January 16, 2018

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.


  1. Rodgers Wright says:

    Elway created the void in Baltimore that brought the Ravens franchise to Baltimore. Irsay got what he had coming for all these years yesterday with the Indy wildcard loss. The Baltimore Ravens are now headed to Denver strip the Broncos (& Elway) of their Superbowl dreams. What goes around, comes around.

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