Thanks to the NFL's virtual offseason, players and coaches alike have had a unique time familiarizing themselves with the playbook and each other the past few months. For Panthers coach Matt Rhule, leaning on past experiences with Teddy Bridgewater has added important context as the two continue to strengthen their bond.
During his appearance on Around The NFL on Friday, Rhule explained why he and Carolina's front office viewed Bridgewater as a fit for their system. Being the passionate speaker that he is, Rhule spoke to his new QB1's character and influence.
"The best players in the world bring out the best in their teammates and I can tell you, since free agency started, the amount of the guys that want to come and play with Teddy has nothing to do with me or anybody else," Rhule said. "They want to be a part of what he's doing 'cause he brings out the best in people."
Rhule admitted that he's admired Bridgewater from afar long before circling him as the guy to replace Cam Newton in Carolina. As a first-year head coach at Temple in 2013, Rhule recalled his Owls losing to Louisville and getting "destroyed" by Bridgewater, who compiled 348 pass yards and two touchdowns. Seven months later, he was selected 32nd overall in the draft.
From there, Rhule said he followed Bridgewater's NFL journey, and respected his perseverance and attitude, something he gleaned firsthand from an encounter the two had in late 2019. One day while Rhule's Baylor Bears were practicing at the Saints' facility in preparation for the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, then-Saints backup Bridgewater stopped his individual workouts to speak to sophomore receiver Tyquan Thornton. Rhule said that Bridgewater apologized to him for interrupting walkthroughs to talk to his fellow Miami native, to which he informed him wasn't a problem in the slightest.
"I sat there and told him, 'Teddy, I just want you to know how much respect I have for you. Having coached against you, having seen what you've done, having seen the way people respond to you. Man, I just wish you the best,'" Rhule told Bridgewater. Fast forward a couple months later and now the pair are working in tandem.
Bridgewater has overcome multiple hurdles in his career but, at 27, he's getting the chance to start anew in Carolina and come into a season as the undisputed leader for the first time since 2015. His new coach is more than eager for the chance to see Teddy do his thing once again.
"I believe so wholeheartedly in who he is as a quarterback. I believe in his abilities, I believe in his arm strength, I believe in his accuracy, I believe in his decision-making but, beyond that, I know he's going to make everyone else that much better."