BRONCOS

Bridgewater has to play better for the Broncos to win and the money to follow

Dec 17, 2021, 6:52 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)

As the Broncos make their playoff push to close out 2021, one story that has gained momentum is the uncertain future of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Reports have circulated that Bridgewater is seeking $25 million per season. When asked directly, Bridgewater denied the reports.

True or not, it doesn’t matter. Sooner than later, Bridgewater will be a free agent and the Broncos will have to decide on their quarterback situation. Whether he asked for the money now or in three weeks is irrelevant.

If Bridgewater did indeed ask for $25 million, that’s not absurd relative to his quarterback contemporaries, and for his sake, he should try and get as much as he can. Nobody should begrudge Bridgewater for looking to secure a pay day.

Bridgewater and the Broncos are in an awkward spot. For the most part, the relationship has worked out. Bridgewater has been the best leader and smartest Broncos quarterback since Peyton Manning. Behind Bridgewater, the Broncos are playing meaningful games in December for the first time since 2016.

Yet, Bridgewater’s future as the Broncos quarterback seems very much in doubt. While playing well, he has been inconsistent and at times, has played poorly. Bridgewater is solid on paper, but not mesmerizing when you turn on the game.

If Bridgewater wants the big contract from the Broncos or elsewhere, he can make it easy on everybody by playing well and winning in the final four weeks of the season.

The beginning of the Broncos schedule was laughable, and now the final four games are tough. The Broncos offense has found success leaning on the running game, but with Joe Burrow, Derek Carr, Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes as the quarterbacks of the remaining four opponents, the Broncos must have success passing the football.

Running the ball with ineffective quarterback play can only work for so long. Winning quarterbacks make big plays in important moments.

Bridgewater had his opportunity against the Chiefs and fell flat. At Kansas City, the Broncos defense made stop after stop and the running game moved the offense down the field. Despite both of those things going well, Bridgewater was unable to make plays when the Broncos needed it through the air.

The Broncos have too much talent at wide receiver to have the passing game take a back seat to the running game. The Broncos should be winning through the air, not the ground.

The Broncos found with Jake Plummer and Tim Tebow that relying on the running game can win games, but ultimately is a losing proposition. That is why the Broncos moved on from both quarterbacks after they helped the Broncos get to the playoffs.

Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick are firmly in the Broncos future, developing chemistry with the two is vital for the Broncos signal caller. Bridgewater has not been able to deliver the ball to the talented wide receiver core with consistency.

Bridgewater was outstanding against the Cowboys by taking advantage of mismatches and converting big plays. We have seen him play at a high level just not often enough.

It’s possible Bridgewater is playing injured and the play calling by Pat Shurmur is bad. But at some point, Bridgewater needs to show up in the big moments.

Mark Schlereth and Cecil Lammey have talked about Bridgewater moving off Sutton and Patrick because they are not open immediately. It’s time Bridgewater trusts these two playmakers and makes the throw. It’s not all on Bridgewater, as Shurmur can call quicker bubble screens and slants that would help Bridgewater find his receivers. But still, Bridgewater must be willing to give his receivers a chance.

Again, Bridgewater is the smartest and best quarterback the Broncos have had since Manning. Bridgewater has the intelligence and leadership to assert himself on the field. If Bridgewater can win three or four of these final games, like Vic Fangio, he makes a strong case for a return to Denver in 2021.

Last week, Russell Wilson became the focus of Broncos Country’s future quarterback plans. This week, everyone is excited about the prospect of Liberty quarterback Malik Willis being drafted next offseason. Broncos Country has a wandering eye for quarterbacks, but by finding success as a passer in the final stretch, Bridgewater can bring the focus (and money) back to him.

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Bridgewater has to play better for the Broncos to win and the money to follow