When the Vikings offense take the field two Sundays from now in St. Louis, they'll do so with Matt Cassel as their starting quarterback. Players were informed Monday morning that Cassel won the job over rookie first-rounder Teddy Bridgewater. Coach Mike Zimmer made the announcement.
"Teddy will be still in my estimation a great player for this franchise for years to come,'' Zimmer said. “When he was at Louisville he didn't start his first 3 games. ... So he's been in this situation before ... He'll be fine."
Running back Adrian Peterson told the Pioneer Press on Sunday that Cassel had earned the nod.
“Right now, I feel like, just my personal opinion, I feel like Matt has the edge,” Peterson said. “Going off of understanding the offense and who's running the offense better right now, you know, nothing to do with talent-wise, so that's why Matt (has the edge). He's been here. He's a veteran guy. This is Teddy's first year, so I feel like we are in a good position to even be having that conversation (about quarterback competition).”
Cassel, who began the 2013 season behind former first-round pick Christian Ponder, started nine games and completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 1,807 yards, 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Heading into training camp -- and with Ponder's future in Minnesota all but over -- Cassel only had to beat out the inexperienced Bridgewater.
A solid preseason from the veteran made the decision easy for first-year coach Mike Zimmer, but there's no guarantee Bridgewater doesn't play at some point this season. Injuries are an obvious reason, but the rookie has improved over the team's first three preseason games, and the Vikings drafted him as the next face of the franchise.
But unlike, say, Cleveland, where it makes sense to get Johnny Manziel on the field sooner rather than later, Cassel is a capable NFL quarterback. According to Pro Football Focus, Cassel (66.7 completion percentage, 367 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) ranked 11th among all quarterbacks this preseason while Bridgewater (65 completion percentage, 4 TDs, 0 INTs) came in at No. 18.
We discussed the situation in Minnesota -- and with other teams faced with playing rookie quarterbacks -- in the latest Eye on Football Podcast, which is embedded above.