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QB battle is over; now the real test begins

Teddy Bridgewater edged out Drew Lock to win the starting job; now it’s time for him to lead the Broncos to a winning season.

On Tuesday afternoon Vic Fangio told the media there was “not yet” any decision on the Broncos’ starting quarterback.

By Wednesday morning he had let Teddy Bridgewater, Drew Lock and the rest of the team know it would be the new journeyman taking the No. 1 spot on the QB depth chart.

Then yesterday afternoon Fangio clued reporters in on what seemed like an overnight decision but in reality was months in the making.

“We made this decision [because] we think it’s the best for the team moving forward. We have two good quarterbacks—two quarterbacks that we can win with,” Fangio said, later apologizing that reporters couldn’t get a “scoop” from players’ agents first. “Unfortunately, you can’t play with two.”

But Fangio reiterated how close the competition started - and remained - through camp and two preseason games.

“I don’t think anybody lost the job. We had to make a decision, and we went with Teddy,” Fangio said. “Like I told the team today, when you have a quarterback competition, there’s one of three things that can happen—one guy plays way better than the other guy and the decision is easy and everybody sees it. The other thing is both guys could play below par and you’re not happy, but you have to make a choice. That didn’t happen either. Third is they both play good and you have to make a tough choice. We had to make a tough choice because we feel we can win with both of them.”

Though Bridgewater was obviously excited to get the nod, he acknowledged the challenge of being a selfless leader throughout the competition.

“I think I’ve grown the most in the way that I lead. It was a unique opportunity and one where you’re competing against a guy—a guy who is playing lights out. At the same time, you want to see this guy succeed. You want to help him in ways that you want to see yourself succeed,” Bridgewater said. “It was one of those deals where I got to challenge myself as a leader and see if I was really this selfless person that I try to speak on. I think I was able to do a good job of that. The team did a great job of handling the whole situation throughout training camp. I’m happy that we get an opportunity to move forward.”

The new starter also had a lot of positive things to say about his fellow QB rival the past three weeks.

“The thing I admire about Drew through all of this is that he’s a guy who’s just eager to learn. He’s eager to be the best player that he can be,” Bridgewater said. “You watch him come out every day, he’s out here early. He’s out here doing the small things. If the defense is going, he’s back here working with Coach Shula to get some extra reps in.”

Though Lock was obviously disappointed, he pledged to continue doing all he can to not just continue his own development but to continue pushing Bridgewater.

“I was playing some of the best football I’ve played since I’ve been in the league. I was more confident than I’d ever been ... I was hoping and looking forward to being able to lead this team,” Lock said. “But no finger pointing, no negativity. It’s going to be about me finding ways to still make this team great, whether that’s in practice, working with Teddy, trying to find ways for him to get better. Whatever he needs me to do, that’s pretty much my goal.”

Lock also plans to keep preparing.

“You’ve always got to be ready. That’s got to be your mindset. That’s the mindset that I’m going to have, whether that’s film study, knowing the game plan front and back like I was trotting out there for the first play,” he said. “It will be a different experience. I’m up for the challenge and to see where it takes me.”

Now that Bridgewater is the unequivocal starter, Fangio will be looking for No. 5 to be the unequivocal leader of the team as well. And that will begin with playing well.

“No. 1, to become a leader, you have to play good,” Fangio said. “To be a true leader, you have to play good yourself. He has to worry about his own job first.”

Bridgewater has every intention of doing just that.

“Honestly man, I try to lead with conviction,” Bridgewater said, noting that when he was traded to Denver, he was just looking forward to making an impact however he could. “That’s been my mindset everywhere I’ve been. How can I leave an everlasting impact on this organization? I had the opportunity to come in and compete. I’m looking forward to what’s in store for us.”

Hopefully what is in store is a season full of more wins than losses. But with the offensive roster chock-full of talent and a defensive roster that boasts one of the best in the league, Bridgewater sees a lot of reasons Broncos fans should go bull-ish on this team.

“When I first got here, I realized it’s a roster with a guy like Jerry [Jeudy] who’s one of the best dancers in the league, KJ [Hamler] who has his little mix tape ... and Noah [Fant]—friendly guy, family guy. ...You can’t do anything but be excited,” Bridgewater said, adding the roster is brimming with young talent. “I’m still learning every day. I’m a student every day that I come to this facility.”

And the new starter knows that his offense will gain a lot just by virtue of going up against the best defense in the NFL.

“We’ve had success in the red zone because we go against one of the top red zone defenses in the NFL every day,” Bridgewater said. “When you can compete against a defense like ours — whether it’s in the red zone, two-minute situations, third down, first and second down — it’s one of the best defenses in the league, so it only makes us better as an offense.”

Fangio, who no doubt is also banking on Bridgewater helping the Broncos earn a lot more wins than Fangio acquired the first two outings as head coach, believes Bridgewater’s demeanor is the right mix of calm and competitive.

“He has a calmness to him, and I think he has a confidence to him that can radiate to the rest of the offense and the team, provided he’s playing good. I think that’s good,” Fangio said. “I think he has a very good knowledge of the game and a feel for the quarterback position and the entire offense, how all 11 [guys] work and not just his position. ...He’s an intelligent quarterback.”