It's been a long time since Teddy Bridgewater experienced a night like Friday.
The New York Jets quarterback hadn't completed a pass since the 2016 preseason, before a gruesome non-contact dislocated knee injury wiped out the past two years, threatened to terminate his career, and ended his short-lived run as the face of the Minnesota Vikings.
Friday night, Bridgewater had a night of many first-in-a-long-times. His first completion, first touchdown pass, first time getting hit in game action since an Aug. 28, 2016 preseason tilt.
It wasn't just the night of firsts that made the performance so special, it was that Bridgewater was nearly flawless. The Jets signal-caller completed 7 of 8 passes for 85 yards and one touchdown in two scoring drives, leading to a 10-0 first-half lead before he relinquished duties to star rookie Sam Darnold.
"I felt great. It was an awesome feeling. I was at peace out there," Bridgewater said, via the New York Post. "I was just so excited. I was glad to be out there with the guys, looking at [their] eyes, and feeding off [their] energy."
Preseason stats can be misleading. Facing mostly backups and a vanilla scheme can make many quarterbacks look good.
It wasn't the stats that should get everyone excited about Bridgewater's play. It's how he looked doing it. Teddy Two-Gloves, for the most part, looked like the player he was before the dadgum injury nearly took it all away. He looked mobile on the move, poised in the pocket, and confident moving through his progression. Bridgewater displayed his pinpoint accuracy on several throws. Even though most of his passes were of the short-to-intermediate variety, there seems little holding the QB back.
For a player's whose future was openly questioned less than a year ago by his former coach, it's hard not to feel warm and fuzzy watching Bridgewater perform as he did Friday night.
"I was actually anxious to get hit, if anything, because I wanted to get hit," Bridgewater said. "It felt good getting hit again. For me, it was like the final step of the process. I got hit and got right back up, and it served as a reminder that the game's still the same."
The Jets must be loving how this offseason is turning out. Gambling on Bridgewater with an incentive-laden contract could pay back solid returns. The quarterback's trade stock could not be higher. Now all Gang Green needs is to find a dancing partner.
Friday's performance confirms that in a league with a dearth of quality quarterbacks, Bridgewater should find a permanent home. Even if he's not a starter this year, the still only 25-year-old is better than most backups languishing around NFL rosters. On a night that saw Matt Schaub and Matt Cassel feature prominently in preseason games, Teddy deserves to be more than a No. 3 QB.
Maybe an injury like the one Bridgewater suffered befalls another team this preseason, opening a trade opportunity. Perhaps a team with an aging quarterback could pry Teddy B away from the Jets to be a seamless heir -- would Gang Green do business with the Giants or Patriots after seeing Bridgewater in person?
Perhaps it doesn't happen this season, but in a league where Sam Bradford keeps getting $20 million chances, Nathan Peterman and AJ McCarron get a starting shot, and, heck, even Mike Glennon was allowed multiple opportunities to earn a starting job, Bridgewater deserves another chance to play.
He proved it Friday night.