John Elway...Raiders QB?

John Elway...Raiders QB?
May 9, 2013, 9:30 am
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How would the Raiders' past 25 years look if they had landed John Elway? 

The best Raiders draft room story I ever heard? It came courtesy of Tom Flores. 

It involved the 1982 draft and, the two-time Super Bowl-winning coach told me, the room was split when the Raiders' turn to pick came at No. 10. Sure, the Silver and Black wanted a running back. The gathering agreed on that.

But Stanford's Darrin Nelson and Arizona State's Gerald Riggs had already been selected by Minnesota and Atlanta. And while half of the gathering wanted the bruiser from Richmond, guy by the name of Barry Redden, the rest wanted the guy with more, ahem, panache: The reigning Heisman Trophy winner from USC.

Thankfully, you might say, wiser heads prevailed and Marcus Allen became a Raiders legend, even if his legendary feud with Al Davis short-circuited his tenure.

The second-best story?

It might actually be a better yarn since it's been talked about in hushed tones for years but given legs and details in a recent ESPN 30-for-30 special.

John Elway was almost a Raider. Read it again…John Elway, the scourge from the Mile High City, was thisclose to being a Raider. A year after the Raiders nearly drafted Redden instead of Allen.

"Elway to Marino" was created using the diary of both quarterbacks' agent, Marvin Demoff, and a key component of the 90-minute show was examining just how close Elway came to becoming the Raiders quarterback in 1983.

Demoff recalled from an April 1, 1983 entry that Al Davis was "not excited" that Demoff was talking to other teams besides the Raiders, who then called Los Angeles home, regarding Elway.

"I really like this Elway guy," Demoff recalled Davis telling him. "I know he can move the chains. Can he throw deep?"

"I said, 'Al, don't ever tell anybody that but me,'" Demoff added. "'The one thing John Elway can do is throw the ball farther than anyone you've ever seen.'"

Elway, you'll recall, was the top prospect coming out of Stanford and threatened to play baseball for George Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees rather than QB for the then-Baltimore Colts, who held the No. 1 pick. The Colts, with new general manager Ernie Accorsi, had a price tag, then, for that top selection -- two No. 1 picks in that 1983 draft, one of which had to be in the top 6 selections, a first-round pick in 1984 and two second-round picks.

During the process, the Colts, at one time or another, thought they had a deal with New England, which included offensive lineman John Hannah, Seattle, the 49ers, which would have entailed Joe Montana, San Diego and Dallas, which included Danny White.

But as the day went on that fateful April 26, 1983, the Colts' price cheapened, so to speak.

And this is where the Raiders, whose first pick wasn't until No. 26, entered the fray.

Per "Elway to Marino," the Raiders had reached a deal with Chicago general manager Jim Finks to get the Bears' No. 6 overall pick, which the Raiders would then flip to Baltimore as part of a package for the rights to Elway.

According to Demoff, the Raiders had presented the Bears with two lists of players and Chicago was to take one player from each list as part of the compensation package. Column A was comprised of defensive end Howie Long and cornerback Ted Watts. Column B was made up of strong safety Mike Davis, defensive back Vann McElroy, defensive back Kenny Hill and linebacker Jeff Barnes.

"We have a deal for No. 6," Demoff remembers being told by Raiders player personnel assistant Steve Ortmayer.

"The next thing I know," Demoff said, "I'm being told Don Weiss of the NFL office called the Bears to confirm whether this was true. And then the deal vanished. I always found it strange that the league office was calling the Bears, rather than let the teams do their business, whatever way they were going to do it."

Demoff said he was told by Finks there was a "misunderstanding" between the Bears and Raiders, that the Bears "needed both Watts and Long" from Column A.

"Which didn't make a lot of sense why there was Group A and Group B if you only wanted players from Group A," Demoff said. "The Bears backed out. There was no trade and would not re-engage the Raiders. Period."

NFL Director of Information Joe Browne, meanwhile, said Finks told him "on more than one occasion" the deal fell through because Al Davis would not pull the trigger and trade Long to the Bears.

"No, I think that what happened was, I think there was a fella in New York City that put the kibosh on that, by the name of (Pete) Rozelle," countered Ron Wolf, then the Raiders Director of Player Personnel. "I mean, I can't prove that."

Or have you forgotten Davis' blood feud with the former NFL commissioner?

"Al believed that the league interfered with the Raiders' trade to Chicago to get the sixth pick," Demoff said. "He was convinced that the league had conspired so that the Raiders would not get John Elway."

Browne said there was never a deal in place between the Raiders and Bears for the NFL to approve or disapprove.

"Pete used to call it 'orchestrated paranoia among the Raiders against the league office,'" Browne said.

Said Demoff: "(Davis) wasn't paranoid regarding this. He was more likely accurate."

Whatever conversation, if any, did go down between Weiss and Finks will never be known. Finks died in 1994, Weiss in 2003.

The Bears, staying at No. 6, drafted Pitt offensive tackle Jimbo Covert.

The Raiders, at No. 26, took USC offensive lineman Don Mosebar, who would go on to three Pro Bowls as a center. But even as the Raiders missed out on Elway that day, they also whiffed on Dan Marino, who went to Miami one pick later.

"If Al Davis had not been in the trial with the NFL and had spent the time he usually spent on the draft, Dan Marino might have been a Raider," Demoff said. "Al liked to throw the ball down the field; Marino could throw the ball down the field. Al liked charismatic quarterbacks; he was a charismatic quarterback. Al liked confidence; nobody had more than Dan."

Except, Marino, dogged by drug rumors coming out of Pitt, was not on the Raiders' draft board.

"Boy, that's a bad deal that he wasn't in there," Wolff said, still shaking his head 25 years later. "He wasn't in there because we had all these rumors coming in. It was bogus. None of it was true. (We) made a bad, bad mistake in relationship to Marino."

And the guy the Raiders drafted instead, took the brunt of it.

"To this day I call him 'Dan, Dan Mosebar,'" Wolf said. "Because (we) blew (it on) Marino. And he knows that."

So how different would not only the Raiders' past 25 years look, but also the NFL's landscape had the Raiders been able to land Elway, who instead went to Denver in a much-lower bargain deal brokered by Colts owner Robert Irsay, while shipping Long off to Chicago in 1983?

Would the Raiders still have won the Super Bowl that year, or would they have ultimately sacrificed that Lombardi Trophy for more in the future? Keep in mind, the Raiders have not won a title since.

And how much more dominant would the Bears' defense have been with Long, who had only played two years with the Raiders at that point and wracked up but 5 1/2 sacks to that point, peaking in that 46 defense in the mid- and late-80's?

Or think of an offensive backfield of Elway, or Marino, and Allen and Bo Jackson in L.A. Knowing what you know now would you have essentially traded Howie Long for John Elway?