On Tuesday, when asked directly which quarterback, between Drew Lock and transplanted challenger Teddy Bridgewater, would take the first snap of Denver Broncos training camp, head coach Vic Fangio replied quickly and succinctly.
"Drew Lock," Fangio said, echoing his reply to the same question ahead of OTAs.
Although Fangio cautioned reading too far into his revelation that Lock would take the first quarterback snap of training camp, no doubt, the distinction will send fans and media alike down the proverbial rabbit hole. The question is, how will the 50/50 split Fangio and company have been previewing since Bridgewater was acquired via trade the day before the NFL draft shake out?
Again, Fangio pumped the brakes on any fan or armchair roster czar from jumping to conclusions based on rep counts or personnel groupings.
"The final analysis—we've got these first four days and it'll be just like you guys witnessed in minicamp," Fangio said Tuesday as the Broncos hosted their media BBQ on the doorstep of camp. "You weren't here for OTAs but everything was 50/50. What group they worked with, who started how many drills, etc. So after four days—I know a lot of you will be keeping your own little charts up there—it'll be 50/50 unless it's an odd number. Then, somebody's got one more. And then we'll take look at it after the first off day."
Why will Lock get the first snap? Was it a result of his performance vs. Bridgewater during OTAs and minicamp? Nope.
Fangio said the reason Lock takes snap one is because he's the QB who's "been here" with the Broncos the longest. Bridgewater has Lock beat in NFL experience as he enters Year 8 vs. Lock's Year 3. But in terms of Broncos roots, Lock, as the incumbent, has the edge over Bridgewater.
The Broncos will roll with the punches of the competition, improvising on the QB rep-share as the battle takes shape.
"Maybe we might do a day where one of them gets 70%, the other gets 30%, and then flip it the next day. But, I think when you look at—up until the point where we make a decision, it's going to be a 50/50 thing, both from a rep standpoint and working with what group," Fangio said.
Here's how Fangio spelled out his cautionary advice.
"Now, one thing I will caution you, too, is what group," Fangio elaborated. "We may be changing in and out wide receivers per play so you may look out there and what you view as the first-team wide receivers aren't there but the first-team O-line is. So how do you view that and vice versa? So the other positions aren't going to be dialed in with who the quarterback is."
The decision on who wins the QB battle will be "up to Vic," according to GM George Paton, who also sat down with media on Tuesday. To that end, Fangio acknowledged that the Broncos will "probably" give Lock and Bridgewater at least one preseason start before making their final decision.
"We haven't decided anything but probably," Fangio said.
There will be three preseason games this year and Fangio — based on his conversations with his peer coaches around the NFL — expects that third exhibition contest to look a lot like a traditional one and serve as the 'dress rehearsal' for the regular-season opener. That means that whichever QB starts that game is likely the leader in the clubhouse, in terms of the projected starter for Week 1 at the New York Giants.
But Fangio could drag out announcing exactly who the Broncos' starting QB will be, and maybe not say anything at all before the season-opener, making fans wait until the first snap of September football to know who The Guy is. I'm not predicting Fangio will handle it that way but considering the tactical advantage of not telegraphing to the opponent which QB it has to prepare for, it wouldn't surprise me.
Fangio hopes the QBs "make the decision" for the Broncos. In order for that to happen, one of Lock or Bridgewater will have to create serious separation in the competition. That could happen but more likely, this will be an agonizing decision for the coaches that goes down to the wire.
Aside from Fangio and Paton, the Broncos also made team president/CEO Joe Ellis available for questions on Tuesday, as well as players like Von Miller and Courtland Sutton. Conspicuously, neither Lock nor Bridgewater took to the podium, which is in and of itself a sign perhaps that the Broncos do not have a sentimental or default favorite to win the job.
We'll probably hear from one or both of them after Wednesday's first practice of training camp. But from here on out, both signal-callers will have to let their play at UCHealth Training Center do the majority of their communicating for them.
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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