BOZICH | Strong: "Terrible Mistake" If Bridgewater Not First-Rou - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Strong: "Terrible Mistake" If Bridgewater Not First-Round NFL Pick

Posted: Updated:
Teddy Bridgewater's status is one of the biggest stories in the NFL Draft. Teddy Bridgewater's status is one of the biggest stories in the NFL Draft.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The crazy talk that Teddy Bridgewater will tumble out of the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft gained credibility when Mel Kiper Jr. endorsed the idea several weeks ago.

Jon Gruden, another ESPN analyst, confirmed last week in a conference call that Bridgewater’s mediocre performance at the University of Louisville’s pro day convinced NFL people to reconsider Bridgewater’s pro potential.

You don’t need CIA assistance to find mock drafts that feature Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles in the first round but exclude Bridgewater.

I said it was crazy talk, but it’s everywhere as we move closer to the NFL Draft, which begins Thursday night in New York City. I decided it was time to call somebody who also thinks it is crazy talk – Charlie Strong, the guy who recruited Bridgewater and then coached him for three seasons at the University of Louisville.

“I think it’s a terrible mistake if Teddy falls (that far),” Strong said. “I don’t get it.

“How does a guy go from being mentioned as the number one overall (pick) to where he is? If you look at it, you’re going to tell me that one workout has caused you to drop that much? I think it’s a major mistake to let him fall.

“You can’t judge his spot in the draft just off his pro day. Look at his career at the University of Louisville. One pro day? If you’re going to say that, look at some of the guys who are going to be drafted, how many good games did they even play?

“Just compare his performance to some of the guys that they say are going to get picked. I’ll take what Teddy did for our program and measure it against anyone. Anyone.

Strong is the head coach at the University of Texas now. I spoke with him by telephone Monday. Without Bridgewater, Louisville doesn’t win 23 of 26 games the last two seasons. Without Bridgewater, Charlie Strong is not the guy that Texas picks to replace Mack Brown.

“He had so much leadership ability that the players believed that any time in the game, especially when the game was on the line, that Teddy Bridgewater was going to grab the ball and we were going to go score because they had so much confidence in him,” Strong said.

“Just look at his character. Never an issue. Never one issue with him. Not one time. Never was he disrespectful to a coach, never was he ever disrespectful to his teammates or anyone.

“You ask him to do anything from going to visit a hospital, to doing a community service project. He was front and center. You think about complacency. He never became complacent.

“I always look at it like this: You show me a guy with a lot of effort and that’s what he did, he played with a lot of effort.”

Until seven weeks ago this topic – Bridgewater sliding into the second round of the draft – was laughable. He was no worse than a top 10 pick, more likely a top 5.

Then Bridgewater threw a string of questionable passes in front of representatives from 29 of 32 NFL teams at the U of L pro day. A few of his team workouts were reportedly not spectacular.

Some balls were underthrown. A few fluttered. A few more didn’t look crisp, certainly not as crisp as the throws that Bridgewater made against Miami, the defense he embarrassed by completing 35 of 45 throws for 447 yards and three touchdowns during the Cards’ 36-9 victory in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Bridgewater ranked second in the nation in completion percentage (71 percent), 10th in passing yards (3,970) and fifth in quarterback rating (171.1).

Only four of his 427 passing attempts were intercepted. Put down your calculators. That is less than one percent.

All that – as well as an outstanding sophomore season – was forgotten.

“No one performed at the level that kid performed at,” Strong said. “You think about how much sometimes was placed on his plate. The last two years the success of the program everyone put so much on him. So much was expected of him. Even though it was expected of him, he played. He never once backed away from expectations.

“You think about it. We go to Rutgers (in 2012) and my man goes in there with a broken hand and a swollen ankle. And we would not have won that game if he doesn’t play.

“In the Cincinnati game last year, we had to have a big fourth-down play. He’s practically got a guy that he’s dragging, trying to pull him down. He’s straining to get that first-down marker. Then he makes an unbelievable throw in the back of the end zone.

“Even the game we lost to Central Florida (last October), he drove the offense down the field and he put us ahead. He went out there and did his part.

“Both of the bowl games he played unbelievable (against Florida in the Sugar Bowl and then against Miami). What do people say, ‘That’s your measuring stick?’ Look what he did against his measuring stick.

“He can make all the throws. I mean, c’mon. Second round? Seriously? He can make all the throws.

“He’s not one of those guys who is just going to run around and throw it. But the thing that kid did, too, is he’s a student of the game. He studies the game.”

Although Strong is working in Austin and Bridgewater has been training at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, Strong said they talk nearly every week. When the coach and quarterback spoke last week, Strong could tell that this second-round stuff had motivated Bridgewater.

“One thing I’ve always liked about him is he’s always been one of those guys who is great when things are tough,” Strong said.

“He’s an underdog guy now. He’s not a limelight guy. He loves to come from behind. He loves for people to doubt him. He loves that.”

Copyright 2014 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

  • Sign Up for the WDRB Sports Newsletter

    * denotes required fields

    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WDRB. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.