- Ben Goessling, ESPN Staff Writer
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MINNEAPOLIS -- In his rookie season, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater finished with a 50.2 Total QB Rating, which was 8.7 points below the league average and put Bridgewater 24th among 33 qualifying quarterbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
But there's an interesting trend to notice in the rankings, and it's one that should provide hope for Bridgewater's future: Experience matters.
Every player who finished in the top 10 in Total QBR has played at least seven seasons in the league. Four of the bottom six quarterbacks are in their first or second year, and every first- or second-year quarterback with at least 50 action plays this season -- including Bridgewater -- had a below-average QBR.
There's little mystery as to why the experienced quarterbacks rule the roost: Playing the position in the modern NFL requires mastery of moves and countermoves, and the passers with the most experience are naturally going to have a better handle on pre-snap adjustments, check-with-me plays and all the other strategy that happens at the line of scrimmage in today's game.
It's interesting to note that five of the 10 fastest-paced offenses in the league, as measured by the number of seconds between plays, had quarterbacks who'd played at least seven seasons. As teams are allowing their QBs more time to diagnose defenses at the line, and giving them more control of what play is ultimately run against a certain defense, it helps to have a veteran who's rarely surprised.
Why is that a good sign for Bridgewater? First, he finished with the highest QBR of any rookie and already wasn't far behind playoff QBs like Andy Dalton (55.2) and Matthew Stafford (55.1). But more importantly, Bridgewater came to the Vikings from a Louisville offense that gave him plenty of responsibility at the line of scrimmage, and he handled that part of the game with a veteran's poise this year (remember him checking into the game-winning screen pass to Jarius Wright after his hard count got the New York Jets to show their blitz?). He seems to relish the tactical part of playing quarterback, and he figures to only get better at it as he gains experience.
The key to winning in the modern game is finding a passer who's good enough to keep the job until he gets a chance to see it all -- seven of the top eight QBs in this year's QBR rankings have at least one Super Bowl, and the eighth (Tony Romo) is going to the playoffs this year. The Vikings will give Bridgewater every chance to get to that point, and his mental acuity could bring back a sizable return on the Vikings' investment as he gets more playing time.
520dBen Goessling and Michael Rothstein