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Wide Left: The ripple effect of Teddy Bridgewater's injury

Oh, what could've been.

Wide Left is written by Vikings superfan Blair Anderson, who convinced Bring Me The News that it was a good idea to give him a platform to unleash his emotions. It feels like a good idea now, but honestly, we're a little worried about what will happen once the Vikings lose a few games.

One of the favorite debates for Minnesota Vikings fans over the past year (and basically throughout their existence) is who should be playing quarterback. After Case Keenum led the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game in 2017, the Vikings decided to give Kirk Cousins a fully-guaranteed, three-year, $84 million contract. This decision has been hotly contested and as Cousins comes off a disappointing first season, this debate seems to have no end in sight.

In all honesty, this is a silly debate. If you look back at the Vikings’ recent seasons there is only one correct answer for who should be the Vikings’ quarterback and his name is Teddy Bridgewater.

Bridgewater, of course, doesn’t play for the Vikings anymore after suffering what has to be one of the most random injuries in the history of sports. Nearly three years after having his knee explode (for the lack of a better medical term), Bridgewater will play a majority of snaps for the New Orleans Saints in a preseason opener against the Vikings on Friday night.

There are some that believe that talking about Bridgewater's path back from an injury – that was described by his surgeon as the worst knee dislocation he's ever seen – is a foreign topic because he doesn’t wear a purple jersey anymore. 

However, seeing Bridgewater in a different colored jersey is something that opens a wound that can’t be covered up.

Remember, Bridgewater was on track to be really good

Let’s look at where Bridgewater was heading into the 2016 season. He was coming off a year in 2015, where he was forced to take five-step drops with Matt Kalil at left tackle, hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson 30 times a game and his top weapon was the corpse of Greg Jennings and Mike Wallace, whose biggest concern was when his game check was going to be in his bank account.

Sure the Vikings did have Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen on the roster that season, but they were just starting to carve their teeth in the NFL. Throw in an offensive line that would make 2018’s unit blush, and Bridgewater survived the season by passing for 3,231 yards with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Bridgewater’s pedestrian line in his first full season as a starter raised questions for Vikings fans. For someone who nearly dropped into the second round because he needed to wear gloves to throw a football accurately, not putting up other-worldly stats was a bit of a concern. However, the chains were about to come off in 2016.

Bridgewater would put together a laser-focused preseason and after a scorching performance against the Chargers in the first football game played at U.S. Bank Stadium, it was clear it was going to be the house that Teddy built.

Then the injury happened. Right before the regular season. In a meaningless practice. Bridgewater’s knee buckled in a way that made teammates check their helmets and start puking in disgust. Even I puked in front of my co-workers (who didn’t watch football, so thought I was needing a trip to the emergency room) just for the fact it made me sick.

Teddy was a great quarterback for the Vikings even if his stats didn’t show it. Off the field, he was probably the nicest human being on the planet. A random kid made a music video begging him to come to his birthday party and the guy (who again, was an NFL starting quarterback at the time) showed up.

Even today, he passes out bikes on the street to less fortunate kids and has a children’s book telling everyone to follow their dreams. And yet, the football gods chose to have Aaron Rodgers (who stabbed his coach in the back and didn't even call his mom when a raging wildfire was burning near her home) still walking around. That’s just not fair.

But as Vince McMahon once said, “Life’s not fair! Life sucks and then you die!” And for Vikings fans, that's the truth. Bridgewater’s injury created a ripple effect so large in Vikings history, they need an actual FEMA unit to help pick up the pieces of emotional distress.

If Teddy doesn’t get hurt, the Vikings never trade a first round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for Sam Bradford. That pick never gets used for Derek Barnett, who stripped Keenum in the 2017 NFC Championship Game and maybe Teddy gets to use an offense with actual weapons including an elite Diggs and Thielen, and a running back that’s totally cool if the offense decides to throw the football.

Instead, Bridgewater worked his ass off to return and after another strong preseason with the New York Jets, he was traded for by the Saints, who have pegged him as the antecessor to Hall of Famer Drew Brees. 

In fact, I almost envision it like that episode of the Simpsons where Mr. Burns finds Santa’s Little Helper after he ran away and pried his eyes open and showed him traumatic clips until he became a stone cold killing machine.

So that’s why — even in a preseason game — it’s bittersweet to see Bridgewater on a football field again. Maybe he’ll never realize that potential he had coming into that 2016 season, but the mere sight of him is a reminder what could have been.

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