ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — After several months and an evenly matched competition, the Broncos have settled on a decision.
Teddy Bridgewater will be the Broncos' starting quarterback, Head Coach Vic Fangio told his team on Wednesday.
Bridgewater, whom the Broncos acquired for a sixth-round pick ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft, won the battle over incumbent starter and 2019 second-round pick Drew Lock.
As recently as Tuesday afternoon, Fangio said the competition was "pretty damn close" and that he had not made a final decision.
Bridgewater earned the job behind a nearly flawless preseason campaign, as he completed 16-of-19 passes for 179 yards, two touchdowns and a 141.0 quarterback rating. Bridgewater did not turn the ball over and was not sacked during his four preseason series. During those opportunities, Bridgewater led Denver's offense to three touchdowns and one field goal. Were it not for an illegal use of hands to the face call against the Vikings that wiped out a Bridgewater touchdown run, the Broncos would have scored touchdowns on each of his possessions leading the team.
In his reps with the first-team offense in Seattle, Bridgewater completed 9-of-11 passes for 105 yards, one touchdown and a 136.7 rating in two series.
Following the performance, Fangio praised Bridgewater's performance.
"Teddy played well, obviously," Fangio said Saturday. "You guys saw it. Some of his good plays were hard quarterback plays, where he had to manipulate the pocket, step up, step laterally, wait for something to come open late. I thought he did really well. He was helped by the fourth-down conversions, but one of those fourth downs was because we dropped a pass on third down that would have been an easy conversion. So I thought he played very well."
Bridgewater was also largely consistent during training camp, as he completed a high percentage of his passes and pushed the ball down the field.
Lock did not surrender the job easily. Fangio maintained throughout training camp that the battle was "even Steven" and that there was not much separation between the two players. Lock continued to show his big-play ability and was able to avoid throwing an interception during his preseason action.
Lock finished the preseason 14-of-21 for 231 yards and two touchdowns. His most impressive performance came against the Vikings, as he completed 5-of-7 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns, including an 80-yarder to KJ Hamler.
Over the course of the offseason, though, Bridgewater did enough to earn the job.
The Louisville product will enter his fourth season as a starter. Bridgewater, a former first-round pick, started 12 games as a rookie in Minnesota before leading the Vikings to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth in his first full season under center. Bridgewater, who threw for 3,231 yards and 14 touchdowns that season, also earned his lone Pro Bowl nod that year.
A potentially career-ending knee injury kept Bridgewater off the field for all of 2016 and most of the 2017 season, and he joined the Saints as a reserve player in 2018 and 2019. Bridgewater then returned to the starting lineup last season, as he completed a career-best 69.1 percent of his passes and threw for 3,733 yards in 15 games with the Panthers.
When the Broncos open the season on Sept. 12 against the Giants, Bridgewater will aim to start Denver on a path toward the team's first playoff berth since the 2015 season and the second playoff berth he's earned as a starter.
The eighth-year veteran will become the fifth different quarterback to start a season for the Broncos since the team's Super Bowl 50 season. The Broncos have had nine different quarterbacks start games during that stretch; They also had a game in 2020 in which running back Phillip Lindsay took the first snap.