The names rolled off NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s tongue one after another Thursday night, but Teddy Bridgewater’s name didn’t get called as early as Bridgewater might have hoped.
But on Day 1 of the NFL Draft, Bridgewater might not have been as surprised as people thought. For he’s heard the talk, just as everybody else in football circles had heard the talk about him.
Bridgewater couldn’t do this; Bridgewater couldn’t do that. Bridgewater’s frame wasn’t NFL sturdy; his accuracy on long balls wasn’t what a team wanted of a high-draft pick.
So he sat, waited and wondered. Wondered why a quarterback named Blake Bortles, a big quarterback with an upside but not a past that looked anywhere as handsome as Bridgewater’s, went ahead of him.
Handsome is in the eye of the beholder, and Black quarterbacks tend to be ugly ducklings, which means Bridgewater wasn’t the first Black athlete whose talent has been discounted.
So Bridgewater waited as names came off the draft board:
Just a few months ago, Bridgewater was the flavor of the month. His play with Louisville had drawn raves from scouts and the talking heads on TV. He had made the Cardinals a team to reckon with. His numbers, the hallmark of greatness in some respects, were as impressive as anybody else’s, which includes the much-hyped Johnny Manziel, his Heisman Trophy from 2012 notwithstanding.
And Bridgewater waited.
The NFL is a funny business. Its draft is even funnier. The experts are as wrong as they are right. They can’t measure a player’s determination; they can’t judge a player’s heart.
Maybe Mel Kiper Jr., Chris Mortensen, Jon Gruden and John Clayton do know this business of drafting talent. Maybe the weeks the experts have spent cutting into Bridgewater’s game have uncovered its flaws.
Why now? Why didn't the experts take a scalpel to Bridgewater earlier? Why didn’t the experts see his flaws when they had his name at the top of their initial draft boards?
So Bridgewater waited. He waited as Warren Moon had waited all those years ago when his talent didn’t draw much interest from NFL teams. He, too, wasn’t what the league was looking for in a quarterback; he had to prove himself beyond what he had shown in college.
And Moon did.
Bridgewater will surely get his chance to prove his NFL worth. He wasn’t a Top 10 pick; he wouldn't have been a Day 1 pick at all if not for the late trade the Minnesota Vikings made. The Vikings drafted a football player with a grudge.
He will prove what he wasn’t apparently able to prove to the draft experts during the career he built in Louisville.
Odell Beckham Jr. …
But finally Teddy Bridgewater. Could all these NFL teams who passed on him 31 times have been wrong? Could all their poking and prodding at him, all their questioning of his splendid gift, have been unfair? Could Bridgewater turn out to be the quarterback he showed he was in the college game the past couple of seasons?
Yes, yes and hell yes!
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