At least one of the questions regarding the start of the New York Giants’ 2021 season has been answered. Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio informed the team that veteran Teddy Bridgewater would be their starting quarterback, beating out Drew Lock.
As it so happens, the Broncos are the Giants’ Week 1 opponent this year, and the questions surrounding their quarterback position loomed large.
The decision to go with Bridgewater over Lock is an understandable and logical decision for the Broncos — and a potentially disappointing one for the Giants.
From the Giants perspective, they would likely rather face the big-armed but young and erratic Drew Lock in week 1 of the season. While Lock has modern athleticism and the arm talent to threaten a defense at every level of the field, he’s an unpolished passer who is prone to inaccuracy and putting the ball at risk. Lock has a career 8-10 record and has turned the ball over 24 times (compared to 26 total touchdowns) in 18 games.
Bridgewater, meanwhile, is a much more steady and dependable passer. He lacks Lock’s raw arm strength and rushing ability — particularly following his devastating knee injury in 2016 — but he is a smart, efficient, and accurate passer.
It would likely have been much easier for Patrick Graham to cook up deceptive coverage shells to confuse Lock and exploit his inexperience. Bridgewater is a veteran quarterback who has seen much in his NFL career and could be more difficult to deceive than a player who only has 18 NFL games on his resume.
From the Broncos’ perspective, picking Bridgewater makes all kinds of sense.
Vic Fangio is a defensive head coach. Like most defensive coaches, he wants an offense that will give his defense a lead to protect, but won’t play recklessly. Fangio loves an aggressive defense, and that’s much easier to accomplish when the offense isn’t giving away possessions and is putting pressure on the opposing offense to keep up. While Bridgewater only accounted for 15 touchdowns a year ago, that was on a much less talented Carolina offense. He could fare much better on an offense with Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, Melvin Gordon, and Javonte Williams.
Likewise, Bridgewater’s quick, efficient game makes him a natural West Coast Offense quarterback. That makes him a good fit with Broncos’ offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur who runs a very QB-friendly version of the WCO. It also helps that the two are very familiar with each other from their time together with the Minnesota Vikings. So far this preseason, Bridgewater is 16 of 19 for 179 yards and 2 touchdowns.
And just looking at a charting of the stats, the picture is pretty clear.
Bridgewater’s passes were far from the most valuable in the league last year (ranking 19th in EPA/play) due to his low air yards (7.1 per attempt). However, he was among the most accurate quarterbacks in the league on those passes. Bridgewater’s 72.9 completion percentage outside of garbage time was the second best mark in the NFL, behind only Aaron Rodgers. But while we would expect Bridgewater to complete relatively short passes at a high rate, his completion percentage above expectation was the sixth best in the NFL (4.2 points above his expected completion of 68.8 percent).
Viewed that way, as well as Lock’s position on the composite chart, it’s pretty easy to visualize the difference between them.
Speaking personally, I’ve been a fan of Bridgewater’s since he was at Louisville. I thought he was about to take the next step to being a true Franchise Quarterback following his 11-5 2015 campaign. His 2016 knee injury was one of the tragedies in the NFL and derailed a promising young career. It’s impressive that Bridgewater was able to come back as an active player at all, let alone win a starting job.
This might be bad (or at least less welcome) news for the Giants, but I hope Bridgewater is able to take advantage of his opportunity this season.