Time to Lay Up: John Elway shouldn’t play the draft like ‘Tin Cup’ would

Jan 18, 2018; La Quinta, CA, USA; Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway hits on the third fairway during the first round of the CareerBuilder Challenge golf tournament at La Quinta Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

“Tin Cup” is one of my favorite sports movies. The one-liners combined with a goofy, over-the-top storyline make it an easy watch, and usually if I scroll past it with the remote I will stop and watch. Roy McAvoy, the washed-up small town golf pro played by Kevin Costner, is flanked by his best friend and caddy, Romeo Posar, played by Cheech Marin.

McAvoy’s gunslinger personality means he has never been able to maximize his golf skills on the PGA Tour. But, in an attempt at redemption (and to impress a woman) he decides to try to qualify for the U.S. Open as an amateur. Because this is Hollywood, he succeeds and finds himself in position to win. Then, the gunslinger returns.

Convinced he can make it, his first approach shot on the 18th hole lands in the water. Romeo tells him to lay up, take the easy par, and force a playoff to still have a chance to win. McAvoy asks for another ball, drops it, and promptly hits it in the water again. And again. And again. With the final ball left in his golf bag, he finally makes the shot to notch a 12 on the scorecard. He has gained immortality for the sequence, but has lost the U.S. Open.

John Elway is Roy McAvoy. The NFL Draft is his 18th hole.

As the Broncos search for their next starting quarterback to lead them to the playoffs and beyond, Elway continues to think he can make the shot. Not satisfied with par, he wants to prove to the naysayers he can make the legendary swing. He has already put two in the water — Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch. As a Broncos fan, I’m hoping that he does not spend the next three months with his hand out, waiting for us to hand him another ball so he can swing for the green yet again in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Elway knows which club in his bag to use. He knows it, and so do we. Because we’ve seen it. The free agency club landed future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. It’s time to use that club again, lay up, make par, and go to the playoff with a chance to win. Free agency does not require you to sink it from over 200 yards out. Free agency leaves you the option to use other clubs in your bag to help you win.

To be clear, this is not a statement on my part about Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen or any of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft class. Each may have a long and successful career. In fact, for the sake of the NFL, I hope each does. But in recent years, the Broncos organization has shown the ability to win by addressing the quarterback one way — finding a player who has already shown his ability in the league.

Elway might eventually make the shot. In fact, I think like McAvoy he probably can. The question is how many swings is it going to take before it happens? By the time he does make it, will the likes of Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr. have already left the course?

If I’m caddying, I hand Elway the seven iron and tell him to lay up, take par, and make the playoffs. I draft a quarterback in a later round and take that club to the driving range and learn how to swing it. Here’s hoping Elway is not so in love with the potential glory of making the dramatic shot, that he loses sight of the successful clubs he already has in his bag.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve been dreaming about waffles for 1,800 miles. Time for me to go to the Waffle House.

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