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Teddy Bridgewater, Drew Lock & the Broncos' quarterbacks haven't been the issue, Denver's philosophy at the position has been

Zac Stevens Avatar
March 7, 2022

The Denver Broncos’ issue at quarterback was not Teddy Bridgewater’s fault.

It wasn’t Drew Lock’s fault. It wasn’t Case Keenum’s fault or even Joe Flacco’s.

Stop blaming them.

The root cause of Denver’s poor play at quarterback goes far beyond Bridgewater or any individual quarterback and far beyond this past season.

After knocking it out of the park by signing Peyton Manning to a near $100 million deal in 2012, the Broncos have gone to the value store to shop for their quarterbacks.

That is where they’ve gone wrong.

In the draft, they spent a second round pick on Brock Osweiler and Lock. They blindly threw darts in the seventh round at Trevor Siemian, Zac Dysert and Chad Kelly. The Siemian dart hit as close to bullseye as possible for a seventh-round QB too.

And, of course, John Elway and the Broncos used the 26th-selection in the 2016 NFL Draft on Paxton Lynch.

But drafting a quarterback in the mid 20s is hardly a significant investment in the most important position in sports. Teams that truly want to invest in a signal caller and have identified their guy don’t wait and hope he falls past nearly every team in the first round. They trade up into the top 15, top 10, top 5 and even top 2. The Broncos didn’t even come close to that.

Since using the 26th pick is hardly an investment in the quarterback position, second and seventh rounders are a far cry from a real investment.

The last time the Broncos made a true investment in a quarterback in the draft was when they traded up not once, but twice to land Jay Cutler with the 11th-overall pick. If Josh McDaniels didn’t run him out of town, who knows what Cutler’s career in the Mile High City would have blossomed into.

The Broncos have tried to find the next Russell Wilson or Dak Prescott by getting lucky in the draft. Their luck has dried out. They’ve come up empty.

In free agency and the trade market, Denver has tried the bargain-bin approach. They’ve gotten out of it exactly what they’ve put in.

In 2018, they signed Case Keenum to a two-year, $36-million contract. His $18 million per-year deal wasn’t even in the top half of the league.

A year later, they traded a fourth-round pick for Joe Flacco. A fourth-round pick. That’s equivalent to Devontae Booker. No offense to Booker, but a team should not be putting the same investment into the quarterback position as they put into a backup running back.

And now we get to Teddy. The day before the draft, Denver shipped off a sixth-round pick for the veteran signal caller.

With the sixth-round pick that Denver maintained, they drafted wide receiver Seth Williams, who they cut and then signed to the practice squad. They put the same investment in a practice squad receiver as they did their starting quarterback.

Additionally, Denver was on the hook for only $4.415 million of Bridgewater’s 2021 salary. To put that in perspective, Bridgewater was the 35th-highest-paid quarterback in the NFL.

According to that, he should be the third-best backup in the league.

Instead, he significantly outperformed his contract. His value was actually through the roof.

Bridgewater’s 94.9 passer rating was the 12th-best in the NFL. His 47.4 QBR ranked as the 20th best. His 1.6 percent interception rate was the sixth best.

Yet he was the 35th-highest-paid QB in the league. And he played as an average to slightly-above-average quarterback, meaning roughly the 13th-to-16th best passer in the NFL.

The value they got on him was incredible.

But that’s the issue. Since Manning, the Broncos have tried and tried and tried to go the value route at quarterback. It doesn’t work. Just look at the Denver Broncos from 2016 to now.

To find long-term sustained success at the most important position in sports, without hitting the lucky jackpot, teams have to put a substantial investment in the position, whether that be via trade, free agency or in the draft.

And, of course, just because a team puts a significant investment in a quarterback doesn’t mean it will work. You have to hit on that investment. But having that true big-time investment is the first step.

So don’t blame the quarterback woes in Denver this past year on Bridgewater—he’s significantly outperforming his contract. Don’t blame Keenum, Flacco, Lock, Oswieler, Siemian or, heck, even Lynch.

Look upstairs to the value philosophy the Broncos have had.

Until Denver truly invests in the most important position in sports, it’s going to be very difficult for them to find their franchise quarterback.

Mr. Paton, it’s time to significantly invest in the most important position in sports.

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