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VOL. 131 | NO. 87 | Monday, May 2, 2016

Elway Has Faith in Lynch, and That’s Good Enough

By Don Wade

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Todd McShay, NFL Draft expert and college football analyst, was a backup quarterback for the mighty University of Richmond Spiders.

Paxton Lynch (middle) poses with Denver Broncos coach Gary Kubiak (left) and general manager John Elway at his introductory news conference. Lynch, who broke numerous records at the University of Memphis, was the Broncos’ No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

John Elway, general manager for the Denver Broncos, won two Super Bowls for the team, was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and was the first pick of the 1983 NFL Draft.

McShay did not have former University of Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch being selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. McShay and supposed draft guru Mel Kiper, among others, were responsible for the late cloud of doubt that seemed to hover over Lynch and that turned him into as much suspect as prospect.

You know, on TV and in social media.

This all had such a profound effect on Elway that he was not comfortable with the Broncos holding the 31st and last pick of the first round. Not with Kansas City and Arizona picking right before them. So Elway pulled off a trade with Seattle and moved up to No. 26 and grabbed Lynch.

Which is a long-winded way of saying to Memphis fans still following the quarterback that turned around the program and led it to 19 wins and two bowl games, stop worrying.

Elway has faith in Paxton Lynch. Look what Elway did at the position at the highest level. McShay and Kiper talk a slick game, but so does a successful car salesman. It means nothing.

When the Broncos held Lynch’s introductory press conference on Friday, April 29, pictures were snapped of Lynch standing between Elway and coach Gary Kubiak, also a former NFL quarterback. At 6-7 and 245 pounds, Lynch almost made them look small.

Although Lynch posed with the No. 1 jersey provided to all first-round draft picks, he chose to wear No. 12 (his number with the Tigers) with the Broncos. Aaron Rodgers wears that number for the Green Bay Packers. Roger Staubach wore it with the Dallas Cowboys and Joe Namath with the New York Jets.

Speaking of the Jets, it probably worked out for the best that Lynch did not go there. “Broadway Joe” fit Namath. Lynch watched the NFL Draft Thursday night with family and friends at a bowling alley near his childhood home in working class Deltona, Fla.

Lynch is long on loyalty and short on glitz. That will serve him well in Denver where Elway has invested in him.

That, however, is not the same thing as having the job handed to him. Lynch will arrive in camp to compete with veteran Mark Sanchez, who if now less than his best years with the Jet is also much more than that “butt fumble” moment we’ve all seen dozens of times. The Broncos’ seventh-round draft pick from a year ago, Trevor Siemian, is also on the roster.

Gone, of course, is future Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning, who retired after the Super Bowl victory. Also gone is 6-7 Brock Osweiler, who left Denver for $37 million in guaranteed money from the Houston Texans.

Lynch is projected to sign a four-year contract north of $9 million with a fifth-year club option. To a degree, he has the luxury of time.

In his first meeting with media, he admitted that the quarterback he has most tried to emulate is Carolina’s Cam Newtown, but said following Manning was unbelievable.

“If you would have told me whenever I declared for the draft, you could play for the Denver Broncos, you know filling in Peyton Manning’s shoes, I would have told you you’re crazy,” Lynch said.

It’s a lot to comprehend, yes. As for filling Manning’ shoes, well, that was a figure of speech and not a prediction.

Lynch is a rookie quarterback with a lot to learn competing with another young quarterback and a retread who, right this second, is more prepared to start the first game of the 2016 season.

But John Elway has Paxton Lynch’s back.

Pretty good way to start an NFL career. No matter what a former backup quarterback for the Richmond Spiders might think.

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