I realize that having to contemplate how much Teddy Bridgewater means to your team is just north of dreadful. I understand if Broncos fans don’t really care if he gets hurt or not, feeling that a ship steered by Drew Lock is headed for the sirens’ rocks just as quickly and hamfistedly. But everything about the way the NFL has structured the game means Bridgewater was in the right to not throw himself at the legs or feet of Darius Slay on his fumble return.
We all grumble, if not outright bellow, when we see ticky-tack roughing the passer calls. It seems anathema to the whole spirit of the game. But we also scream for our own calls when our QB is at the receiving end of a stiff breeze or can smell an opposing defensive linemen. The rules have been changed to make sure that even quarterbacks when running can avoid contact more easily. They don’t even have to slide on their backside anymore. Most fans still screech for them to get out of bounds or get down when out of the pocket.
Why? Because the league recognizes that seasons get ruined when a starting quarterback goes down. We talked about this last year when these very Broncos were stripped of every available QB thanks to COVID and had to start some guy that just happened to be walking by the entrance to the practice facility that day who looked mostly ambulatory. Maybe it’s due to restricted practice time, maybe it’s just how hard the position is, maybe it’s just that there aren’t that many guys who can do it, but the rules of the NFL are meant to keep teams from having to watch their season crumble because the most important guy is on his ass.
No matter what team you’re a fan of, we’ve all had a season go up in flames thanks to the starting QB going on the shelf for an extended time. I still wake up in cold sweats about the 2011 Bears that saw Jay Cutler lost for the season, on a defensive return that meant nothing, the nadir of which was a loss to Tim Fucking Tebow. Tim Tebow, people. Is that what you want?
Teams still lose QBs. That can’t be avoided entirely. But it can be protected. Maybe you don’t think that Bridgewater himself is worth it, but that’s not the point. He’s in the position. Whether he’s any damn good or not really isn’t the issue. The same collary applies as it does Mahomes or Rodgers or Jackson. Maybe don’t fumble the ball in the first place.
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It feels weird. It looks worse. It’s not what we grew up with. But that’s the game now. Quarterbacks are just their own thing, as their importance is so outsized. Bridgewater can do the dance and read the scripts to make a ravenous press from an older generation call off the dogs for a minute, but everyone knows better. Or should.