Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.
Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
Head coach Mike Zimmer just made the big announcement that should have surprised no one.
“Matt Cassel will be the starter going into the season,” Zimmer said after the morning walkthrough.
Zimmer told the team this morning that he would go with Cassel over rookie Teddy Bridgewater for the season opener in St. Louis, now just 13 days away. Cassel has started every preseason game, completing 66.7 percent of his attempts for 367 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
“Matt did not do anything to lose the job this preseason,” Zimmer said. “I think he’s played great. I think the team has a lot of confidence in him. They feel good about the veteran leadership and presence, and I had to think about the whole football team. It wasn’t just about the quarterbacks. It’s not always the best player at that position — and I’m not saying that Matt’s not. … It’s all about how everything works together. And at this stage, where we’re at right now, it’s the best thing to do.”
Zimmer had a conversation with Bridgewater about the decision, and he said that the first-round pick handled it well. He pointed out that Bridgewater was in this position his first year at Louisville.
“I told Teddy this morning that I’m so happy that he’s here with us,” Zimmer said. “I’m glad he’s the guy we picked. I love everything that he’s done. It wasn’t anything that Teddy did or didn’t do. Teddy will be still, in my estimation, a great player for this franchise for years to come.”
After an uneven performance in his first preseason game, Bridgewater has been efficient, and he led a game-winning drive in the second. He has completed 26 of his 40 attempts for 266 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions, and his passer rating is 117.3, better than Cassel’s 103.3.
While Zimmer has confidence in Cassel — who has started 68 NFL games, including six here last season — he did indicate that Cassel will have to play well early in the season to hold onto his job.
“We will hold the quarterback position to the exact same expectations as we do every other position. If you perform, you play. If you don’t, then somebody else will get an opportunity at some point,” Zimmer said. “That position, just like the outside linebacker spot, we have an expectation for performance. And as long as those guys perform, they’ll play.”
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