Instant Analysis: 30 for 30 "Elway to Marino"

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This may have been my favorite 30 for 30. It's competing with the Two Carloses and 9.79. Perhaps others, but I digress. 

Elway to Marino is about the 1983 NFL draft, perhaps the most well stocked draft in NFL history. At the center are two quarterbacks, John Elway and Dan Marino. Shockingly, four quarterbacks were taken between the two including Jim Kelly. In those first 25 picks there were six Hall of Famers and fifteen Pro Bowlers. In that first round you'll find a who's who of tackle football: Elway, Eric Dickerson, Bruce Matthews, Kelly, Curt Warner, Jim Covert, Chris Hinton, Darrell Green, Don Mosebar, Dave Rimington, Jim Jeffcoat and Willie Gault. 

 The drama of the draft was the fact that John Elway had told the Baltimore Colts for roughly two months that he had no interest in playing there. Ernie Accorsi, Colts GM, still drafted Elway setting off a firestorm. He stuck to his guns and selected the best player available to try and turn him into the Colts quarterback or more assets. Accorsi was so convinced he was doing the right thing he instructed his staff at the draft to select Elway one second after the Colts were on the clock. I remember thinking, partly because of the influence of my dad, that Elway was being a total prick, spoiled brat.

For his part Elway is defiant today, he believes he was justified in his stance. The man the Colts exchanged for Elway was a pretty good player himself though you've probably never heard of him. Chris Hinton went to multiple Pro Bowls and was a constant in the NFL for better than a decade. Also interesting were the men who were almost traded for John Elway. Hard to believe but Bill Walsh thought about trading Joe Montana for Elway. Holy cow, I had no idea. The Raiders tried to trade Howie Long. The Cowboys tried to give the Colts Danny White. Why coudn't that have happened? Throw in Steve Pelluer and a kicking net.

The film is particularly adept at analysing how and why teams passed on Marino or whiffed on a chance at Elway. Marino could have gone to anyone of 20 teams who needed a quarterback or who would have gotten an upgrade by selecting him. Looking back the perfect fit would have been Oakland's verticle passing game, but as the film illustrates, Al Davis was embroiled in a legal battle with the NFL and Pete Rozelle over whether the Raiders could uproot to LA and wasn't part of the Raiders draft prep. The Raiders also claim the NFL put the kibosh on the Howie Long for Elway deal.

Taking a long view of these historical events, and more importantly the treatment of these events will make or break a 30 for 30. Elway to Marino is handled very well. The film makers interview guys like Ken O'Brien, Gabe Rivera, Chris Hinton, and other key characters in the event including front office guys from around the league and of course super agent Marvin Demoff who struck a cue by representing both Marino and Elway. Demoff is the focal point because he was privy to all the negotiations from all parties trying to lure Elway away from the Colts or Marino into the fold. Dude took copious notes and shares them in detail.

They also recreated the actual draft room with excrutiating detail to revive a piece of NFL history. But the inner workings of the deals, for example the Chargers using Elway as a chip to resign Fouts, were excellent. I love that stuff.


  • I watched Gabe Rivera play at Texas Tech. Senor Sack was incredible. They show a highlight of him running down a quarterback 30 yards downfield. Dude was an amazing athlete. It was sad to see him in the film after being paralyzed in a car accident six games into his career. I loved Senor Sack.
  • Dave Rimington was drafted by the Bengals and didn't have a great career but the best center in college football wins an award named after him. Not too shabby.
  • Ken O'Brien was quietly and not a bad quarterback.
  • Todd Blackledge...not so much.
  • Ron Meyer came across as a jackhole after running Tony Eason into the ground. Eason got that team to a Super Bowl Ron, sure he wasn't great, but get over it. And by the way, you were more than a bystander in the SMU death penalty case.
  • As I said, Accorsi comes across like a guy who knew what he was doing only to be undercut by the Irsay ownership group in Baltimore. Ernie deserved better and he got it in New York.
  • The '83 draft is a testament to why some teams just don't get it. Detroit, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, St. Louis, and Philly all could have used a guy like Marino but for some reason passed on him.
  • So was Bruce Matthews the fifth best pick in that draft? I'd argue yes, Elway, Marino, Dickerson, and Green then Bruce. You could argue Kelly, but Matthews was a 14-time Pro-Bowler. I might even nudge him in over Darrell Green.
  • Worst pick of that first round? How about Tony Hunter or Mike Pitts. I have no idea who they were.

Well done 30 for 30. Now let's get that 1989 Dallas Carter doc going and we can all rest a little easier.

Posted on April 23, 2013 and filed under Sports.