DENVER — On reachable par 5s, the Broncos play it safe. They hit 8-iron. They lay up.

With Teddy Bridgewater announced as the starting quarterback for the 2021 season, the Broncos confirmed the team motto suggested by George Paton’s first draft as general manager: safety first!

And be good enough to not get fired.

The 28-year-old Bridgewater got the nod over Drew Lock. A quarterback competition described as “even Stephen” (Lock's middle name) went to “steady Teddy” (Bridgewater's nickname). It’s a CYA decision. There was no way a coach with a 12-20 record over two seasons was banking his job security on Lock, a 24-year-old wild card.

It’s impossible to say right now if Vic Fangio choosing Bridgewater was the correct decision.

There is no question it was the safe decision.

Boy, the Broncos seriously don’t trust Lock. One of the first orders of business for Paton was trading for Bridgewater. They also made overtures of varying degrees at Matthew Stafford, Deshaun Watson and Aaron Rodgers, and that’s only the names that were reported.

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In addition to announcing Bridgewater the main man, the Broncos indirectly announced they will be quarterback shopping in 2022. Get to know college stars Malik Willis (Liberty), Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma), Sam Howell (North Carolina), Carson Strong (Nevada), Kedon Slovis (USC) and whoever’s the quarterback at North Dakota State. Follow the drama in Seattle (Russell Wilson), Houston (Watson) and Green Bay (Rodgers). Denver’s 2021 is a QB one-off.

Here’s a hunch Doubted Drew still gets his shot in '21. Bridgewater has started 15 or 16 games in only two of six NFL seasons. He’s had wrist, ankle and knee injuries. In other words, he plays pro football. If the Broncos get 2020 Bridgewater, they should make the postseason.

No, really.

The real pressure shouldn't be on the quarterbacks. The real pressure should be on a defense that's paid more than all but one team, the Patriots. Between Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton (even though he’s not all the way back), KJ Hamler, Garett Bolles, Noah Fant, “Pookie” Williams, Melvin Gordon, Von Miller, Kyle Fuller, Justin Simmons, Bradley Chubb, Dre’Mont Jones, Ron Darby and Patrick Surtain II, that’s enough to make the playoffs this season.

It should be enough, anyway. Steady Teddy last season threw 15 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. He completed 69.7 percent of his pass attempts, a number that trailed only Rodgers, Watson, Drew Brees and Josh Allen.

It will be Bridgewater at quarterback against the New York Giants on Sept. 12. He’s 1-0 against the Giants. He completed 15 of 25 passes for one touchdown, no interceptions and 168 yards.

That’s Teddy Bridgewater in a stat line. I preferred taking a risk with Lock, but my job’s not on the line, either. These Broncos order a fountain drink and fill it with water. They went safe in the draft, choosing Surtain, a corner, over quarterbacks Justin Fields and Mac Jones. In Patriots camp vs. the Giants on Wednesday, Jones threw 18 straight completions, by the way. Just saying.

The Broncos open the season against the Giants (6-10 last year), Jags (1-15) and Jets (2-14). If they don't start 2-1 or better, fans will voice new calls for a quarterback change — back to Lock.

The expectation for the Broncos should be the playoffs. Fangio was gifted an expensive secondary, his choices of defensive linemen, a first-round cornerback and, now, a veteran quarterback who fits his sensibilities. No Broncos coach since Mike Shanahan has been empowered with that much say-so — not even Gary Kubiak, who famously opted for Trevor Siemian over Paxton Lynch in a Week 17 slog.

Going for it was so 1984-2015. This is not the same Broncos franchise whose owner predicted 19-0 every August. For better or for worse, it’s not. In the safetyism era they are the safetyist.

The Broncos lowered their ceiling Wednesday. They also raised their floor. They can’t be better than the Chiefs or Chargers. They can be good enough to not get fired. Bridgewater's Broncos won’t have an eagle putt, but par still makes the cut. For better or worse, that's the Broncos.

(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at paul.klee@gazette.com or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)

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