CHARLOTTE, NC – Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has a reputation for being more of a game manager than a game changer. His role with the Minnesota Vikings, the New Orleans Saints and now the Panthers was to put the ball in the hands of his directors.
Now the Panthers’ best playmaker, running back Christian McCaffrey, is out for four to six weeks with a sprained ankle. It puts some pressure on Bridgewater to become more of a game changer to make up for the loss of the best all-round running back in the league.
“I’m definitely ready for whatever is expected,” said Bridgewater as he prepares to face the Los Angeles Chargers (1-1) on Sunday (4:05 pm, Fox). “As long as they see that I have that determination, when I come to work every day with that chip on my shoulder, everyone will improve their game too.
“I’m in a unique position where I can convince the kids around me to follow my lead. It is something I am proud of. “
Manager Matt Rhule said he had “full confidence” in Bridgewater as a playmaker, even though the 27-year-old has just returned from a three-round performance in Sunday’s 31-17 defeat in Tampa Bay.
“He brought a young team back to double-digit lead twice,” Rhule said of Bridgewater’s efforts in the first two games of the season against the Raiders and the Buccaneers. “When you do, you are not a game manager. You are a quarterback.”
Rhule said the game manager term is usually for a quarterback who passes 40 times per game and shoots between 18 and 20 times.
“It’s not us,” he said. “We’re out there, we’re flying around. It’s not perfect yet.”
Statistics and history, however, indicate that Bridgewater has never been a guy carrying a team with his arm since he was selected with the last pick of the first round in 2014 by Louisville. Pushed into the Minnesota starting lineup as a rookie, he went 6-6 with running star Adrian Peterson suspended. He threw 12 interceptions out of 14 touchdowns.
Bridgewater and the Vikings went 11-5 in 2015 when Peterson returned to have a great season. Even then, Bridgewater only launched 14 touchdown passes with nine interceptions.
Last year, when Bridgewater went 5-0 as a replacement for Drew Brees in New Orleans, he was aided by stars in running back (Alvin Kamara) and catcher (Michael Thomas). Bridgewater was efficient: nine touchdowns with two interceptions, but rarely dynamic.
Bridgewater finds itself in a unique situation in the next month. If he can’t be more dynamic and help overturn a 0-2 team that McCaffrey insists still have a chance to make the playoffs, can he be the Panthers’ long-term quarterback in Joe Brady’s pass-happy offense?
If the Panthers continue to lose, they will be linked even closer to Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State’s Justin Fields in the 2021 draft, though Bridgewater has two years remaining for his $ 63 million three-year contract.
Carolina’s next two opponents have not hesitated to go from veteran quarterbacks looking for more dynamic starters over the past two seasons. The Chargers last season split from Philip Rivers, who owns 30 franchise breakout records, and selected Justin Herbert with their sixth pick in April.
Herbert made his debut last week, with starter Tyrod Taylor suffering from pre-match chest pains which were later determined to be a collapsed lung, caused by a team doctor’s mistake on an injection. Herbert nearly pulled off the day’s flip against reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City, completing 21 of 31 passes for 311 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 18 yards and a touchdown. Herbert will restart on Sunday against the Panthers.
Arizona picked Kyler Murray with their first pick in 2019. Murray has the Cardinals at 2-0 and is already getting some MVP buzz.
The most comprehensive statistic on how a quarterback can lead a team is ESPN’s quarterback total score.
Seven of the eight best in the QBR total this year are from teams with a 2-0 record.
Bridgewater is in 19th place at 58.1 and has a career QBR of 54.0. His rating last season in New Orleans was 50.9. When he won 11 games in 2015 he was 57.7 and in 2014 he was 51.6.
However, Bridgewater doesn’t believe in labels.
“That’s the fun part of this position,” he said. “If you win and you don’t light the card, you are a game manager. If you win and you light the card, you are a gunslinger. If you lose and you light the card, you are a gunslinger.”
Rivers, who took his maiden win for Indianapolis last Sunday, was more of a game manager than a gunslinger in the Colts win.
“I’ve always thought the term game manager is seen as negative,” he said after Sunday’s win against Minnesota. “I don’t think that’s bad. Sometimes a quarterback’s job is to sink him and throw him all over the court and find a way to lead a two minute trip, sometimes it’s to hand it over and not flip it and put everyone in line, manage the movements and do some checking here and there.
“If that’s the term game manager, and this is it [last Sunday] it was, it was a lot of fun. “
To be honest with Bridgewater, he didn’t spend much time committing gunfighting offenses. He hasn’t been asked to do many great shows, particularly downstream. This McCaffrey-free trait may be his best chance to change his mind.
“Myself, I just try to play this game to win,” Bridgewater said. “Whatever everyone wants to label you, that’s what it is. In the end, the only thing that matters is how my teammates see me, how this organization sees me.”