According to Vic Fangio, the Denver Broncos quarterback competition between Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock for this season is “50/50”. This was the plan from the Broncos front office and coaching staff since they traded for Bridgewater in April – to have the two quarterbacks battle it out in a completely even competition. The Broncos’ coaching staff has even gone so far as to make sure each quarterback gets exactly even reps in practice with the ones and twos and each quarterback will start one preseason game as well. However, there are some reasons this might not be the best approach from the Broncos front office and coaching staff.
The biggest reason this “50/50” training camp battle might not be the best approach is from a strategic perspective. From a tactical perspective, there is only one good outcome from this completely open quarterback battle approach: Drew Lock wins outright. If Lock wins the competition by truly playing better than Bridgewater, then the Broncos get to play Lock to start the season and finally put to rest if he is the future quarterback for the Denver Broncos or not. The organization and fans would get to see Drew Lock in the same offensive system for two years in a row and with great pieces all around him to see what his ceiling truly is. If Lock does not take the next step in that scenario, then it is easy to see that the Broncos need to move on and look for the next franchise quarterback. Also, if Lock does start the first several games and clearly shows that he has not progressed, then it is easy to turn to the savvy veteran in Teddy Bridgewater to finish out the season. Unfortunately, the odds of a young quarterback like Lock outshining a solid eight-year veteran like Teddy Bridgewater in training camp are not good, so this scenario is not likely to play out.
The other outcomes would be that neither QB outshines the other, or that Teddy Bridgewater wins the competition. Both of those scenarios are bad news for the Broncos. In the scenario that neither quarterback shines, that means Lock has most likely not taken that next step in his progression. It also means the team is not very confident to rally around whoever is picked as the starter.
In the last scenario of Bridgewater winning the competition, then the Broncos’ coaching staff has a conundrum. Either they start the 28-year-old journeyman QB, or they go against their word and start Drew Lock anyway. Starting Lock in that scenario causes you to lose trust from the players. Meanwhile, starting Bridgewater to start the season is not a good solution either. First, if Bridgewater struggles to start the season, then it makes it tough to turn to a deflated Drew Lock. At that point Lock will have most likely lost his confidence after losing the QB battle. Next, you never get to see what Drew Lock’s true ceiling is if Bridgewater starts the whole season.
So, from a strategic perspective, the open QB competition is not a good approach because the only good outcome – Drew Lock clearly winning the QB competition – is not a very likely outcome.
There is something to be said for the mentality of an athlete. Any athlete performs at their best when they are playing with confidence. I would argue that having an open QB competition that is “truly 50/50” is not great for the mentality of a young struggling quarterback like Drew Lock. Lock already struggled with confidence last year at some points and having every play and every throw magnified by media, players, coaches and fans in training camp and preseason is not going to help the young gunslinger improve.
There is no question that the Broncos needed to bring in a veteran quarterback. Having a veteran quarterback on the roster like Teddy Bridgewater paired with a young QB like Lock helps to build knowledge in the young QB room and provides a hedge in case Lock does not improve. So, the decision to trade for Bridgewater was a good one from GM George Paton. However, the decision to have a completely open quarterback competition is a miscalculated move by the Broncos front office and coaching staff. They did not have to state that the Broncos QB battle was completely open in order to have healthy competition between Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock. The competition would occur naturally if the Broncos would have still named Drew Lock as the starter going forward. That approach would also eliminate some of the mental pressure for Lock and would ensure that none of those worst-case scenarios as stated earlier actually get to play out.