ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In what Denver Broncos coach Vic Fangio called a "really, really close" competition that led to a "tough" decision, Fangio formally named Teddy Bridgewater as the Broncos' starting quarterback.
Fangio told Bridgewater and Drew Lock of his decision Wednesday morning, just before telling the rest of the players in a team meeting before the Broncos' early afternoon practice.
The Broncos sent a sixth-round draft pick to the Carolina Panthers the day before the draft opened this past April in exchange for Bridgewater. Almost from the moment of Bridgewater's arrival, Fangio and Broncos general manager George Paton said he and Lock would compete for the starting job.
It was a competition Fangio called "even Steven" early and often in training camp and "really damn close" as recently as Tuesday afternoon.
"There wasn't a lot of separation," Fangio said. "Both guys had good camps. They both played well, they both had their down moments, had their good moments. ... We just made this decision because it's best for the team moving forward right now. We have two good quarterbacks, two quarterbacks we can win with.
Fangio added: "It was really, really close. ... We had to make a decision, and we went with Teddy."
Lock, who was a second-round pick by the Broncos in 2019, started 13 games last season. But in a year with no offseason work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lock struggled at times in his first year in offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur's offense. He had some highs, such as his four-touchdown day in a win over Bridgewater and the Panthers last December and his 339 yards passing and two touchdowns in the season finale against the Raiders.
But Lock also tied for the league lead in interceptions (15) and was last among the league's starters in completion percentage overall (57.3%), and the Broncos led the league in giveaways as well as turnover margin. Lock was also among the quarterbacks who were not allowed to be uniform for the Broncos' Nov. 29 loss to the New Orleans Saints because of violations of COVID protocols.
"He was disappointed obviously," Fangio said of his discussion with Lock, adding that Lock is "not going to let it slow him down, he's full steam ahead."
In the end, Bridgewater's efficiency held off Lock's obvious improvement after plenty of work since the end of the 2020 season that included sessions with Peyton Manning. Bridgewater got four possessions combined in two preseason games and completed just over 84 percent of his passes, and the Broncos scored three touchdowns to go with a field goal in those drives.
Lock got seven possessions combined in the two preseason games, and the Broncos came away with two touchdowns and three field goals, punted twice and had a turnover on downs.
Fangio had made it clear throughout the competition that almost everything the two did was graded and compared in some way, including those preseason games, 11-on-11 periods in practice, their work in the meeting rooms and virtually every other item that was on their to-do lists each day.
When Fangio told the team of the decision Wednesday morning, he lauded both quarterbacks' work and told the team that quarterback competitions can go one of three ways.
"The first is, one guy plays way better than the other guy, the decision is easy and everybody sees it," Fangio recounted after Wednesday's practice. "Or the other thing is, both guys can play below par and you're not happy, but you've got to make a choice. That didn't happen either. The third is they both play good and you have to make a tough choice."
The Broncos have gotten off to slow starts the past two seasons, going winless in September in 2019 and 2020. With a desire to change that, and with what is expected to be one of the league's best defenses, the Broncos factored in Bridgewater's experience and the consistency he showed this offseason keeping the offense in a good tempo.
Bridgewater was quick to point out Wednesday how important it will be for him to continue to help Lock grow as a player and how much he has enjoyed getting to know Lock since Bridgewater arrived to the team in April.
"I'm hungry as well -- this entire team is hungry," Bridgewater said. "We know the talent that we have here, we know what's in store for us, but we can't sit here and talk about it, we have to go out and put in the work every day."
The Broncos haven't finished a season scoring more than 23 points per game since 2014 and haven't been to the postseason since winning Super Bowl 50 to close out the 2015 season.