Can it be Elway?
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Certainly there have been terrible draft choices in NFL history. The first, and most prominent offensive player that comes to mind is Ryan Leaf. While Peyton Manning is supplanting his legacy as one of the best signal callers in the history of the game, Leaf is... well... taking some time to figure life out.
So sure, it seems that the second-overall pick can be defined as a major bust. So, too, can a pick like Maurice Clarett who is now more known for blogging from a prison than anything he did on the professional football field.
But forget about the player who was drafted and didn't pan out. No matter how much skill is involved in the scouting process, busts happen. Who knows how a player will react when handed millions of dollars? Who knows how he'll deal with the pressures of being a professional out on his own? And who knows how he'll react when he's off the juice?
It's hard to predict that a guy who, for all sound logic, should be a surefire star in the NFL but ends up a bust. But what about the guy who looked like a Hall of Famer, ended up being a Hall of Famer, but you traded the guy away because he wouldn't play for you?
John Elway said he wouldn't sign for Baltimore before the Draft. Elway used the leverage of a baseball career to try and scare the Colts away from drafting him. But draft him they did. And according to this archived column from The Sporting News on September 10, 1984 (thank you Mr. Internet):
It was called the Trade of the Century in May of 1983, when the Broncos obtained Elway from the Colts for (Chris) Hinton, (Mark) Herrmann and a first-round pick in the '84 draft. Bob Irsay's pockets got picked, they said. The Broncos got Elway for far less than what other teams had offered the Colts before the '83 draft.
Ten months later -- and 25 years ago yesterday -- the Colts weren't from Baltimore any longer. Sure, Hinton, who was drafted fourth overall by Denver in the same draft as Elway, went on to be a seven-time Pro Bowler. But only one of those years was in Baltimore as the team was gone for the next five honors he'd earn as a Colt.
Mark Herrmann was a quarterback in the league for 10 years and threw 561 passes. He started 12 games, winning three.
The first-round pick the Colts got ended up being Ron Solt from Maryland (the Colts second pick in the first round that season. Solt played for 10 years in the league, including six with the Indianapolis Colts, and since the rights to his pick were traded in the Elway deal, he never played a down of his career in the city of Baltimore.
But none of the success had by Colts players in the trade really matters. The fact is, John Elway said he wouldn't play in Baltimore and they drafted him anyway. They could have traded the pick for more before the draft. They could have selected another player in that draft class. Eric Dickerson went second. Bruce Matthews went ninth. If they really needed a quarterback they could have traded down as Jim Kelly went 14th and Dan Marino went 27th. Washington legend Darrell Green went 28th. All Hall of Famers, by the way.
In fact, Elway went on to be one of the five greatest quarterbacks (perhaps players) in the history of the sport. The Colts? Be them in Baltimore or Indianapolis, they never won more than nine games in a season during Elway's career (1983-1998). The Colts record during that span was 98-157 (.384).
So don't fret on this anniversary, Baltimore. The Colts became someone else's problem for a long time. And John Elway might just be the worst draft pick in NFL history.
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