ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Pocket change.
For the fifth time in five years, the Broncos will feature a new starting quarterback in the season opener. Following a spirited competition, Teddy Bridgewater won the job over Drew Lock, the Broncos tweeted Wednesday morning.
Coach Fangio informed our team this morning that Teddy Bridgewater will be the Broncos’ starting quarterback. pic.twitter.com/ZU0hNCi0kg— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) August 25, 2021
"It was very exciting. I am happy I get an opportunity. Happy I get to continue to lead. I am the same guy today that I was yesterday," Bridgewater said. "We just need to grow as a team. Honestly, I just try to lead with conviction."
There was a sense the coaching staff began training camp leaning slightly toward Bridgewater. However, Lock, the incumbent, showed improvement and never flinched in the battle over the past month. In the end, coach Vic Fangio did not provide specifics on his choice. He discussed the position at length with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and his staff and general manager George Paton before telling the players around 10:45 a.m.
"There wasn't a lot of separation. Both guys had good camps. They both played well. They had down moments and they had their good moments. We just made this decision because we feel like it's best for the team right now moving forward," Fangio said. "We have two good quarterbacks. Two quarterbacks we can win with, but unfortunately they both can't play. I just feel it's the right time. There's no formula you come up with. Today is the best time."
In the end, Bridgewater claimed the top spot, in part, because of his strong performance against the Seattle Seahawks, who played five defensive starters. The 28-year-old completed 9 of 11 passes for 105 yards and one touchdown. Two things stuck out about the outing: he converted a fourth-and-5 dig route to Jerry Jeudy that showed patience, and he engineered a 16-play touchdown drive featuring dinks, dunks and touch on a 21-yard pass to tight end Eric Saubert that was smoother than left out butter.
The plan is for Bridgewater and the starters to play roughly a quarter on Saturday night in the final preseason game.
Despite a mix bag during training camp, Bridgewater, acquired from the Panthers in April, boasts impressive game stats: 16 of 19 completions, 179 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, 24 team points during his 40 plays. He also won in the nuances -- calls in the huddle, getting team to the line of scrimmage, consistent pre-and-post snap reads and his cadence. Bridgewater inherits a job with a team that is desperate to end a skid of four straight losing seasons -- the longest since 1963-72 -- and five seasons without a playoff berth.
"I am hungry. We are hungry as a team," Bridgewater said. "But it is a process. We have to keep improving."
Lock made a strong push. In fact, after his Minnesota game, it appeared his job to lose.
Neither Lock nor Bridgewater stood out in practice following the preseason opener, leaving Bridgewater the platform to make his statement in his start. Lock, playing against a few Seattle starters on his first few series, went 9-for-14 for 80 yards, leading two scoring drives. However, he fumbled twice – the offensive line broke down on the first sack and Austin Schlottmann stepped on Lock’s foot, ending a red zone drive -- recovering them both.
In the end, Lock, the Broncos’ 2019 second round draft choice and starter for 18 games, showed well. Through the first two games, he has completed 14 of 21 passes for 231 passes, two touchdowns, no interceptions and 23 team points in his 49 plays.
Wednesday, Lock admitted hearing the news was difficult, but he handled himself with maturity and professionalism.
"Obviously, it's disappointing. Every feeling that you could possibly have, it's running deep. I feel like at (this) time, I am playing some of the best football I have since entering the league. I was more confident than I have ever been, " said Lock, who learned from Bridgewater how well he communicates with his teammates. "But no finger pointing. No negativity. ... If my time does come, I’ll be ready for it.”
The competition brought out the best in both quarterbacks, and the two appear to genuinely like each other. Given their history, it’s likely both quarterbacks will play this season either due to injury or ineffectiveness. No starter has played a full season for the Broncos since Peyton Manning in 2014. Bridgewater represents the 11th different starter since Manning retired, and the seventh for Fangio in 33 games.
The Broncos need stability at this position. And functional play.
It's Teddy's Time.
"We have two great quarterbacks. Teddy has worked his butt off. He has been through a lot of quarterback competitions. He has been through the wringer. But that kid is so calm and collected in the pocket," All-Pro left tackle Garett Bolles said. "As a leader, he's always talking with the offensive line. I love Drew dearly, too. We have two quarterbacks who can win. I am looking forward to this season. It's Teddy right now. And we are going to roll with him."