ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — From general manager George Paton to coach Vic Fangio and on down, the Denver Broncos say they don’t hear the clock ticking on their quarterback decision. Eventually the calendar will demand they make one, though.
Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater have been in the swirl of a competition since Bridgewater’s arrival in April. They have traded good days, bad days, touchdowns, turnovers, mistakes and plenty of the-decision-is-not-up-to-me missives along the way. But August is rolling along and September is on the horizon.
“We don’t have a time frame,” Paton said last week. “… We just want to let it happen organically. It is Vic’s call. I’m a sounding board for him as are the coaches as are the scouts. We really like the competition. We’ve got a hell of a competition going on right now.”
The Broncos have two preseason games and 26 days until the regular-season opener against the New York Giants. This past Saturday, Lock and Bridgewater continued to keep the competition close. Each carved up a mostly-reserve defense from the Minnesota Vikings in the first preseason game. Lock passed for 151 yards and two touchdowns, Bridgewater 74 yards and a touchdown.
Together they had three incompletions, three touchdowns and 225 combined passing yards in a combined 37 snaps — 20 for Lock, 17 for Bridgewater. Fangio said simply: “I don’t think any separation happened … in this game, if anybody’s looking for it.”
Fangio said early on in training camp each of the quarterbacks would get a preseason start, which set the decision clock to after the second preseason game at the earliest. Lock got his start against the Vikings and Bridgewater will get his Saturday in Seattle against the Seahawks.
Then? Fangio could simply name a starter in the days following the Seahawks game, let Brett Rypien start the third preseason game and start to use practice periods and walk-throughs on the Giants to close out the preseason.
Or he could let Lock and Bridgewater battle it out in the final preseason game and, if it still looks fairly even, simply make the gives-us-the-best-chance-to-win choice. The last two times the Broncos did the quarterback dance, in their 2017 and 2018 training camps, they named the starter Aug. 29 and Aug. 21, respectively.
In 2017 Gary Kubiak waited longer to name the starter than Vance Joseph did in 2018 because the competition was much closer in ’17.
“I want it to be a hard decision,” Fangio said, “not an easy one.”
Fangio, to this point, has said naming a starter sooner would have its advantages. It would allow that quarterback to get to work on the regular season and get far more of the snaps in practice. And the rest of the team could stop having to answer QB questions.
But Fangio has been quick to add he would be willing to take the decision, at least publicly, into the first week of the regular season — “if it’s so close that we can’t make a call and it stretches into the first week of preparation, then I’ll probably be playing games with you all week during that first game week as to who the starter is,” is how he put it when training camp opened.
That doesn’t mean the Broncos couldn’t be working with the “real” starter behind center in closed portions of practice, but it would mean getting a long list of players and coaches not to say anything, a rather needless exercise that would not result in any actual touchdowns against the Giants.
“I’m confident,” Paton said. “I like our two quarterbacks. They embrace competition. I think both of those guys are winning quarterbacks. … Hopefully we’re better around them and hopefully it will pay off.”
For their part, Lock and Bridgewater have maintained perspective to this point. They talk after plays in practice, sat together on the bench in Minnesota and have publicly shown patience with a quality working relationship as they split the duties. Paton said this past April one of the reasons he made the trade for Bridgewater was the veteran’s willingness to help his teammates regardless of whether he was the starter or not.
“We’re making this team a better football team,” Bridgewater said. “In our room we’re trying to do the best we can, and just take this team to another level. Whether it’s Drew out there and I’m supporting him or if I’m out there and he’s supporting me. The team is behind both of us. Even when [Rypien] was out there he’s out there letting it rip. And we’re all behind each other.
“We just want to win football games.”