There aren’t that many franchise quarterbacks out there. Not nearly enough, in fact, for each franchise. There are only about half a dozen who can carry a team to the top. The best the rest of the NFL can hope for is a competent signal-caller that can win with a good team around him and make the occasional big play when needed, as it always will be at some point.
Teddy Bridgewater showed he can do that on Sunday. Geno Smith didn’t.
No, I’m not talking about Bridgewater’s game-winning 87-yard TD pass play in overtime. Not much was asked of the rookie QB on that bubble screen that the Vikings’ Jarius Wright took to the end zone to seal the 30-24 win over the Jets, and even so, Bridgewater’s throw was a bit high.
I’m referring instead to Bridgewater getting the ball with the score knotted at 24 and just 16 ticks left on the game clock, and marching his team 40 yards down the field to put them into position to win the game on a long field goal.
They didn’t, as Minnesota’s Blair Walsh, who successfully converted a 55-yard kick earlier this season, didn’t come close from 56. But the fact that Bridgewater brought the home team that far in just 13 seconds with the game -- and their air-thin playoff hopes -- on the line suggested that he may well have what it takes.
Does Smith? We’ll likely never find out, since he’s playing on borrowed time with just three games left in the Jets’ sorry 2014 campaign, and will probably start next season glued to the bench -- either for Gang Green or some other team. Smith had one of the better performances of his two-year career at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday, even after a start that gives new meaning to the word ignominious. Smith’s pick-six on the first play from scrimmage gave the Vikes a leg up in a game they needed to win to keep alive even the slightest hope of earning a playoff spot. But he went on to complete 18 of his next 28 passes, as Rex Ryan and Marty Mornhinweg removed the cuffs they put on Smith last week (when he threw only 13 pass as Gang Green ran nearly 80 percent of the time).
But, as has been his wont, Smith left Jets fans wanting more as he was unable to get the visitors any points after they began OT with the ball. After getting bogged down not long after crossing the 50, the Jets were forced to punt. Three players later, the Vikes were victorious. Not because of any heroics by Bridgewater. Heroes, after all, are hard to come by.
But he -- and his team -- made the right plays when they had to. And that was more than enough.