December 18, 2017

How the Colts Trade of John Elway in 1983 Comes Full Circle

The Colts franchise is in a familiar draft position. They hold the number one pick in the draft, and “a can’t miss” QB from Stanford, Andrew Luck, is at the top of the draft board. It’s 1983 all over again, kind of. This time the Colts are not between a rock and a hard place

With the number one pick in the 1983 draft, the then Baltimore Colts selected Stanford QB John Elway. This was despite Elway’s refusal to play for the Colts. After numerous trade rumors and Elway’s threat to play baseball, the Colts ended their Elway era before it even started, and traded the QB to the Denver Broncos.

Elway’s trade to the Broncos still has a major impact on the NFL today, and has finally come full circle.

The off-season’s biggest story occurred when the Indianapolis Colts cut Peyton Manning, the most iconic Colt since Johnny Unitas. And who signs Manning? The Broncos, whose front office is led by Elway, a position he arguably never would be in if he wasn’t traded to the Broncos in 1983.

You could also make a strong argument that if the Colts never had to trade Elway, Manning never would have been a Colt. The Colts drafted Manning with the number one pick in 1998, Elway’s last year in the NFL. The Colts also never would have had the number one pick in 1998, if it wasn’t for a downward spiral of bad decisions after the Elway trade; they could never live it down.

During Elway’s career, the only time the Colts came close to the Super Bowl was in 1995 when they made it to the AFC championship game behind QB Jim Harbaugh. Fast forward to 2008. Harbaugh is the head coach at Stanford, and his prize recruit is Andrew Luck. Who is now set to become the Colts number one pick in the draft.

How it has all come full circle.

All that Ties New York and Green Bay

Without football the only link between New York City and Green Bay would be cold weather.  New York is the largest city in the nation, while Green Bay ranks at number 262.  But despite their obvious differences these two cities have shared a lot on the gridiron.  Before Sunday the most hated teams in Green Bay were the Bears, Cowboys, and Vikings.   You can add the Giants to that mix now.  With that said, I think it’s worthwhile to examine all the links Green Bay and New York share.

Listed below are some of the memorable football events, moments, and people who have created a bond between the largest and smallest market in pro football.

Green Bay and Fordham University

  • Jim Crowley a graduate of Green Bay East H.S. and a member of the famous “Four Horsemen” backfield at Notre Dame, was the head coach at Fordham from 1933-41.
  • At Fordham Crowley coached the famous “Seven Blocks of Granite”.  One of the “Blocks” was future Packers legend Vince Lombardi.


Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants

  • In 1933 the Packers started to schedule regular season home games in Milwaukee.  The first Milwaukee game was against the Giants (10-7 NYG win).  Ironically the part-time move to Milwaukee kept the Packers in Green Bay by helping them stay financially afloat.
  • The Packers first championship game appearance was against the Boston Redskins at the Polo Grounds of New York.  Then the home stadium of the New York Giants.
  • The first NFL championship game the Packers hosted in the city of Green Bay occurred in 1961 versus the New York Giants.
  • Before becoming the head coach of the Packers, Lombardi was an assistant coach with the New York Giants (1954-58).
  • Lombardi’s first two championships as the Packers head coach came against the Giants.
  • Green Bay was known as “Titletown” after their 1961 championship victory over the Giants.
  • When the Giants temporarily moved to New Haven, Connecticut in 1973, their first regular season game at the Yale Bowl was against the Packers (16-14, GB win).
  • The Giants and Packers played each other in the last game before the NFL strike in 1982 (27-19 GB win).
  • The Giants Michael Strahan set the NFL’s single season sack record vs. the Packers in the last week of the 2001 season.
  • Brett Favre’s last game in a Packers uniform was against the Giants in the 2007 NFC Championship Game.  Favre’s all-time start streak ended in Detroit vs. the Giants, although he was in a Vikings uniform at the time.
  • Hall of Famers Arnie Herber and Cal Hubbard played for both the Giants and Packers.  The Packers drafted Hall of Fame LB Ray Nitschke with a draft pick they obtained from the Giants.
  • Giants head coach Tom Coughlin was the Packers receivers coach from 1986-87.


Green Bay Packers and New York Jets

  • The Packers won the first two Super Bowls, but the Jets followed with the AFL’s first Super Bowl victory.
  • Current Packers GM Ted Thompson primarily played LB for the Oilers, but in 1980 he made four extra point field goals against the Jets as an emergency kicker; the only points of his NFL career.
  • In 1991 Ron Wolf left the Jets to become the GM of the Packers.
  • In 2002 the Jets defeated the Packers 42-17 in the last week of the season, to make the playoffs in a do or die situation.
  • The Packers traded Brett Favre to the New York Jets in 2008.
  • The Packers only road shutout in the last 20 years was against the Jets in 2010 (9-0 GB win).


Green Bay Packers and Defunct New York Teams

  • The Packers are the only current NFL franchise the now defunct Brooklyn Dodgers/Tigers never defeated and/or tied.
  • The short-lived New York Bulldogs/Yanks were 3-2 all-time versus the Packers; their most wins versus any franchise.  In 1951 the Yanks picked up their last victory ever, with a 31-28 triumph over the Packers in Green Bay.  The Yanks scored three fourth quarter TD passes in a comeback victory.


Sources: Pro-Football-Reference, Green Bay Packers 2010 Media Guide


Franchises Returning to Their Former Homes

This Sunday’s St. Louis Rams vs. Cleveland Browns game isn’t generating a lot of buzz. But the significance of the game shouldn’t be lost on the city of Cleveland.

The Rams who were originally founded in Cleveland, will be making their 11th trip back to the city Cleveland. The Rams have a record of 4-6 in Cleveland, since they left the icy shores of Lake Erie in 1946.

The Rams are one of ten current NFL teams, to have ever played an official NFL game in a city they use to call home.  These teams have a winning record of 48-42 in their former cities.

Franchises Records at their Former Home

Team Former City Moved W-L 1st Game Back
Cardinals Chicago 1960 3-6 1965: Bears L 13-34
St. Louis 1988 7-3 1998: Rams W 20-17
Chargers Los Angeles 1961 7-10 1970: Rams L 10-37
Chiefs Dallas 1963 1-4 1975: Cowboys W 34-31
Colts Baltimore 1984 4-2 1998: Colts L 31-38
Lions Portsmouth 1934 1-0 1934: Cin Reds W 38-0
Raiders Oakland 1982 Didn’t play in Oakland until they moved back. ¹
Los Angeles 1995 Haven’t played in Los Angeles since.
Rams Cleveland 1946 4-6 1950: Browns L 28-30
Los Angeles 1995 Haven’t played in Los Angeles since.
Ravens Cleveland 1996 8-4 1999: Browns W 41-9
Redskins Boston 1937 7-4 1944: Bos Yanks W 21-14
Titans Houston 1997 6-3 2002: Texans W 13-3

¹ The Raiders played an exhibition game in Oakland in 1989, they lost to the Houston Oilers 21-23.


The Slide Rule Bowl

In 1963, Lakeland College (WI) and Milton College (WI) played a doubleheader homecoming series, in which the slide rule ultimately became the unofficial MVP of the series. That season the two schools scheduled each other for their school’s homecoming on the same date. The schools didn’t realize the scheduling error until after the season had started. Instead of cancelling the homecoming activities at one school and not the other, the two schools agreed to play two homecoming games, but also agreed that both games would only count as one in the conference standings. Statistics for the Gateway Conference tally were averaged over the two games, thus not giving a player an extra game advantage on the statistical leaderboard. Statistics would be counted normally for NAIA and career statistical tallies.

Lakeland, a school located near Sheboygan, Wisconsin, hosted the first game of the homecoming “doubleheader” on a Friday night, while Milton, a school located near Janesville, Wisconsin, hosted the next night. The two schools agreed that each game would only count as half a game. In order to get a win in the conference standings, one team would have to win both games, or win one and tie the other. If the teams split the doubleheader, it would be tallied as a tie for both in the standings.

Instead of the traditional 15-minute quarters, the teams played 11-minute quarters. Game statistics were averaged over the two games, and to make up for the 4 minute deficit in each quarter, 4/15ths of the averaged statistic were added to the final number. In Excel the formula would be calculated as (x+(x*4/15))/2, with x equal to the statistic being calculated. A touchdown was worth 3.8 points, but rounded up to 4 points. Of course back then they didn’t have Excel or even readily available calculators, so the calculations were made with a slide rule. Statistics were only tallied this way for individual accomplishments.

Lakeland won their homecoming game, or should I say half game 25-13. The next night Milton was victorious in their homecoming 6-0, and each team was credited with one tie in the standings. The headline in the October 7th, 1963 edition of The Sheboygan Press read “Lakeland Loses, Held to a Tie”.

In the first game Lakeland fell behind early 7-0, but took command of the game scoring 25 unanswered points. Lakeland’s Al Zipperer scored three touchdowns, but in the eyes of the Gateway Conference, he was only responsible for 12 points in the final statistics. The following night Milton scored on the first play of scrimmage with a 75-yard touchdown run by John Casey, and held on for a 6-0 victory.

Lakeland had previously defeated Milton in their last six matchups, so the doubleheader “tie” ended that streak. Lakeland and Milton ended up tied again at the end of the season. Both placed 2nd in the final Gateway Conference standings.

Click here for a listing of sources I used to compile this post.


Andrew McKillop runs the sports research blog

Trades Involving Big Name QB’s That Never Happened

It’s often mentioned that championship teams are built through the NFL draft.  It’s a fairly cliché statement, but it’s entirely true.  What’s often overlooked is that draft selections are only one aspect of the draft.  The ability of front office staffs to wheel and deal during the draft can also make lasting impacts on NFL teams.  The most impactful trades often involve quarterbacks.

There are a lot of trade rumors involving QB’s flying around draft weekend, and usually none of them end up true.  Imagine though if some of them did in fact become true.  The NFL landscape would certainly be different.  Listed below are some draft time trade rumors from the past 25 years (as reported by the major media) involving star QB’s, that never became true.


1983 NFL Draft – Rumored John Elway/#1 Pick Trades

Before the 1983 NFL draft, John Elway told the Baltimore Colts (owners of the NFL’s #1 pick) not to select him.  That’s because Elway wanted to play for a team located on the west coast, and if he was selected by the Colts, he insinuated he might abandon football, and pursue a career in baseball.  In the end, the Colts selected Elway, but soon after traded him to the Denver Broncos.  The rest is history.

With Elway’s strong statements before the draft, it appeared to the major media that the Colts would trade the #1 pick; thus trading the rights to select Elway.  The Los Angeles Raiders and San Diego Chargers were two teams mentioned as likely candidates to win the Elway sweepstakes.

The San Diego Chargers owned three picks in the first round, and were having difficulty signing All-Pro QB Dan Fouts to a new contract.  The Raiders had a solid veteran QB in Jim Plunkett, but Al Davis always liked to make a splash at the draft.

The Baltimore Colts were willing to trade the #1 pick/Elway to the San Diego Chargers for all three of the Chargers first round picks, but the Chargers were unwilling to give up the 5th overall selection.  Perhaps if the Chargers hadn’t signed Dan Fouts to a new contract the night before, the Chargers might have been more willing to give up that 5th overall pick.

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).

The Dallas Cowboys were also rumored as being interested in Elway.  It was rumored that the Cowboys offered the Colts their top selection in the 1983 draft (23rd overall), and a number of veteran players, possibly QB Danny White and DT Randy White.

Lastly, despite Elway’s request to play for a team on the west coast, the New England Patriots were supposedly highly interested in selecting Elway.  It was rumored that the Patriots would offer the Colts their first round selections in 1983, 1984, and 1985, as well as a veteran player or another top selection.

In the end, the Denver Broncos were truly the dark horse candidate to get John Elway, and made out the best.

In hindsight, the Chargers should have traded all three first round selections for Elway.  The Chargers did pick up three solid players with their picks; LB Billy Ray Smith, RB Gary Anderson, and DB Gill Byrd.  However, none of those players had Hall of Fame careers.

The Cowboys also should have offered a bit more for Elway.  Although, if they did, I’m sure the team wouldn’t have gone through the collapse they did in 1988 and 1989; which ultimately led to the birth of a dynasty.  Who knows if it was even nothing more than a remote possibility, but the Patriots also should have made more of an effort to get Elway.

Meanwhile, it’s debatable whether the Raiders made the right decision by not trading for Elway.  The Raiders would go on to win the Super Bowl in 1983.  Without Marcus Allen and/or Howie Long, that probably doesn’t happen.   However, I’m sure the Raiders would have loved to have had Elway at QB with some of their more talented teams in the early 1990’s.

Lastly, the Colts would have been better off taking trade offers from any of the rumored trades, before actually selecting Elway.  Once they selected Elway, and he refused to play for them, their bargaining power was reduced significantly.  In the end, the Colts picked up an unproductive QB in Mark Herrmann, a talented tackle, albeit not a Hall of Famer in Chris Hinton, and a first round selection in the 1984 draft (used on G Ron Solt).


1987 NFL Draft – Rumored Steve Young Trades

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed QB Vinny Testaverde to a contract weeks before they would actually be able to select him #1 in the 1987 NFL draft.  This gave the Buccaneers a few weeks to shop around highly talented QB Steve Young.  Eventually, the San Francisco 49ers would pick up Young for second and third round picks.  However, the Green Bay Packers and the St. Louis Cardinals had also been in trade talks with the 49ers for Young.

After the draft, Packers head coach Forrest Gregg stated the 49ers asking price for Steve Young was too steep.  Meanwhile, the Cardinals elected to choose a QB in the draft by selecting Kelly Stouffer.

Looking back, the Packers should have realized the asking price for Steve Young wasn’t too steep.  However, they came out of it rather unscathed, with a smart draft selection of Don Majkowski, and a smart trade for Brett Favre.  The Cardinals however didn’t get so lucky.  Stouffer never played a snap with the Cardinals, refusing to sign with them.


1992 NFL Draft – Rumored Steve Young Trade

The San Francisco 49ers reportedly made a trade offer to the Los Angeles Raiders, in which they were going to trade the NFL’s top rated passer, Steve Young, for the Raiders first and second round selections, and WR Tim Brown.  49ers head coach George Seifert admitted the 49ers attempted to trade up in the draft, but didn’t get into the specifics on any trade offers they may have made.

The Raiders ended up picking defensive lineman Chester McGlockton with their first round pick, and the Raiders traded up in the second round to pick offensive lineman Greg Skrepenak.

Clearly, it looks like the 49ers benefited from this trade not occurring.  Steve Young continued to be one of the best QB’s in the NFL, and led the 49ers to a Super Bowl championship in 1994.

If the trade did go through, the 49ers would have had Hall of Famer Jerry Rice and most likely future Hall of Famer Tim Brown at the receiver’s positions.  Coincidentally, the two players would be paired together as Raiders during the 2001-2003 seasons.


1992 NFL Draft – Rumored Phil Simms Trades

What turned out to be a rumor with no legs, the New York Giants were reportedly interested in trading veteran QB Phil Simms, so they could move up in the 1992 NFL draft and select QB David Klinger.  The San Diego Chargers and Los Angeles Raiders were supposedly interested in Simms.  The Giants denied the rumor.  Simms remained with the Giants for a few more years and eventually won the starting job back.   Jeff Hostetler, the Giants starting QB at the time, would end up with the Raiders one year later.


1993 NFL Draft – Rumored Joe Montana Trades

If you thought the sight of Joe Montana in a Kansas City Chiefs uniform was strange, imagine how he would have looked in an Arizona Cardinals uniform, or a Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniform.

The Buccaneers were the original front running team to get Joe Montana.  They had a surplus of draft picks, some youthful talent, and Montana worked with Buccaneers head coach Sam Wyche when Wyche was an assistant with the San Francisco 49ers.  But Montana had no interest in going to a team that wasn’t a contender, and chose against being traded to the Buccaneers.

Despite Montana’s request to go to Kansas City, it looked as if Montana would end up in a Cardinals uniform because they were offering more compensation for him.  The Cardinals were offering the 49ers their first round selection in the draft (20th pick).  At that point in the trade negations, no other team had even offered the 49ers a draft selection in the second round.

The Detroit Lions and the Los Angeles Raiders also expressed interest in trading for Montana, but their type of offensive styles didn’t appeal to Montana.

Eventually, the 49ers and Chiefs came to an agreement.  The 49ers sent Montana, safety David Whitmore and their third round selection in the 1994 draft.  In return, the 49ers received the Chiefs first round draft pick (18th overall).

You can’t really fault the Buccaneers or Cardinals for not getting Montana.  Montana wanted to go to the Chiefs, and when the Chiefs offered enough compensation, a deal was made.  The Buccaneers and Cardinals were merely curious bystanders.


1995 NFL Draft – Rumored Mark Brunell Trades

In 1995, Mark Brunell wasn’t a household name; however some NFL teams recognized his talents, and were willing to take a chance on him.  The team Brunell played for, the Green Bay Packers, already had a talented and young QB on their roster in Brett Favre.

The Philadelphia Eagles actually had a deal in principle made with the Packers for Brunell, under the stipulation that they would be able to sign Brunell to a long term contract.  Brunell and the Eagles never reached a contract agreement, and the Eagles agreement to send their second and fifth round selections to the Packers fell through.

The St. Louis Rams were also reported as a team interested in Brunell.  In the end, the Jacksonville Jaguars sent their third and fifth round picks to the Packers for Brunell.

If the Eagles had been able to sign Brunell, it would have changed the franchise.  Brunell came into his own during the 1996 playoffs; during a time when the Eagles were struggling to find a suitable QB to lead their talented roster.


2010 NFL Draft – Rumored Ben Roethlisberger Trades

Coming off another off-season embarrassment relating to their franchise QB Ben Roethlisberger, it was rumored that the Pittsburgh Steelers were interested in trading him.

It was reported that the Steelers offered Roethlisberger to the St. Louis Rams as a way to attain the #1 pick in the draft.  However, the Rams had no interest in the trade, and selected QB Sam Bradford.

The Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders were also mentioned as possible trading partners with the Steelers for Roethlisberger.  The Steelers confirmed they had spoken to the Raiders about Roethlisberger, but denied speaking to the Browns.


One final note: If there is a big name QB with trade rumors attached to his name, it appears that the Oakland Raiders will always be interested.  Every QB on this list, with the exception of Mark Brunell, was of interest to the Raiders.


Andrew McKillop runs the sports research blog

Nelson “Bud” Talbott: The First Head Coach of a College and NFL Team in the Same Season

Nelson “Bud” Talbott is a name that many people probably see in a football encyclopedia, but don’t really give too much thought to it. Most people weren’t even alive when Talbott was a notable name in football. What I find most interesting about Talbott’s football career, is that he was the first person to coach a college football and an NFL team in the same season. In 1920 and 1921, Talbott coached the now defunct Dayton Triangles of the American Professional Football Association (now known as the National Football League). He also coached the University of Dayton grid team in 1920, and in their last game of the 1921 season.

Talbott was a native of Dayton, Ohio but prepared for his college career at the Hotchkiss Prep School in Lakeville, Connecticut. Talbott left Hotchkiss for Yale and became a standout on the gridiron as a tackle in the early 1910’s. The 6’0, 189-pound Talbott, was a three-time letter winner from 1912-14; he was also a letter winner in track. Talbott was selected as a Walter Camp All-American in 1913, helping lead Yale to seven shutouts in ten games that season.

Talbott was elected team captain for the 1914 season. Back then the Yale team captain was responsible for selecting the team’s head coach. Howard H. Jones, the future coaching legend at USC, led Yale to a 5-2-3 record in 1913, in what would be his second one-year stint at Yale. Talbott chose Frank Hinkey, not Jones for the job of Yale head coach in 1914.

As team captain, Talbott helped lead Yale to a 7-2 record in 1914. Yale’s most notable victory of the year was a 28-0 shutout over Notre Dame in New Haven. Notre Dame entered the game with a 27-game unbeaten streak, and had beaten Rose Polytechnic (now known as Rose-Hulman) 103-0 the previous week. The most notable loss of the year was to Harvard. The game was notable, because it was the first ever game played at the Yale Bowl; Harvard defeated Yale 36-0.

In 1915, Talbott served as an assistant coach under Hinkey, during a disappointing 4-5 season, which led to the dismissal of Hinkey as Yale’s coach. Talbott’s time at Yale had a great influence on the rest of his career in football. In 1921, when Talbott was the head coach of the APFA’s (NFL’s) Dayton Triangles, the Chicago Staleys’ George Halas was quoted in the October 19, 1921 edition of the Chicago Tribune, saying that Talbott was using “Yale’s style of offense and defense” with the Triangles.

In 1916 the Dayton Cadets became the Dayton Triangles, and Talbott was named the head coach of the professional team. Talbott helped lead the Triangles to a 9-1 record in that season.

After serving two years in the armed forces during WWI, Talbott returned to the Triangles as their head coach in 1919. That season Talbott led the Triangles to a 5-2-1 record. In 1920, Talbott became one of the NFL’s original head coaches, as the Triangles joined the APFA (NFL). That same season, Talbott also became the head coach of the University of Dayton grid team.

In 1920, the Dayton Triangles went 5-2-2 under Talbott’s direction. The Triangles started the season 4-0-2, and were in the hunt for the NFL’s first championship; however they faded at the end of the season, losing twice to the eventual first NFL champion, the Akron Pros.

That same season, Talbott led the University of Dayton to a disappointing 2-4 record. But in the last game of the season, Dayton defeated Georgetown College of Kentucky, 6-5. It was Dayton’s first ever victory over Georgetown in four tries. On at least four weekends, Talbott coached the University of Dayton on a Saturday and the professional Triangles on a Sunday. On the weekend of November 13-14, 1920, Talbott coached two games for Dayton on Saturday, and one game for the Triangles on Sunday; winning one game with the University of Dayton, and the one with the Triangles.

It seems that coaching college football on Saturdays helped Talbott coach the Triangles on Sundays. The Triangles late season collapse occurred when Talbott’s season with the University of Dayton was over.

At least initially in 1921, Talbott didn’t continue his dual role as a head coach in college and the pros. Talbott remained the head coach of the Triangles, but didn’t return to his position of head coach at the University Dayton until the last game of the season. Talbott led the Triangles to a 4-4-1 record. In his only game coaching the University of Dayton in 1921, Talbott led the school to their first and only victory of the season; a 13-6 victory over John Carroll University.

After the 1921 season, Talbott left both the Dayton Triangles and the University of Dayton. After football, Talbott would go on to have a successful business career, as well as a successful military career. He clearly never shied away from dual roles in his life. Talbott eventually took over his family’s business, becoming the president of the Talbott Corporation. Talbott also rose to the rank of Brigadier General in the Air Force by the time he retired from the armed forces. In 1947, Talbott founded the Nelson Talbott Foundation to support conservation programs, the arts, education, and human services.

Talbott led an extraordinary life, fitting for a man who completed an extraordinary feat in football; becoming the first head coach of a college football team, and an NFL team in the same season.


Note: Originally this article was entitled Nelson “Bud” Talbott: The First Head Coach of a College and NFL Team in the Same Season. A special thanks to Ralph Hickok for pointing out that Aldo Donelli was also a head coach for a pro and college football team in the same season. Donelli coached Duquesne and the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1941. Thank you for the correction.

Andrew McKillop runs the sports research blog