Teddy Bridgewater as Broncos Starting QB: Wake Us When It's Over

Teddy Bridgewater's pre-season performance against the Seattle Seahawks boosted his bid for the starting quarterback job.
Teddy Bridgewater's pre-season performance against the Seattle Seahawks boosted his bid for the starting quarterback job. Denver Broncos via YouTube
On August 25, at the end of the least suspenseful quarterback competition in NFL history (because anyone with a working brain knew how it was going to turn out), your Denver Broncos named Teddy Bridgewater the season starter over big-armed but erratic doofus Drew Lock. And while the move has spawned passionate debate among the sort of folks who think God favors the Broncos because sunsets are orange, the truth is this: The team would be on the fast track to mediocrity no matter who won the battle.

Why? Because neither Bridgewater nor Lock are capable of making the troubled franchise elite again. In all likelihood, the best thing Bridgewater can do is perform just well enough during the 2021 season to save the job of embattled coach Vic Fangio.

Which is also the worst thing he could do.

That said, we're rooting for Bridgewater, who's undeniably an inspirational figure. The former Louisville Cardinal was selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft by the Minnesota Vikings, whose brain trust at the time included George Paton, now the Broncos' general manager — which is why Bridgewater was a lock over Lock from the jump. He showed promise with the Vikes during his first two seasons, but in August 2016, he tore up his leg during a team practice. The injury was so serious that it could have ended his career; amputation of the limb was seriously discussed. But after more than a year's absence, Bridgewater returned to the field, albeit in clearly diminished condition — and in 2019, as a member of the New Orleans Saints, he did well enough in relief of future Hall of Famer Drew Brees that the Carolina Panthers offered him a three-year, $63 million contract.

The deal didn't work out for anyone. While Bridgewater completed more than 69 percent of his passes for more than 3,700 yards, he was better at collecting insignificant yards in the middle of the field than reaching the end zone. The Panthers wound up with a 4-11 record in the fifteen games he started, and management was so eager to get rid of him that they're actually paying more of his current salary than are the Broncos.

So why did Fangio and company opt for Bridgewater? The man nicknamed Steady Teddy is a much better decision-maker than Lock, and while he can't throw the ball nearly as far downfield as he once could, the hope is that he'll be able to manage the game and limit mistakes while relying on what promises to be a staunch Denver defense to do the heavy lifting.

There are plenty of flaws in this theory. For one thing, Bridgewater tossed almost as many interceptions (eleven) as touchdowns (fifteen) for Carolina last year, suggesting that he's pretty damn error-prone, too. For another, the idea that a journeyman quarterback can excel if paired with a defensive juggernaut seldom works. The poster child for the concept is Trent Dilfer, a below-average hurler who still managed to win a Super Bowl while at the helm of the Baltimore Ravens. But that was way back in 2000, and one championship in more than two decades suggests an anomaly, not a winning formula.

Fangio, who seems to see Lock as roughly on par with his famous kidney stone, can't be deluded enough to believe the Broncos are headed for the glory land — but if the squad manages to finish above .500, Paton may think twice about firing him.

The odds of that happening are slim. Yes, the Broncos' D should be stellar, this year's schedule is less daunting than the one in 2020 — and the return of fans to the stands of Empower Field will definitely help. But the post-injury Bridgewater has a very limited upside. Everything would have to go right for the squad to truly excel, and given that the Broncos' ownership situation is in utter turmoil, the odds of that happening are mighty small.

Granted, the situation would likely be the same had Lock been handed the keys to the offense. As soon as disgruntled Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers decided to stay put, the highest hopes for the Broncos in 2021 evaporated. And changing that is almost certainly a Bridgewater too far.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts