Bridgewater is fluid, relaxed, and confident, but does his arm, deep accuracy, and hand size inspire the NFL’s confidence?
Futures: Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater
By Matt Waldman
The question of what makes a good NFL quarterback isn’t much different than the question of what is healthy eating for a human being. Most want a simple answer to a complex question. Of the few who know many of the right answers, even fewer put the knowledge into practice.
Most prefer to latch onto the magic-pill theory. During the past 20 years we’ve seen teams, analysts, and fans latch onto a particular concept that they hope will be a game-changer.
Take quarterback buzz words and phrases like arm slot, compact release, running ability, and height and replace them with acai, agave, paleo, gluten-free, and kale and the drift is the same – embrace the potential these things and you look smart. At least until there’s a backlash like there has been with running quarterbacks and kale.
Both the vegetable and the particular species of NFL quarterback were trending as beneficial commodities until the past six months. Now there’s fear that too much kale is linked to hypothyroidism.Check out the symptoms and it sounds lot like Washington after too much Robert Griffin.
Of course, both kale and Griffin have earned a bad rap due to incomplete analysis. One has to be “significantly iodine deficient” or “consume the vegetable at an insanely high level,” for kale to hurt the human body. Likewise, Washington’s offense was deficient of the necessary chemistryfor a wilted Griffin to thrive.
The trendiest of these magic-pill characteristics this year for quarterback is hand size. The common sense reason is that the bigger the hand, the more control a quarterback has over the football in the face of chaos and bad weather.
I like common sense. However, let’s not take that common sense, run it through a process of reverse engineering, and spit out some myopic analysis with data that lacks any usable context. Tyler Wilson is a good example.
Read a football article, forum post, or tweet this year that details the importance of hand size and the conversation often works its way to Wilson, whose hands were smaller than the average NFL quarterback. There’s more implied about Wilson’s hand size as a knock-out factor for his career potential in Oakland than the fact that there were many more viable reasons why the Raiders cut him.
It’s like adding kale to your daily menu of fried chicken and liter of Pepsi and thinking you’re eating healthier only to develop a heart condition. To make matter worse, you then blame your condition on the weekly candy bar rather than the daily dose of fried meat, super doses of soft drinks, and a myriad of other unhealthy habits.
Hand size is no more of a magic pill than height, release mechanics, off-field character, or anything else. It’s rare if any single characteristic of a quarterback is a magic pill or knock-out factor. Combine the hyper-analysis of a singular skill set or a measurement lacking any context of how well a prospect integrates his athleticism, skills, and concepts of the position and it provides ample reason why quarterback is the most misunderstood position in the NFL.
On the basis of physical skills alone, Teddy Bridgewater may possess the least upside of the top quarterbacks entering the 2014 NFL Draft. Yet, on the basis of how a quarterback integrates his skills on the field, the Louisville passer is the best in his class.
The choice of quarterback does more to shape an NFL team than any position on the field. If the coaching staff that inherits Bridgewater designs its offense to match what the quarterback does best, Bridgewater has the skills to be the most productive rookie of this crop with as much upside as any of his peers.
As with all quarterbacks, what’s most prominent with Bridgewater’s game is his footwork. Derek Carr’s movement reveals initiative and impulsivity; Blake Bortles’ indicates decisiveness that can cross the border to the unmindful; and Johnny Manziel’s feet reveal a dynamic player who can lean too much on an improvisational mindset.
The three words I use to describe Bridgewater’s mentality as seen through his footwork are “fluid,” “relaxed,” and “confident.” Bridgewater shares the confidence and decisiveness of Bortles, but the dynamic imagination of Manziel with a better governor over his limitations.
What Bridgewater lacks is weight, top-notch arm strength, and deep accuracy. I’m confident that he can improve each of these weaknesses to some degree. Even if he doesn’t, his integration of his athleticism, touch, accuracy, and manipulation of defenses within 35 yards of the line of scrimmage should be enough to make him as a quality game day manager who can help a team win.
Read the rest of the analysis featuring clips of Bridgewater facing Miami, UCF, and Kentucky at Football Outsiders.