Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater is taking his game to the NFL. Photo: USA Today Sports
Just before the ball dropped on 2013 we learned the Bill O'Brien to the Houston Texans saga had taken the next step. Now it looks as though O'Brien will have a decision to make with the top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. With Matt Schaub aging and coming off a rough season the Tans will have a decision to make. Do they give O'Brien a chance to work with Case Keenum, a former Houston Cougar standout, and see if he can work the magic that helped Matt McGloin become an NFL starter, or do they go the more likely route and take one of the quarterbacks coming out in the NFL Draft. If the Texans do go that way, which I think is pretty safe to assume, O'Brien will have an interesting decision to make.
Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel are each about to enter the NFL Draft. Bridgewater has long been assumed to be the top quarterback available in the upcoming draft if eligible, but Manziel is a local star with a Heisman Trophy and a terrific following. While O'Brien may be most concerned about finding a quarterback he can work with, the star appeal of Manziel should not be overlooked in a league equally as concerned about jersey and ticket sales as they are wins and losses.
Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater has decided to enter NFL Draft source told @ESPN— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) January 1, 2014
Bridgewater and Manziel each played a key role in putting their programs on the map over the last couple of years, and they did so in much different ways. Bridgewater grew up in the program, being thrown in to the fray early on as Charlie Strong started the rebuilding of Louisville's football program. Manziel was also given a starting job practically right out of the gate as a redshirt freshman, and he helped make the hiring of Kevin Sumlin look as strong as any and the transition to the SEC look like an easy move.
Louisville will move from the American to the ACC in 2014. The Cardinals will be in the same conference as Florida State and Miami instead of Central Florida and South Florida. they will be competing against North Carolina instead of East Carolina. Boston College instead of Connecticut and Pittsburgh instead of Temple. It is clearly a step in the right direction for the program, but unfortunately we will miss some potentially great tests for Bridgewater. I would have loved to see one year of Bridgewater in the ACC. Bridgewater vs. Jameis Winston? Oh well.
As for Manziel, it will be difficult to see any player be able to come up with the same offensive wonders on the field for a long time. One does not simply replace Manziel's ability to make a play happen at any moment the way Manziel proved capable of doing. Could he have benefited from one more season at the college game? I sure think so, but at the same time it is difficult to pass up on a shot to play in the NFL and potentially be a first round draft pick and it is. Manziel will have opportunities to improve some of his skills in front of NFL scouts between now and the draft, with a scouting combine, pro days and other workouts, and if he put sin the work he certainly can improve where he needs to.
Johnny Manziel left the college game in the most fitting fashion against Duke. Photo: USA Today Sports
There will be no replacing Manziel at A&M, and there may be no replacing him at the college game for years, if not decades. He leaves Texas A&M at a good time, and the Aggies are better off now in part because of what he was able to do with the program starting last season.
Bridgewater also leaves Louisville in a good position. Though the Cardinals fell shy of a BCS bowl game this season after a dominating performance against Florida in the Sugar Bowl last season, Bridgewater's career is a reflection of the direction the Louisville program is heading. There may be some lumps in the road coming up in the ACC, especially with a new quarterback, but the program has been committed to improving from day one of the Strong era. That will not change, and Strong will continue to build players of Bridgewater's caliber as long as he remains in the program.
Both players are leaving their programs behind on a high note. Bridgewater was amazing in Louisville's Russell Athletic Bowl victory over Miami, and Manziel put the Aggies on his back and pulled some tricks in A&M's wild rally against Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Thank you for the memories Bridgewater and Manziel. You provided the college football world with plenty of great moments.
Now the ball is in your court O'Brien. Bridgewater or Manziel?