The Minnesota Vikings ‘ season may already be over. That sounds like an overreaction — and perhaps it is — but anytime a team with playoff aspirations has its franchise quarterback collapse in a heap on the field, it’s only natural to wonder where it goes from there.
On Tuesday afternoon, where the biggest story should have been the 32 NFL teams reducing their rosters to 75 players ahead of the final week of the preseason, news broke from Vikings practice that third-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a non-contact injury to his knee. Practice was promptly cancelled, the media was ushered off the field, and the Vikings suddenly were forced to reassess their 2016 season.
Coach Mike Zimmer called Bridgewater’s injury significant in a Tuesday afternoon news conference but didn’t have a timetable for his return. That means it’s the next-man-up mindset. Yes, that’s a cliché, but sadly, there’s more truth to it than the Vikings care to admit. With that in mind, and the understanding that the Vikings won’t be able to replace Bridgewater, what’s Plan B?
Shaun Hill , 36, who last started an NFL game on Dec. 28, 2014, is behind Bridgewater on the depth chart. And if you’re looking for good news, this is about all we can offer: It wasn’t long ago that Hill was considered the league’s best backup. Unfortunately, those days appear to be behind him, and with the season just days away, the Vikings have limited options when it comes to finding a viable quarterback to save the season.
Shaun Hill. He’s 36, is entering his 15th NFL season, and last saw extensive action in 2014, when he 3-5 with the Los Angeles Rams . He played behind Bridgewater in 2015 and attempted a grand total of seven passes during the season. At this point in the proceedings, he’s a stopgap, someone who can start a handful of games with the understanding that the main man will return. There’s still Adrian Peterson , of course, and coach Mike Zimmer’s defense will have to play better than it did a season ago when it finished 14th.
Josh McCown , Cleveland Browns . Like Hill, McCown’s been around (he’s 37!). Unlike Hill, McCown, starting for an injured Jay Cutler in 2013, played well enough to raise questions about whether he should keep the job in Chicago when Cutler returned. It didn’t happen, but McCown parlayed that success into a nice little payday with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers . It turns out that not having Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall as targets makes life markedly more difficult for an NFL quarterback, and McCown lost 10 straight in Tampa Bay. He landed in Cleveland before the 2015 season and played reasonably well before he was sidelined by injuries. He’s still with the Browns, where he’s scheduled to serve as Robert Griffin III’s backup and mentor — unless he’s traded. The Browns have said they want to keep McCown around, presumably as insurance against an RG3 implosion, but everyone has a price. Earlier this month, McCown was rumored to be on the Dallas Cowboys ‘ radar after Kellen Moore was lost for the season with a broken ankle. That was before the world was introduced to Dak Prescott .
AJ McCarron , Cincinnati Bengals . McCarron fared well as Andy Dalton ‘s replacement late last season, and he should have earned a playoff victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers if not for an unfortunate — and seemingly impossible — series of events. And while Zimmer, the Bengals’ defensive coordinator from 2008-13, left Cincinnati before McCarron arrived in 2014, he remains tight with coach Marvin Lewis, and the two teams practiced together earlier this month. McCarron won’t come cheap, however; backup quarterback is arguably one of the most important positions on the team, and the Bengals won’t be in any hurry to part ways with him.
Mike Glennon , Buccaneers. He was supposedly on the trading block the last two offseasons but he remains on the roster, right behind Jameis Winston . In fact, the Bucs plan to keep three quarterbacks this season, though again, for the right price, maybe Glennon, who started 13 games in 2013 and another five in 2014, can be pried out of Tampa Bay. The team also has Ryan Griffin on the depth chart.
Colin Kaepernick , San Francisco 49ers . Who knows how long Kaepernick will be employed in San Francisco, or what he would add to the Vikings should get get released. Both Bridgewater and Kaepernick are young and elusive in the pocket, but Bridgewater is much more polished as a passer, and there’s no reason to think that Kaepernick would suddenly find himself in Minnesota after playing poorly for 2 1/2 seasons.
Zach Mettenberger , free agent. Mettenberger was originally a sixth-round pick of the Tennessee Titans , though many draft experts considered him a first-round talent in the months leading up to the draft. The reality is that he’s played more like a sixth-rounder; Mettenberger started six games in 2014, and another four last season. His record: A McCown-tastic 0-10. The Titans cut Mettenberger, he signed with the San Diego Chargers , who had seen enough to send him packing during the first wave of preseason cuts. The only thing he has on Hill is that he’s 11 years younger.
The bottom line: The Vikings are in a bad way. The season isn’t officially lost, but things certainly look bleak. So bleak, in fact, that their best hope to return to the playoffs might lie with the old-timer already on the roster.
“The available quarterbacks and potentially available ones may not be any better than Shaun Hill, considering they don’t know the offense,” former agent and CBSSports.com’s Joel Corry said Tuesday.
But hey, it could be worse, at least the Vikings have it better than the Chicago Bears :
Seriously though, it could be worse.
Counterintuitive argument: Bridgewater injury may be bad but not horrible if Hill is a better fit for Peterson friendly offense.
— Aaron Schatz (@FO_ASchatz) August 30, 2016
Source: CBS Sports / Teddy Bridgewater injury: Making sense of Shaun Hill and other QB options now