Hamster Wheel: Unless Teddy Bridgewater shows he’s the future of the franchise, the Broncos are right back where they started

Jun 1, 2021; Englewood, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) and quarterback Drew Lock (3) during organized team activities at the UCHealth Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The verdict is in.

No, not that one. Not the one that answered the only question that’s been hovering over the Denver Broncos since Teddy Bridgewater was plucked from Carolina by general manager George Paton, since “Training Camp 50-50” commenced.

The verdict that matters is this: The Broncos don’t believe Drew Lock is their quarterback of the future.

Forget about Week 1, 2021. What about Week, 1 2022, ’23 or ‘24?

That is what we learned upon hearing Tuesday’s news that Teddy Bridgewater – and not Drew Lock – would be starting for your Denver Broncos. It doesn’t mean that Bridgewater was the right choice, the wrong choice, or just the lucky recipient of Vic Fangio’s famously fictitious coin flip. And it no longer matters if you were a member of Team Drew or Team Teddy. It’s over.

Or, is it just beginning?

Again.

Unless Teddy Bridgewater –a quarterback who makes just north of $4 million and was unceremoniously swapped out in Carolina in favor of former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold – is ultimately capable of becoming the future of the franchise, then you’ll be reading columns like this one more than once between now and February, maybe even longer.

Vic Fangio believes Bridgewater is the man best suited to win Game No. 1. He’s not necessarily wrong; Bridgewater “won” a competition that seemed anything but “50/50” in retrospect. Regardless of which quarterback you happened to like, it’s pretty easy to understand the mindset of Fangio, whose seat is already on the warm side. Anyone who’s objective can understand why the defensive-minded head coach would lean toward Bridgewater.

The question that’s more important, and perhaps more concerning, is one that surround the team’s new general manager, George Paton: Does he believe Bridgewater is the future in Denver?

If he does, and he’s right, then he’s suddenly the smartest GM in the league. If he believes in Bridgewater and he’s wrong, or if he actually believes, deep down, that Bridgewater was simply the “least risky” choice, the Broncos are figuring out a 6-year dilemma slower than rush hour on I-25.

It’s clear, especially now, that Paton wasn’t enamored with Lock – ever. You don’t bring in a quarterback off the scrap heap to be anything but a backup, so long as Lock has any shot of still being “the guy.”  Then again, if Lock wasn’t believed to be that guy, wouldn’t most general managers take a shot at Justin Fields (or even Mac Jones) with the No. 9 pick? Patrick Surtain II is going to be a fine player, but a great cornerback isn’t generally the missing ingredient from the recipe for winning Super Bowls (just ask Champ Bailey or Patrick Petersen). A quarterback, however, is practically mandatory.

But all of Paton’s decisions are now in the rearview mirror. Bridgewater will start, and that’s that.

Can Bridgewater take the Broncos, a team that possesses a roster ready-made for the postseason, into the playoffs? A 9-8 record is an improvement from last season, but is it reason to celebrate? Hardly – anything other than boom or bust is simply extending the problem that’s existed in Denver since The Sheriff rode off into the sunset.  “Middle of the road” lands the Broncos smack dab in the same quicksand in which they’ve been stuck.

With all due respect to Bridgewater, perhaps his leash should be very short. If the Broncos don’t jump out of the gates quickly behind the 11th starting quarterback since Peyton Manning  (3-0 is reasonable, and 2-1 is patient, considering the Broncos favorable early slate) George Paton should waste no time reversing the decision that’s just been made, and in essence, starting all over. Again.

Inserting Lock, if things are already going south, can do one of two things – both of which are good for the Broncos. First, Lock could prove his doubters (including his coach and GM) wrong, and -possibly- provide the solution the Broncos have so desperately sought since 2015. Or second, he can tank, putting his team in a better (see familiar) position to find its future quarterback.

By season’s end, the Broncos will find themselves one of two places – in the playoffs or on the hamster wheel.

And Teddy Bridgewater is now officially steering the ship.

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