On Wednesday morning, the Denver Broncos announced that Teddy Bridgewater has been named the starting quarterback for the 2021 season.
The announcement sent shockwaves throughout the NFL as Bridgewater and incumbent QB Drew Lock competed against one another in training camp for the past month. Head coach Vic Fangio regularly referred to the competition as "even-steven" and "pretty damn close," just one day before making the decision.
As anyone who read my training camp journals knows, the competition between both signal-callers started out as very stagnant. Even during the joint practices with the Minnesota Vikings two weeks ago, there were ups and downs for both players.
Then there was the impressive performance from Lock in the first preseason game against Minnesota that gave all momentum to the third-year player. But just as I had predicted, with Lock firmly in the lead, Bridgewater played an exceptional second preseason game against the Seahawks last Saturday night in his opportunities with the first-team offense.
The anointing of a starter has already stirred up the proverbial hornet’s nest for those that believe Lock earned the job. Before fans get too caught up, here's what this decision really means for the Broncos and Lock.
Potential Doesn't Equal Production
This summer, the former second-round pick out of Missouri demonstrated a multitude of improvements in his game, proving that he made the most of his offseason.
I previously reported Lock's improved footwork in 3-to-5-step drops, smarter decision-making, and full-field reads. But aside from the exceptional run-and-gun from play-action, some of his bad habits continued to rear their ugly head. Many times in camp, Lock held onto the ball way too long, mirroring plays where he did so for approximately 4.1 seconds in 2020 when he was one of the least-sacked QBs in the league.
Sure, the argument of Lock having a bigger ceiling holds water. But potential doesn’t always translate to production especially at the QB position — the most important position in all of professional sports.
Make no mistake, though, Lock's career as a Bronco is far from over. I predicted before and during training camp that the Broncos will most likely start both quarterbacks through the 17-game schedule of the 2021 season. The likelihood of one QB starting every regular-season game is extremely low, so the bigger question will surround the context in which a QB move gets made this fall.
Will it be performance or injury that lifts Lock back to the starting job?
Fangio's Seat Just got Hotter
Despite a relatively soft first quarter of the schedule, Fangio and the coaching staff recognize the level of difficulty within the first half of the season. It’s important to note that the head coach's seat should get scorching hot if Denver doesn’t win a game in the month of September. I’ve reported for weeks that this locker room has gravitated towards Bridgewater, including the defense.
Clearly, the coaches and team recognize the significance of Teddy's veteran and calming presence, and the effect it's had on teammates, including Lock.
Teddy Brings Stability to the Offense
While Bridgewater certainly has deficiencies in his game, his maturity and level of leadership give him an opportunity to play the best football in his career.
After all, isn’t the Broncos' defense projected to be a top-10 unit? If that’s the case, the plan seems to suggest the coaches see Bridgewater as a competent game manager for offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. If I've said it once, I've said it a dozen times: expect the Broncos' running game to return in 2021.
Theoretically, this should allow the offense to control the clock, eliminate turnovers, and let pass-catchers like Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, and Noah Fant feast on third down.
Expect Lock to Embrace Backup Job While Still Pushing
I’ve also reported that Lock has found a new level of maturity since last season. That said, I fully expect him to embrace his backup role and continue to demonstrate his improved maturation and level of preparation.
It’s imperative for Lock to keep the QB competition going not for the team, but for himself. Some might suggest that his time in the limelight is fading. But my eyes will zeroed in on Lock, just as they were this past offseason when he was challenged for his starting position for the first time in his football career.
Although he didn’t win the QB competition in the eyes of Fangio, the scrutiny will be on Lock to see how he responds to this new curveball of adversity. Meanwhile, Bridgewater should feel proud of his performance and confident in his team. If the Broncos are going to be as good as projections suggest, it will be because Teddy has harnessed control of the offense.
For anyone in Broncos Country suffering in agony over this decision, take a breath. Bridgewater was named the starting QB but it's important to recognize that he has not been crowned as the answer, nor has Lock been written off as a second-round bust just because he’s the backup.
Both men will have their time to shine and lead what has been a losing franchise of late that first-year GM George Paton previously described as a "sleeping giant."
Follow Luke on Twitter @LukePattersonLP.
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