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Mason: Bridgewater can be the QB to change the culture in Denver

A five-year streak of missing the playoffs starts to bring a losing culture mentality, and Teddy Bridgewater offers the kind of upside that can get Denver out of that cycle.

DENVER BRONCOS, NFL Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

On the heels of the Broncos naming Teddy Bridgewater the starting quarterback to open the 2021 season - and the ensuing meltdown among many in Broncos Country - Andrew Mason joined Ryan Edwards on Broncos Country Tonight to analyze the decision.

And as he always does, Mase had some interesting insights into why this decision made sense - not just for Vic Fangio to keep his job - but for the Broncos moving forward.

In fact, Mase considers Bridgewater the kind of quarterback the Broncos have been trying to bring in ever since Peyton Manning retired - a decent QB who can just keep the offense moving, allowing the defense to manhandle opponents.

“Bridgewater will minimize mistakes to a certain degree, but he will also keep the line moving,” Mason said, pointing out that while in Carolina last season, the Panthers were fifth best in the league for number of plays per possession. “That’s a testament to Teddy’s ability to maybe not get a lot of splash plays but push the team downfield. If Broncos had this type of quarterback in 2016, with that defense, they probably could have gone 12-4.”

Mase added that even if Bridgewater is only in Denver a year, the ability to help the team to a winning streak, maybe knocking on the door of the playoffs, is not just immeasurable but probably undervalued in terms of improving team culture.

He pointed to the 2017 Buffalo Bills with Tyrod Taylor when Taylor helped the Bills snap a 17-year streak of missing the playoffs. New head coach Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane had learned how to build a winning culture in Carolina, and they brought that mentality to Buffalo, understanding how even a short-term quarterback could help get them ther.

“That Buffalo team - they learned how to win close games, meaningful games,” Mason said, pointing out that after beating the Chiefs in Kansas City in November to go 6-5, they closed out the season winning four of the final six and three of the final four games to make the playoffs for the first time in almost two decades.

“Yeah Tyrod Taylor wasn’t going to be the long-term guy, but there were plenty of players who would be back and part of it was getting the culture right,” Mase added. “It was really just smart on [McDermott’s] part and so sensible to understand that ‘OK, we can have a QB who is not our long-term guy, and we know it, but he’s good enough for us to stop the bleeding that has gone on for so long.’”

Obviously the Broncos haven’t missed the playoffs for as long as the Bills, but ask anyone in Broncos Country, and the last five certainly seem like two decades.

“Certainly it’s been long enough to say, ‘ok, there are some things seeping into the culture here that we need to eradicate’,” Mason said. “Even if this team doesn’t go to a Super Bowl, I think even getting back to being a fringe playoff team matters, even if it’s Teddy Bridgewater playing whole year and he’s not the long-term guy.”

Again, Mase looked back to recent history, this time harking back to the Broncos’ five-year stint of missing the playoffs with the final season being a 4-12 record.

Then they got Tim Tebow.

“Broncos obviously got lucky because the AFC West was a dog crap division,” Mase admitted. “But they got in and developed some experience in big games, and...”

We all know the end...attracted Peyton Manning to Denver to finish the job of building a championship-caliber team.

And that is also potentially the case in Denver. If the Broncos decide to go after a higher caliber veteran next season - as Mase noted, “not mentioning any names, but if, say, a quarterback wasn’t happy with his situation at his current employer - that QB would want to go to a team ready to be great with his addition.

“If you’re sitting there at 9-8 or 10-7, a QB unhappy at his spot, would look at that and go, ‘yeah, I can add four more games there. I can make that team special,’” he said, recalling Manning to Denver and Tom Brady to Tampa Bay.

Edwards pointed out that perhaps some of the hesitancy among Broncos Country to be excited about Bridgewater is the PTSD suffered from recent “bridge” quarterbacks the Broncos have tried to use.

“Oh 100 percent,” Mase agreed.

But he doesn’t agree that Bridgewater’s skillset and situation with this defense can be compared to what the Broncos were asking from the previous bridge QBs.

“I understand it, but I’d also say, Teddy Bridgewater now is what you were looking for from Case Keenum and Joe Flacco, but they weren’t the right guys for that,” he said. “Flacco, a guy with a great deep ball, was never going to be a controlled type of passer. Case Keenum - that 2017 season he had a bunch of dropped interceptions, so there was a little bit of fairy dust going on there. I think the Broncos fell for a little bit of fool’s gold in 2018.”

But also, Mason believes it’s not the end for Lock’s dream as a starting quarterback, either.

“This is not Drew Lock’s last chance to prove himself. There’s a lot he can learn from Teddy Bridgewater,” Mase said, noting a situation in practice the other day where Garett Bolles was getting heated, and Bridgewater was the guy to go over and calm him down. “He has attributes in leadership, attributes in terms of intelligence - not just football but emotional intelligence as well. That’s the kind of thing Drew can watch and learn from.”