Would John Elway have still won two Super Bowls if he had played his entire career with the Dallas Cowboys? Forget two; maybe the Cowboys would’ve won four or five.
Two weeks after speculating what Brett Favre could’ve brought to the Cowboys, ESPN’s 30 for 30 series unveils a documentary Tuesday night that shows how close the Cowboys came to acquiring Elway after he was drafted in 1983.
The documentary called “Elway to Marino” provides an in-depth look at the 1983 NFL draft, a memorable class that included six quarterbacks being selected in the first round, highlighted by Elway, the first overall selection, and Dan Marino, the 27th overall pick.
Elway was drafted by the Baltimore Colts despite the Stanford quarterback making it clear to the franchise that he would not play for them. Elway, who was also drafted by the New York Yankees, threatened to play baseball if he was not traded. Many trade scenarios are mentioned in the 90-minute special and a deal with Dallas was one that was explained.
One aspect that makes the documentary particularly interesting is that Elway and Marino shared the same agent, Marvin Demoff, who kept a journal of the events that took place around the 1983 draft.
A few weeks before the draft, Cowboys president and general manager Tex Schramm called Demoff and asked if Elway would be interested in playing for the Cowboys.
Demoff responded that Elway’s interest was “high.”
“I was high on the Cowboys because they were my favorite team when I was growing up,” Elway says in the documentary. “The success that they’d had there, Tom Landry being there. My hero being Roger Staubach, to be able to follow him”
Five days before the draft, Demoff wrote the following in his journal: “Dallas could be for real. [Tom] Landry unhappy with [Danny] White.”
A trade was possible because the Cowboys were willing to include White in the deal. What made it even more intriguing was that White played for Colts coach Frank Kush while he was at Arizona State.
But the wild card in the deal was Colts owner Robert Irsay.
“When Irsay got involved, everything changed,” Demoff said. “And Dallas was no longer able to really get through.”
The Cowboys used the 23rd overall pick on defensive end Jim Jeffcoat and the Colts traded Elway to Denver, which many believed was because of Irsay’s relationship with Broncos owner Edgar Kaiser.
The Broncos acquired Elway in exchange for a first-round pick in 1984, quarterback Mark Herrmann and offensive guard Chris Hinton, who was the fourth overall pick in the 1983 draft.
“We offered three starters and a future pick for next year,” former Cowboys VP of player personnel Gil Brandt said. “In my mind, it was a better offer than what they ended up doing with Denver. The only thing is, we were dealing with Frank Kush instead of dealing with Mr. Irsay.
“I think Tex wanted to fire me because I didn’t get Elway.”
How different would the NFL record book be if Elway had played in Dallas for his entire 16-year career? Elway won his two Lombardi Trophies in 1997 and 1998 after he finally got an exceptional running game and defense around him. Both of those were already in place with the Cowboys in the early 1990s.
Depending on how Elway would’ve worked with Jerry Jones, Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer, the idea of arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time winning multiple Super Bowls with the Cowboys seems very likely. After all, the Cowboys and Elway’s Broncos won five Super Bowls in a seven-year span.