ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The Denver Broncos are going with the steady over the spectacular.
Coach Vic Fangio informed the team Wednesday morning that Teddy Bridgewater edged incumbent Drew Lock to win the starting quarterback job.
“It was really, really close," Fangio said, adding there never really was a clear-cut winner. "We had to make a tough choice, but we feel we can win with both of them."
What broke the tie was Bridgewater's cool headedness, confidence and a veteran's savvy honed over seven seasons and five stops in the NFL over a career defined by his comeback from a devastating knee injury
Displaying all those attributes, Bridgewater took the news in stride.
“It was very exciting, “ he said. ”I'm just happy that I get an opportunity and happy that I get to just continue to lead."
Lock was understandably gutted by the decision.
“It's disappointing, every feeling you could possibly have at this point on this day in this circumstance, they're running deep,” Lock said. "I feel like I was playing some of the best football than I've ever played in the league. I was more confident than I've ever been.
“This is such a special team I was hoping and looking forward to being able to lead this team," Lock added. “But no finger-pointing. No negativity. It's going to be about me still finding ways to make this team great.”
He said he'll be the best backup he possibly can while smoothing the rough edges off his game so that he's ready whenever his time comes again.
“I’ll be ready for it whenever,” Lock said. “There won’t be any lack of work. I’m going to try to get better every single day.”
For much of training camp, the QB clash was a drudging one in which neither passer strung together stellar performances from one day to the next, and sometimes not even from one drill to another. But they elevated their play in the exhibition blowouts at Minnesota and Seattle.
Lock's preseason included an 80-yard touchdown throw to K.J. Hamler and just Tuesday he began practice with a 60-yard dime to Jerry Jeudy. But he continued to scuffle in three-wide formations and didn't show as much huddle command, pre-snap management, pocket awareness or precision with his passes as Bridgewater did.
Fangio is 12-20 in two seasons, including 0-7 in September, and he cannot afford another slow start with the Giants, Jaguars and Jets on tap next month.
That’s why Bridgewater, with his quick reads and throws that are on-time and on-target if not jaw-dropping, seems a safer bet than the more athletic Lock, a daredevil who may have a higher ceiling but also a lower floor.
Fangio said the competition at training camp sharpened both quarterbacks and he still sees Lock as an NFL starter down the line.
“His pocket awareness has improved. His command of the offense has improved. His accuracy has improved,” Fangio said. "I don't have any doubt that Drew's going to be a quality starting quarterback (again) in this league.”
Lock’s 15 interceptions last season tied for the league lead. He threw 16 TD passes and went 4-9, missing time with a right shoulder injury and for violating COVID-19 protocols as the Broncos stumbled through their fourth consecutive losing season.
Bridgewater is coming off a bad season himself. He acknowledged this summer he shouldn't have kept playing after a knee injury in Week 10, and he was also handcuffed in Carolina by an inexperienced coaching staff and the loss of star receiver Christian McCaffrey as the Panthers went 5-11.
Despite showing more maturity both physically and psychologically this summer, Lock faced long odds to keep his starting job once John Elway, who had selected him in the second round out of Missouri in 2019, stepped down as general manager after last season.
Elway's replacement, George Paton, acquired Bridgewater from the Panthers for a sixth-round pick on the eve of the draft. The next day, he bypassed Ohio State QB Justin Fields at No. 11 to select Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II in the first round.
Afterward, Fangio declared a 50-50 quarterback competition for training camp.
Bridgewater inherits an offense packed with rising young stars such as Jeudy, Hamler, Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam and Javonte Williams along with veterans Melvin Gordon II and Garett Bolles.
Paton also fortified Denver's dominant defense led by Von Miller and Justin Simmons, giving the Broncos their most promising roster since 2015.
And it's the kind of roster Bridgewater had in Minnesota that same season when he threw just 14 touchdown passes in an 11-5 breakout year that had Minnesotans abuzz. He blew out a knee at practice the following season, however, and only played one more game for Minnesota, in 2017.
After a short stint with the Jets, he served as Drew Brees’ backup for two years in New Orleans and parlayed a 5-0 stint in 2019 into a three-year, $63 million deal with the Panthers last year.
Despite completing 69.1% of his passes, Bridgewater struggled to complete drives and deliver in clutch situations last year and that led the Panthers to move on to Sam Darnold this offseason.
Bridgewater’s revised contract with the Broncos is for one year and $11.5 million. The Broncos will pay his $4,437,500 salary and the Panthers took on his $7,062,500 signing bonus. The 2022 season was deleted, so Bridgewater can be a free agent in March.
Lock is due $1.05 million this season and $1.35 million next year.
Notes: For the second time this summer, Bolles and Bradley Chubb scuffled at practice. ... Rookie S Caden Sterns (leg) missed practice. ... Fangio said both QBs will play Saturday night against the Rams.
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