CHARLOTTE – In certain corners of the internet and sports talk radio, there's a narrative about quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The gist is he's not adept at throwing the deep ball.
Yet when Matt Rhule was asked about those whispers during his spring wrap-up video press conference on Thursday, Carolina's head coach shot down the notion.
"I don't really listen, hear those things," Rhule said. "Teddy, for us, is exactly what we want."
Rhule then focused on Bridgewater's two seasons with the Saints, whose offense under head coach Sean Payton isn't a vertical, downfield passing attack. Instead, it's about maximizing matchups to get yards after the catch. Of course, Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady is now implementing a version of that scheme in Carolina. That's why, Rhule added, it's essential to look at a quarterback's task on a play-to-play basis to best understand his play in context.
In New Orleans' case last year, Bridgewater's 6.2 intended air yards per pass attempt is right in line with starter Drew Brees' 6.4 intended air yards per attempt, further indicating the offense's design. Those shorter passes didn't make the Saints any less effective on offense, as they finished No. 3 in points scored (458), No. 9 in total yards (5,982), No. 7 in passing yards (4,244), No. 2 in passing touchdowns (36), and No. 3 in fewest interceptions (six). Plus, they ranked No. 9 in net yards per pass attempt (7.0 yards).
All that is to say, just because Bridgewater didn't throw a bunch of deep balls, that doesn't make him any less of an effective quarterback.
Still, Rhule believes Bridgewater is plenty capable of making downfield throws, citing a 45-yard pass he delivered to wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. during a Week 7 win over the Bears last year.
"He certainly has the arm strength to do it," Rhule said. "But I think he's done what he's been asked to do."
What will the Panthers have Bridgewater do in 2020? Rhule hinted there could be more downfield shots based on Carolina's personnel at wide receiver.
"I think one of the great things that's one of the strengths of our team is that Robbie Anderson's a deep-play threat. Curtis Samuel is a deep-play threat. DJ Moore is a deep-play threat," Rhule said. "So we feel like we have the power to be able to take advantage of throwing the ball downfield, and we know Teddy can do that."
Plus, Bridgewater has showed not only his mastery of the system but also his ability to teach it to others so that they have the same level of understanding. Rhule said Thursday that he'd guess Bridgewater didn't necessarily enjoy the virtual offseason program because it limited his ability to engage with his teammates in the locker room. But the Panthers still found ways to show off his leadership ability by having him run certain meetings, like one on blitz protections.
"The level of not even detail, but understanding and reasoning behind it is so high that I remember when I was with Eli Manning, I used to sit there and listen to everything he would say because he was so intelligent," Rhule said. "And we're coaches, we think we know it, but we don't have to stand back there and get hit. So he has a different set of reasoning than we have, and to hear Teddy reminded me of that.
"It's like, it punches you in the face with, wow, that's really, really, really intelligent. You can see how all of a sudden, people just stop and listen to him."
So while there may be a narrative out there about Bridgewater, Rhule is confident his quarterback will run the Panthers' system as the coaching staff intends.
View photos of the new Panthers quarterback's journey through the NFL.