BRONCOS

Teddy Bridgewater’s gaffe on Sunday won’t be Drew Lock’s gain

Nov 17, 2021, 6:31 AM
DENVER, COLORADO - NOVEMBER 14: Denver Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) has a hard game at...
(Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
(Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

When quarterback Teddy Bridgewater barely tried to stop — or even slow down — Darius Slay Jr. as the Eagles’ defender comically ran around, over and through all 11 Broncos that stood between him and an 83-yard fumble return for touchdown to seal Philadelphia’s 30-13 win over Denver, keyboard warriors sprang into action.

Bridgewater’s “business decision” to veer away from Slay at the last second instantly became a Rorschach test for Broncos fans, especially the ones with axes to grind.

Immediately following the game, Bridgewater’s half-hearted explanation regarding the play — he suggested that was trying to force Slay into the arms of another, potential tackle — didn’t make much sense. On Monday, after seeing the film and recognizing that his real-time decision was indefensible, Bridgewater met the media and took full responsibility.

“It’s one of those situations where you get pissed after you watch it, because you know how much this game means to you,” Bridgewater said. “In real time, it feels like everything is happening fast, (so) let’s force a cutback. But when you slow it down, it’s like, man, just give more effort. So you watch it, and you walk away from it pissed at yourself with your effort. Credit Slay; he made a play. But we’ve got guys out there diving, trying to make a tackle, and I just needed to lay it all out (for) the guys in our moment.”

After publicly falling on his sword, it was evident that Bridgewater’s teammates were already over it. Bridgewater didn’t fumble; Melvin Gordon III did — for the second time in two home games with the game on the line, mind you — and literally every other Broncos player also failed to bring the speedy Slay down.

That wouldn’t be enough for many Broncos fans, of course. To them, Bridgewater’s poor effort amounted to some sort of high crime; proof of his lack of toughness and courage, usually illustrated with some decidedly fuzzy recollections of Broncos quarterbacks/tackling machines past.

Peyton Manning used to sack himself, for example, and was wise to do so, but it was Bridgewater — who nearly had his leg amputated due a gruesome injury years ago, yet fought his way back into the league, and in this year alone, suffered a concussion this season against Baltimore, probably shouldn’t have played injured the next week in Pittsburgh, and was then hit 22 times by the Raiders — who allegedly wasn’t tough enough.

Former NFL coach/current talking head Rex Ryan dug deeply into his notably sized bag of machismo to go so far as to suggest that he would have immediately benched his starter for his error, even though he knew he’d be putting in an inferior player in his place. Embattled Broncos coach Vic Fangio, who worked with Ryan in Baltimore under Brian Billick, wouldn’t take the bait.

“I respect Rex in his opinion, but I don’t agree with him at this point,” Fangio said on Monday. “And no, Teddy’s our quarterback moving forward.”

But what if he wasn’t? Bridgewater’s been steady if unspectacular, and at a least nominal improvement over backup Drew Lock, but he hasn’t been anything more than average at best. Average would be a distinct improvement for Lock, who was, by any reasonable measure, the NFL’s worst starting quarterback last season, and one that the Broncos organization — from top to bottom — seems to have happily moved along from.

Sure, one can (and some will) cherry-pick stats that would indicate that Lock was better last year at one or two things than Bridgewater is this year, but those numbers also lead to the conclusion that signal-callers like Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson are worse even than Bridgewater — which makes no sense whatsoever to anyone who’s ever watched a football game.

That said, Lock does has one thing that Bridgewater definitely doesn’t — one more year on his contract.

Maybe the Broncos’ front office and coaches are wrong and a small cadre of fans clutching Josh Allen-shaped pearls are right, and Lock is still, somehow, a superstar in waiting. Perhaps he just needs yet another chance; a third crack at it, like his coach is getting. Fangio, however, knows he won’t get a fourth season if he allows Lock to finish this one, so this discussion is taking place in a vacuum; Lock won’t play unless Bridgewater is injured somehow… say, while making a poor attempt at a tackle.

Nevertheless, according to the social media gadflies, it’s time to toss Bridgewater overboard and give the second-round prodigal son one more try. After all, Lock surely wouldn’t give up on a tackle like Bridgewater did, right?

At least there, they may have a point. After all, given that Lock’s turned the ball over nine more times as the starter in 2020 — in only three more games than Bridgewater has in 2021 — he’s had a lot more practice.

***

Shawn Drotar (@sdrotar) is the on-air host of “Sandy and Shawn;” weeknights from 9p-midnight on 104.3 The Fan.

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Teddy Bridgewater’s gaffe on Sunday won’t be Drew Lock’s gain