IPPOLITO: Bradford to Vikings Fails to Improve Team
The Water Cooler

Midway through what seemed to be a normal Saturday morning, a call went out to the Minneapolis police department to report a robbery.

Though no weapons or signs of forced entry were found, the evidence was clear: The Philadelphia Eagles robbed the Minnesota Vikings of a 2017 first round pick and a 2018 fourth round pick in exchange for an overpaid, disgruntled Sam Bradford.

To be sure, the Vikings desperately needed quarterback help this season after their starter Teddy Bridgewater suffered a gruesome non-contact injury at the end of training camp, but this trade wreaks of short-sightedness by Minnesota and could bail out Philadelphia from their questionable draft-related trades.

For the most part, members in the national media are chalking this up as a win for both teams: The Vikings get an experienced quarterback and maintain a shot at a second straight NFC North championship and the Eagles get a first round pick in next year’s draft that they would not have had because they traded their original pick to Cleveland to move up a few spots to draft their quarterback of the future, Carson Wentz.

After the NFC North, however, there is nothing else for the Vikings. The Vikings were not a super bowl or even NFC title contender this year with Teddy Bridgewater and are not a contender with Sam Bradford either.

At best, the Vikings are the fifth best team in the NFC behind the Panthers, Packers, Seahawks, and Cardinals, and that has not changed.

They now may be behind teams like Washington and the New York Giants because Bradford is such a question mark at the position and, at least through six years, has never lived up to the hype of being the first player selected in 2010.

Proponents of the trade point to the Vikings’ talent as something that could make Bradford different and better than he has been in the past. That is reasonable enough because Bradford has never been surrounded by much talent.

You would be forgiven if you do not remember the 2010-2013 Rams because no one else really does either. Bradford got a slight talent upgrade last year in Philadelphia but Bradford still threw for just 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 14 starts while going 7-7—the near-dictionary definition of mediocrity.

The optimistic spin says that because the Vikings have a quality offensive line and Adrian Peterson, Bradford will feel less pressure because he will not have to actively win games—as long as he does not throw them away, the Vikings should be able to keep games close and win with running the ball and defense.

Again, that is also a fair point but that means the Vikings are going to rely on Adrian Peterson almost to the point where it is unhealthy.

Last year, Peterson led the league in carries and won the rushing title for the third time in his career. Though I am loathing to mention this as so many others have, he is also 31. Though most running backs have hit their peak and begin a decline by age 30, Peterson is obviously not most running backs — he never has been and may be the only running back in the league that could retire today and be guaranteed a spot in the Fall of Fame.

Peterson has had to carry the Vikings before; he almost did that last year though Bridgewater did begin to show positive signs of development and his 2,097-yard season in 2012 may be the single greatest season for a running back the league will ever know.

I do not want to bet against AP, but I do want to bet against the Vikings using him as much as they have been and probably will with Bradford at the helm.

Defenses do not take Bradford seriously enough to respect him, so the box will be consistently crowded and stacked as opponents will dare Bradford to beat them while making every effort to contain Peterson.

When Bradford is forced to pass, he has two people to realistically throw to: Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph has a history of injury problems, though he did start all 16 games last season and Diggs is a second-year player who suffered injuries last season and both have had no time to develop any chemistry with Bradford.

Though it may not have been popular in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, the Vikings should have essentially done nothing or looked for a cheaper option. Backup Shaun Hill is not significantly worse than Bradford to the point it was worth giving up a first round pick.

Though it may frustrate everyone involved, the Vikings may have been better off punting on this season and using their high draft pick to further improve their roster so that when Bridgewater does return in 2017, they will have a viable shot at contending for more than just a wild card or division championship.

Punting may not sell tickets, but fans will get used to it: It is what Minnesota will be doing on the field most Sundays.

MichaelIppolito_SketchMichael Ippolito is a senior in the College. The Water Cooler appears every Friday.

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