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What if? John Elway to the Raiders

There is evidence out there that suggests the Raiders pushed hard to deal for Elway in 1983 but were ultimately rebuffed by then commissioner Pete Rozelle.

Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE

We all know the background, the Baltimore Colts had the #1 overall pick in 1983, John Elway didn't want to be a Colt and had a baseball contract with the Yankees to fall back on. From there the Broncos traded QB Mark Hermann, rights to their 1983 1st round draft pick OL Chris Hinton, and their 1st round pick in 1984. Elway went on to have a HOF career which included 5 super bowl appearances, 2 world titles, 1 league and 1 Super Bowl MVP, 50K yards passing and 300 TD's. Not to mention the fact that he's probably the most beloved sports figure in Colorado sports history.

The Raiders on the other hand? They decayed along with their cryptkeeper owner Al Davis into the Cap strapped team we beat up on today. There's nothing pretty about the Raiders and their slogan of "Just Win Baby" seems more suited for arguments made by clueless Tebow-ites. "commitment to drafting in the top 10" is their new slogan, but I digress, what exactly was on the table from the Raiders, and how close was he to going to the dark side?

Here's one take from leather heads of the gridiron:

There were a number of different rumored trade offers from the Raiders. One scenario stated the Raiders were offering a number of top picks in the 1983 and 1984 drafts, as well as former first round selection in QB Marc Wilson. Another rumor mentioned that the Raiders would consider trading future Hall of Fame RB Marcus Allen. Lastly, it was also rumored that the Raiders were attempting to attain first round selections, in order to trade them for Elway. Reportedly, the Raiders were offering RB Kenny King, G Mickey Marvin, and future Hall of Fame DE Howie Long to the Chicago Bears (6th pick) or the Philadelphia Eagles (8th pick).

Check out that article, it's worth a read. Apparently the Chargers, Cowboys, and Patriots were strong players in the trading game as well.

Moving on, I came across something on the message board. Someone pasted an article in there reportedly written by Paul Needell of the Star Ledger. Now I've spent the last 10 minutes trying to track the original down with no avail, but make no mistake, my efforts are very half assed and the article dates back to 2006. I did however find a 2008 article from Jim Armstrong of the Denver Post which seems to at the very least back up the validity of that post in the first place.

Now, back to the forum post:

According to two people with knowledge of a potential pre-draft trade, the Colts had reached a deal to send the No. 1 pick of the 1983 draft to the Raiders -- only to have the deal blocked by NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle.

"We almost had Elway, but Pete Rozelle voided the trade," former Raiders personnel man Ron Wolf told The Star-Ledger last week. "We had the trade set up with Baltimore, but Pete wouldn't let it happen."

Rozelle and Raiders owner Davis spent many years in the 1980s in courtrooms over the Raiders' move from Oakland to Los Angeles, among other issues. Simply put, the two didn't like each other.

Ernie Accorsi, then the GM of the Colts, now the Giants' GM, confirmed a deal was in place with the Raiders that would have netted Baltimore an unprecedented three No. 1 picks and two No. 2s. One of the No. 1s, Accorsi said, would have been the sixth overall, which the Raiders had arranged to acquire from the Bears.

"Yeah, it's never been written, but I was going to make the deal only if it included getting back a top 10 pick," Accorsi said. "I wanted to make sure we still got (Hall of Fame quarterback) Dan Marino. I wasn't going to trade Elway for anything less than the best package ever."

Wolf said he didn't know the details of the almost-trade, but said he was was told by someone in the Colts' organization that "it was much better" than what Baltimore later received from the Broncos for Elway after the draft. That deal included back-up QB Mark Hermann, tackle Chris Hinton and a first-round draft pick.

The feud between Al Davis and Pete Rozelle goes back to the AFL/NFL merger in 1966. Davis had been the AFL commissioner and started off his tenure by signing some of the NFL's top QB's at the time. The owners of the AFL teams went into negotiations to merge with the NFL and they barred Al Davis from attending those meetings. The leagues merged and Pete Rozelle was given the post of NFL commissioner.

From there Al Davis tried to move the team to LA without league approval, was denied and later sued the NFL for breaking "anti-trust" policies. He won the case and was awarded 35 million in damages from the NFL. There was a lot of bad blood between the two.

Given how everything went down, Elway probably should have ended up a Raider. They made the best offer. I suppose something comparable in today's game would be the three 1st round draft picks and one 2nd round draft pick the Redskins gave up to draft RG III.

In the end, Davis' petty squabbles and inability to play the politics game bit him in the ass. It wouldn't be the last time either, Lane Kiffin or Jon Gruden anyone?

So what if John Elway had become a Raider? He'd have won 2 or 3 super bowls making their ignorant and disease riddled fan base that much more unbearable, the Broncos would have been on the losing end of many of Elway's career comebacks, Bronco Mike never becomes Bronco Mike and instead resorts to a football-void life ravaged by drugs and alcohol abuse, MHR would be like now defunct Bronco Talk--empty and lonesome, and we would never get to hear the immortal words "THIS ONE'S FOR JOHN!"

All I have to say is RIP Mr. Rozelle, Broncos Country offers you a belated and retroactive Mile High Salute!




Thanks to Ian for the link!