Training camp is underway for the Detroit Lions, but that didn’t stop them from inviting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater into Allen Park for a visit on Monday.
That bit of news is enough to get us to today’s Question of the Day:
Why should the Detroit Lions sign Teddy Bridgewater?
Bridgewater, who’s entering his 10th season in the NFL, is one of the few high-profile, free agent quarterbacks still available in free agency who has the potential to be a team’s backup. With 78 games played and over 2,000 pass attempts, Bridgewater has plenty of experience and has proven to be reliable in that role—most impressively in 2019 with the New Orleans Saints. Bridgewater stepped in as the Saints’ starter in Week 3 for an injured Drew Brees and did more than anyone could expect from a backup quarterback, winning five straight games and helping New Orleans protect and extend their lead in the NFC South. Over five games in 2019, Bridgewater had a 67.9 completion percentage, 1,384 passing yards, nine touchdowns to just two interceptions, a 99.1 passer rating—a career high—and two game-winning drives.
What’s obvious is the overlap in Bridgewater’s time in New Orleans (2018-2019) with Lions current head coach Dan Campbell, but what might have slipped your memory were the comments Campbell made about the quarterback two years ago.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Teddy Bridgewater because I think he’s a winner in this league,” Campbell said in the lead up to the Lions matchup with the Denver Broncos in Week 14 of the 2021 season.
Maybe it’s a myth considering there aren’t 32 starter-level quarterbacks in the league, but a backup quarterback capable of keeping a team afloat in case of an injury to the starter is often times considered a luxury. And it certainly shouldn’t have been high on the list of priorities for a team to address when they went a combined 12-21-1 over the last two seasons. Now, however, that team has expectations of becoming a winner, so while they hope for the best, they should prepare for the worst, too. Unpredictable things happen in an NFL season, even to the most important position in the sport, and as it stands right now, Nate Sudfeld, the Lions current backup quarterback, has six games and 37 passing attempts in his career.
In Bridgewater, the Lions would not only get a player capable of winning football games if called upon in a pinch, but also have an impact without even throwing a pass on game day.
“He was a guy that on Saturdays would pull all of the young guys out,” Campbell remembered about Bridgewater’s time in New Orleans. “He was our backup quarterback, so he would take all of the young guys, all of the practice squad guys, any of the backups, and he would take them out and go through the whole game plan with them and run, run the routes, talk through them, talk to them, tell them what he wanted, everything.
“He was ultra-competitive on practice squad,” Campbell said. “Our defense hated him. They had friendly wagers on who would connect, who wouldn’t, who would score, who wouldn’t. It was very competitive, but he made everybody around him better. That to me, that’s a sign of a winner.”
For Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, two aspects of a backup quarterback capable of winning games are critical to him: third down and the two-minute drill, as highlighted here by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. In 2021, his last season as a full-time starter, Bridgewater had a 94.4 passer rating, a 66.7 percent completion percentage, and six touchdowns to two interceptions on third down, all impressive marks for the veteran. Bridgewater also knows the importance of preparing for situations, openly questioning the Carolina Panthers approach to the two-minute drills and red zone under former head coach Matt Rhule.
“I’ll just say this, for Joe Brady’s growth, they’ll have to practice different things in different ways,” Bridgewater said on the “All Things Covered” podcast after his 2020 season in Carolina. “One of the things we didn’t do much of when I was there, we didn’t practice two-minute drills, we didn’t practice red zone. ... We didn’t practice on Fridays, but you walked through the red zone stuff and then Saturday you came out and practiced red zone but you got only 15 live reps.”
Not only do Bridgewater’s priorities for successful quarterbacking align with Ben Johnson’s ideals, but his admiration for Dan Campbell—to the point of unwarranted violence—is noted.
“Dan, he’s awesome. His energy is contagious and I’m pretty sure those players in Detroit love playing for him,” Bridgewater said about Campbell in 2021. “I was able to spend those two years with him in New Orleans and the things that he was able to do with those tight ends in that room—whenever he stood in front of the team and talked, you’re ready to just storm out of that meeting and punch a guy in the face for no reason.”
Detroit does have a player they like in Sudfeld, and they drafted Hendon Hooker in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft as a developmental prospect with considerable upside, but the team’s interest in Bridgewater goes back to before the draft when the Lions made him a “strong offer.”
As the Lions continue to work towards building a contender, it’s no coincidence their interest in Bridgewater persists—it’s the sign of a team leaving no stone unturned when it comes to becoming a winner.