Faced with a difficult decision that could alter the fate of the Denver Broncos, head coach Vic Fangio opted to name Teddy Bridgewater the team's starting quarterback. In the moment, Fangio's controversial decision, which was met with a fair amount of criticism (including from yours truly), appeared to be self-serving on the surface and more about saving his job than doing what was right for the Broncos in both the short- and long-term.
After all, the Broncos had walked the desert with Drew Lock, sacrificing one-and-a-quarter lost seasons to get him the vital live-bullet experience he needed to develop, to say nothing of the second-round draft pick (and then some) and coaching poured into him. Then Lock returns to Dove Valley this summer showcasing strong strides of improvement, seemingly answering the call his team telegraphed to him.
What that equation omitted, however, was the Teddy factor. My criticism of Fangio, at least two weeks into the 2021 season, appears to have been without merit. While I'll always question on some level whether sitting Lock down after he showed improvement this summer was the right one for the long-term stability of the club, there's little doubt at this point that Bridgewater was the right call for maximizing what is a talented and deep roster.
My read on the situation was that, in what amounted to a lame-duck year, Fangio erred on the side of the quarterback with the higher floor than ceiling. But Bridgewater has exceeded expectations through two romping starts, casting his long-term viability as a quarterback solution into focus.
If Bridgewater continues to play at this level, he'll no longer be viewed as a band-aid or stop-gap quarterback. Turning 29 years old in November, he'd become just as good a candidate to be Denver's future franchise quarterback as anyone.
I won't lie. In the wake of his failure to launch in Carolina last year after the Panthers paid him 'franchise' money, my view on Teddy was that of a short-term mercenary. Do you need to keep the ship afloat while a starter heals up or until a young guy develops? Then Bridgewater was your man.
Make no mistake; Teddy has flipped that perception on its ear and made soft critics look a fool and Fangio like the smartest guy in the room.
I never doubted that — with this roster — Bridgewater could win and turn the Broncos into a plausible Wild Card threat. In fact, I'm on record as predicting that whether Fangio rolled with Teddy or Lock, this Broncos squad had the horses to contend for a playoff spot.
My view, distilling it down, was this: if the results with those two QBs were going to be relatively equal, it was incumbent on the Broncos to throw in with the young guy whom the team had already invested in and made sacrifices for — the guy with the ostensibly higher ceiling.
The version we've seen of Teddy through two games, however, suggests that he hasn't come anywhere close to his ceiling at any of his previous NFL stops. That's where analysts like me got it wrong. Teddy wasn't maxed out.
I knew that if the stars were ever going to align for Teddy to finally meet the lofty expectations that his 'Bridgewater' name created — first at Miami Northwestern Senior High School, then at Louisville University, and finally as a Minnesota Vikings' first-round pick — it'd be in Denver. Why? Because the array of weaponry and the talent around him is the best he's ever had.
But I viewed that as a relatively big 'if.' It wasn't as far-fetched as I guessed, though, because through two games, Bridgewater has the Broncos sitting at 2-0 for the first time in three years and boasting a QB rating of 120.7.
Teddy has completed a whopping 77.1% of his passes for 592 yards and four touchdowns. Yes, I know it's come against the New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars, respectively, but they get paid, too.
I'd be lying to you if I said I expected Bridgewater's early numbers to look anything like that. And anyone telling you that they did predict that is probably trying to sell you something.
So what am I saying?
Hats off to Bridgewater and to Fangio, the latter of whom took a big risk and withstood some rather scathing criticism to make what he felt was the best decision for the Broncos. Fangio, for all of his faults and lackluster track record, got this one right and with gusto.
For those still harboring misgivings, waiting for the roof to cave in on this team, you're going to be wringing your hands and eating your heart out for a while. The Broncos aren't going to handle every opponent by two-plus scores like in these first two weeks but the greatest impact Bridgewater has had on this team is how he's awakened the soul of that 'sleeping giant' GM George Paton spoke to when first taking the reins back in January.
With Bridgewater's stalwart leadership, the potential of what is a very talented Broncos roster will have every opportunity to be realized. Teddy has this team hungry, fighting for every square inch, and rising above the pale of any plausible expectation fans could have had for the 2021 Broncos.
That intangible phenomenon is why I'm not worried about this bright start losing its luster as the season marches on. The 2-0 Broncos are for real and that's a massive credit to Bridgewater and Fangio.