MINNEAPOLIS -- Almost two years to the day before it happened to the Minnesota Vikings, another NFC team lost its first-round pick quarterback to a torn ACL shortly before the start of the regular season. And that team, like this Vikings team figures to do, turned to Shaun Hill.
The 36-year-old quarterback finds himself in nearly the same situation with the Vikings that he was in two years ago, when the Rams lost Sam Bradford for the season on Aug. 23, 2014, just two weeks before they opened the season against Minnesota. This time, it's the Vikings turning to the quarterback they beat that day, in the hope he can deliver the same kind of serviceable play he did later that season.
Hill was replaced by Austin Davis during the loss to the Vikings, but he regained the starting job and wound up completing 63.3 percent of his passes for 1,657 yards and eight touchdowns, with seven interceptions. This year, Hill hit on 10 of his 17 passes for 129 yards while starting in Bridgewater's place on Aug. 18 in Seattle, and while the Vikings weren't hoping to have to use him during the regular season, they can at least take solace in the fact Hill has been here before.
"I have confidence in Shaun," coach Mike Zimmer said. "I think he has played great this preseason. He has been in two-minute drills. He has done a phenomenal job, and the thing we all have to remember is, this is about the team. This isn’t about a one-man deal. We all feel terrible if it is significant, real significant, for Teddy, but this is about the team. We have a real good team."
Hill is in his second stint with the Vikings, with whom he began his NFL career by taking two knees in the last two plays of Mike Tice's tenure as coach. He's in his second stint with offensive coordinator Norv Turner too, having spent the 2006 and 2007 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers while Turner was the offensive coordinator. That's part of the reason Hill returned to the Vikings in 2015 as the team's backup quarterback, and the Vikings will lean on his knowledge of the offense now.
It's a serendipitous turn for Hill, who figured to spend the final year of his Vikings contract by helping Teddy Bridgewater develop. But the Maryland product, who's played for four NFL teams and spent a season in NFL Europe with the Amsterdam Admirals, has made his living in part by being ready when disaster hits. He's filled in for first-round picks Alex Smith, Matthew Stafford and Bradford in his past. Bridgewater will be only the latest first-rounder Hill has to succeed.
The Vikings can at least take comfort in knowing their starter-of-the-moment is prepared for his shot.
"I have confidence in him. I have confidence in this football team," Zimmer said. "To me, it’s still about the football team. So if Shaun is the guy, we’re going to figure out, as coaches, we’re going to try figure out the very best way we can beat the team that we’re playing that week. However we have to do it, if it’s running the ball 65 times or throwing it 65 times, it doesn’t really matter. We have a good football team and that’s what we’re going to do."