Denver Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater goes by a couple of nicknames, some funny (“Teddy Two Gloves“) and some not-so-flattering (“Teddy Checkdown“), but once the Broncos’ 2021 season opener commences, a new nickname could be “Teddy Pioneer.”
When the Broncos invade MetLife Stadium to face the New York Giants on September 12, Bridgewater will be the first Black quarterback to open the season for the Orange and Blue.
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And that moment won’t be lost on the starting quarterback.
“It’s a great milestone,” Bridgewater said during his September 1 press conference. “There will be a ton of young athletes who come after me and hopefully I can be a source of motivation to them, moving forward, whether it’s Black quarterbacks who are kids right now. It’s a unique opportunity I am grateful for. I get to go out and compete for this organization and hopefully try to get the organization back to where it was in 2015.”
Knowing Broncos History
If one guy can relate to what Bridgewater will be feeling once he takes the field, it’ll be Marlin Briscoe. Nicknamed “The Magician” due to his tricks and magical ways of eluding pressure and making clutch plays with his arm and legs, Briscoe knows better than anyone else in league history, what the opener means to Bridgewater.
Briscoe was a 14th-round pick in the 1968 draft by the then-AFL Broncos out of the University of Omaha, and became a pioneer as the first Black starting quarterback of the Super Bowl era during his rookie season. Briscoe was moved to cornerback upon his first training camp, but also had the wherewithal to add a stipulation in his maiden contract for a chance to compete for the quarterback position. Nothing came of it, until he was needed against the Boston Patriots, on September 29, 1968. Starter Steve Tensi broke his collarbone in the game, and backup Joe DiVito was ineffective in relief, so head coach Lou Saban called upon the 5-foot-11, 177-pound Briscoe.
What happened next was something of a storybook sequence, as Briscoe completed a 22-yard pass on his very first play, and he then engineered an 80-yard touchdown drive on his next series, culminating with a 12-yard touchdown run.
A week later, on October 6, he became the first Black quarterback in the AFL. His rookie season is still considered the best statistical season by a Broncos signal caller, as he tossed 14 touchdowns — in just five starts. Four of those came in one game (November 24 against the Buffalo Bills), including 335 passing yards. The former mark is still a Broncos’ rookie record, while the latter stood until 1983 when John Elway broke it. Briscoe’s performance against the Bills is still one of the greatest a Broncos rookie has recorded, as it’s one of only three 300-plus yard passing games in franchise history by a first-year player.
That rookie season will always go down as an all-timer in Broncos lore. And, while he’s not a rookie, Bridgewater can now join Briscoe in history.
The Magician Gives an Endorsement
Briscoe is obviously 100% behind Bridgewater as the QB1 and told The Denver Post in early September the biggest attribute for the eighth-year veteran is his unflappable nature.
“He’s a very interesting kid,” Briscoe said of Bridgewater. “From what I have seen of his play, [he] doesn’t seem to get rattled. He has the temperament [to] block out any negativity that happens to him and go on to the next play. There’s always the next play.”
Briscoe reasoned that plays will break down, and adversity will hit Bridgewater and the Broncos, but when that happens, the Broncos will be in good hands.
“It’s good to have that type of mentality, that he’s overcome adversity,” Briscoe continued on Bridgewater. “And that’s going to bode well for him in tight situations. And there will be tight situations.”
Steady Teddy Is Ready
Bridgewater is fully aware of the significance, but he knows he has a job to do. If he flops against the Giants, he’s aware he’ll feel the wrath of Broncos Country, so he’s channeling all his energy into preparation.
He can sit back and appreciate the moment at a later date.
“It can’t be talk. … We all have to have the same mindset and the common goal, and that’s the thing I love about football. It’s the ultimate team sport,” Bridgewater told Denver7’s Troy Renck. “You put aside your personal goals and your ego to come together for one common goal and that’s to win. … It’s not about me, it’s not about the next guy. It’s about the team, and I love being part of that.”
Follow Tony Williams on Twitter: @TBone8