS: Griffin, the No. 2 pick in 2012, got his first TD pass the quickest out of the eight QBs taken in the first round the past three years. It took him just seven passes. He only threw five interceptions as a rookie, the fifth one coming on his 373rd pass as a professional.
RYAN TANNEHILL, DOLPHINS: It took Tannehill, who was also part of that 2012 quarterback crop, 65 passes to get his first touchdown. His fifth career interception came on his 133rd career throw.
BRANDON WEEDEN, BROWNS: I’ll be honest, I forgot Weeden was a first-round pick just two years ago and giggled a little bit when I saw his name. It took him just 111 throws to chuck up his fifth pick and his first touchdown came on his 58th throw. Weeden, of course, is no longer in Cleveland.
EJ MANUEL, BILLS: Manuel, the only first-round quarterback in 2013, threw his first career TD on the 15th pass of his debut. He was actually pretty cautious with the football as a rookie, throwing his fifth pick on his 258th pass, second to only RGIII. Manuel, of course, was benched early in 2014.
BLAKE BORTLES, JAGUARS: Bortles, the third overall pick in May, took just 14 passes to get his first career touchdown. Unfortunately, it only took him 74 passes to throw his fifth interception, fewer than even Bridgewater. Bortles has five touchdowns and 10 picks through his first five NFL games.
JOHNNY MANZIEL, BROWNS: Manziel, the latest QB of the future for the Browns, has only attempted one pass — an incompletion. But he could soon take over as Cleveland’s starter.
TEDDY BRIDGEWATER, VIKINGS: Finally, we have reached Teddy Time. Bridgewater, the 32nd overall pick in May, needed 101 throws to get his first touchdown pass, the most of the eight guys I looked at. He actually threw five interceptions before getting it. His fifth interception came on his 98th throw. Go ahead and draw conclusions on Bridgewater if you want, but I still need to see about 800 or so more throws before I’m ready to say whether he’s the Vikings’ long-term answer at QB.
One year ago today, a group gathered at Legends Bar and Grill in Minneapolis to watch the Monday Night Football game between the Vikings and Giants. The impetus for the gathering, aside from camaraderie, was a mixture of curiosity and real excitement for the debut of new quarterback Josh Freeman, a midseason pickup the Vikings decided to throw into the mix only days after signing him (after Freeman’s release from Tampa Bay and introductory, whisper-filled news conference in Minnesota).
What transpired was a debacle of a game – the low point in a lost season, a low point for the Vikings, period. Freeman, who had one very good season and one pretty good season with Tampa Bay, looked completely lost. He completed 20 of 53(!) passes for 190 yards. Despite the game being within two scores throughout – the Vikings lost 23-7 – Minnesota attempted just 14 running plays. Freeman never threw another pass for the Vikings and is not currently with any team.
To commemorate that experience, we gathered the core people who watched the game one year ago for a reunion Monday at Legends – also during Monday Night Football, this time a much better game between the Steelers and Texans. We put together an oral history, of sorts, of the experience of watching the original game a year ago. Be aware that the conversation veered off-topic so many times we lost count. Maybe it was more fun to be there than to read this transcript. But we hope you enjoy it.
The participants are:
Aaron Gleeman (@aarongleeman), a noted baseball blogger and brunch enthusiast. (First picture, right)
Maggie LaMaack (@MaggieLaMaack), a millennial who in 2013 was watching her first full season of Vikings football. (First picture, left)
Jim Andrews (@realjimandrews), a dedicated Vikings fan who played the game. (Second picture, left)
Jake Nyberg (@jakenyberg), who set the tone Monday by ordering a vodka Red Bull. (Second picture, right)
Michael Rand (@randball), who is us, which is to say, me.
Here we go:
Rand: You were legitimately excited for the game before it happened, right?
Andrews: I was excited for the prospects of an actual Vikings quarterback, that being Freeman. But I didn’t expect them to throw the ball, what, 41 times?
Rand: 53 times.
Andrews: 53 times! That’s an insane amount. Was Adrian Peterson playing?
Gleeman: Yes! That’s the research I did. Freeman threw it 53 times and Peterson ran 13 times for 28 yards.
Nyberg: It almost seems like someone was trying to prove something that night.
Rand: You think? But who?
Nyberg: My crosshairs would go on Leslie Frazier. He’s saying, “You wanted this guy on my team, you want to start him? I’m going to have him throw it 53 times.” He was daring (Rick) Spielman to fire him.
Gleeman: I found a good quote from Frazier after the game. He said, “I thought about taking him out, but we were really close.” And Sherels did have a punt return for a touchdown early on, so it was close for a long time. That’s how we got our mystery shots.
Rand: Did you turn down the mystery shot?
Gleeman: The waitress wouldn’t give it to me, and I was very upset. But then we decided, “well, they just scored. They’re probably going to score four or five more times, so we’ll have more chances.”
Rand: Because of Josh Freeman.
Nyberg: This vodka Red Bull, by the way, wasn’t part of my routine last year. But it should have been. Because I’m soaring right now.
LaMaack: I think my only real contribution to that day was finding a picture of Josh Freeman dressed like the Michael Jackson Thriller cover.
Rand: I forgot about that! By like the third quarter, that was all I cared about.
LaMaack: Why did he actually take that picture? Because it had an actual tiger in it.
Rand: Maggie, last year was your first year as a Vikings fan. How did that game make you feel?
LaMaack: I have watched one Vikings game so far this year – the one where Teddy Bridgewater did a good job.
[Three minutes of discussion of all that has gone wrong this year]
Nyberg: I love how the Vikings have managed to remain such a train wreck that we’ve gathered to talk about something that happened a year ago, and we’re all in on this year. It’s unbelievable. Twins fans can only dream of such a mess.
Rand: Back to Freeman, why do you think they played him in the first place?
Gleeman: Yeah, I mean, if Frazier is daring Spielman to fire him, what’s his end game there?
Rand: Well, his end game happened. He got fired.
Gleeman: Do you think he thought Spielman would get fired and he would stay?
[Long discussion of whether Raffi, the musician, is still alive. He is.].
[Long discussion of whether the Gophers can contend in the Big Ten. There is optimism among the group].
Nyberg: Did we go totally off the rails here? I feel like we’re totally off the rails with the original discussion.
Rand: It’s OK.
Gleeman: There really were no rails.
Rand: We can only talk about the Josh Freeman game so much. I didn’t expect us to talk about it for two hours. This was an experiment. But I do want to hear from Nyberg. What was your expectation going into that game last year?
Nyberg: I thought, to me, how in the world could they just get him for nothing. This guy is a 10-year franchise quarterback, minimum. He was young. … OK, but my real expectations were what your expectations have to be for anything for the Vikings now: the unexpected. Honestly, I’m glad right now that Teddy Bridgewater right now looks raw and young. Because if he was lighting it up every game, you would expect the ACL injury to be two weeks away. You’d be like, “here it comes. Wait for it.” When the highs start to creep towards fun, boom. Here’s what I wish we had the benefit of: I wish I could live a mirror image of the last 7 to 10 years in another NFL market to find out if this is just a Vikings thing or is it an NFL thing. Someone gets arrested (for example) for shoplifting a carabiner. Is that just a Vikings thing, or does that happen everywhere?
Andrews: You mean, do other teams handle their problems head-on instead of dancing around them?
[Discussion of Ray Rice. Inconclusive.]
Rand: Maggie, why did you even start watching the Vikings in the first place last year?
LaMaack: I don’t even know. I think I was briefly dating a guy the season before and he was always watching football. I just started watching it.
Rand: That was quite a year to pick to watch every Vikings game.
Gleeman: It really was. Initially, I blamed (Maggie) for the season. But they’re bad now, too.
LaMaack: I think I’ve just been busy this year. I haven’t been actively trying not to watch.
[Good story from Nyberg about underage drinking in Wisconsin].
Rand: OK, one last try to get us back on topic: I just remember sitting here last year, thinking, “What is going on?”
Gleeman: We must have been excited at one point.
Rand: We congregated. It was a Monday Night game and we were like, “Josh Freeman. Let’s watch this.”
Gleeman: And it was a great turnout, obviously, with five of us.
LaMaack: Also, it was one of the first times I had met Aaron, and he had his Blackberry.
Gleeman: I sat down, and I was like, “Hey Maggie,” and she just stopped and gave me this look and said, “Is that a Blackberry.”
Rand: When did you get rid of the Blackberry? That was your signature for a while.
Gleeman: Like, March.
Rand: That was a big day. With the game, though, I do think we were excited and intrigued. This wasn’t like we were going to get together and make fun of the Vikings.
Andrews: I remember there was a guy in a Wild jersey playing Big Buck Hunter. He was vaping all night. Everything seems so weird when you look back on it.
The Gophers have not played in the Rose Bowl in more than half a century. Yes, their last appearance in the “Grandaddy of them all” was in 1962, when they defeated UCLA 21-3.
Since then, the game has been the pie-in-the-sky benchmark for a return to prominence for Minnesota — the game fans dared to dream about. One coach, Joe Salem, even (infamously in retrospect) posed with a rose in his mouth for a billboard. The Gophers never even managed to finish above .500 in conference play under ol’ Smoky Joe. That was more than 30 years ago.
Lou Holtz conjured images of Pasadena. Glen Mason’s best teams ultimately were woulda coulda shoulda teases that accomplished plenty but couldn’t make a really serious dent in Rose Bowl talk. Tim Brewster had a patch of Rose Bowl grass. No, really.
And here we are today. It would be getting way ahead of ourselves to talk about the Rose Bowl, even in a normal year for the game. The Gophers under Jerry Kill are 3-0 in the Big Ten for the first time in nearly a quarter-century, and the next two games on their schedule (at Illinois, home vs. Iowa) are certainly winnable. Their final three (Ohio State, at Nebraska, at Wisconsin) are more than daunting.
But still, at 3-0, this is the kind of start that would allow most fans to have at least a realistic dream of the Rose Bowl in most years. Indeed, we’ve heard chatter from plenty of them already about that very bowl game.
However, a lot has changed about the game — and getting to the game — in recent years. Unlike many of the seasons in the great Rose Bowl drought, getting there can be complicated.
This season, in particular, it would require being one of the top four teams in college football. That’s because under the new four-game playoff system, the Rose Bowl hosts one of the national semifinals every three years. And this happens to be one of those years.
The Gophers are still in the running for the playoff (think of that, for a moment), but even a Minnesota team that fell short of the playoff but wound up winning the Big Ten would get bounced to a different bowl this season.
Everyone within the program — fans included — would gladly accept that outcome because it would still be the best year for the program since the 1960s. But there would still be some unfortunate irony if the Gophers finally had a season worthy of the Rose Bowl, only to find out they picked the wrong year to be great.
Again: nice problem to have, should it happen — and a long way to go before it becomes a reality. Just remember it will take a lot more to smell roses this season than in past years.
Each week, beat guy Matt Vensel will highlight five Vikings stats that really mean something.
96 — win probability, in percentage, for the Vikings before fourth and 20 on Sunday.
The Vikings had a victory within their grasp on Sunday when the Bills got the football with just over three minutes left. And you can’t ask for a much better opportunity to seize it than the one they got after a pair of sacks pushed the Bills back to fourth and 20. At that point, the Vikings had a win probability of 96 percent, according to advancedfootballanalytics.com, and the Bills had just a 12 percent chance of converting for a first down. But they did, and the Vikings’ win probability plummeted to 68 percent. The odds were still in their favor, but they couldn’t recover from that play.
22 — total quarterback pressures for left defensive end Brian Robison this season.
Right defensive end Everson Griffen is getting a lot of attention for his play, and rightfully so. After recording three sacks against the Bills, he now has seven on the season, tied for second in the NFL behind only Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller, who has eight. But believe it or not, Robison has been more disruptive based on the numbers from Pro Football Focus. Robison has only one half of a sack this season, but he has generated 22 total pressures, which ranks 11th in the NFL. Griffen, meanwhile, is tied for 19th with 19, though his pressures have been much more impactful.
65 — yards after contact per carry for running back Jerick McKinnon against the Bills.
Last week, head coach Mike Zimmer challenged the Vikings running backs to get him an average of three yards after contact per carry against the Bills. His rookie running back obliged and then some. According to Pro Football Focus, 65 of McKinnon’s 103 rushing yards came after a Bills defender put a hand on him. That’s an average of 3.4 yards after contact per carry. McKinnon also forced four missed tackles against the Bills. He had that many on the season entering the game.
one — pressures allowed by offensive linemen Joe Berger and Mike Harris in relief.
Thirteen plays into the 17-16 loss to the Bills, the Vikings lost a pair of starting offensive linemen on the same running play. Center John Sullivan suffered a concussion and right guard Vlad Ducasse hurt his knee, forcing Berger and Harris into action. Against a formidable Bills front, and with Harris playing a position he hadn’t played since peewee, that duo combined to allow just one pressure, according to Pro Football Focus. McKinnon also had success running behind those two.
two — sacks of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater that came in 2.5 seconds or fewer.
The Vikings offensive line has been under the microscope after three straight games with at least five sacks allowed. But one statistic suggests that the issues in pass protection aren’t all on the big guys. According to Pro Football Focus, only two of the sacks Bridgewater has taken this season came within 2.5 seconds of the snap. The other 13 came after 2.5 seconds, which is tied for the seventh most in the league (keep in mind that Bridgewater has only played three and a half games). So maybe there is something to the rookie holding the ball a split second too long in the pocket.