We’re Number Ones
What an incredible pairing in the Mile High City.
A man who was the first overall pick in 1983 and the final first-round selection of the then-Baltimore Colts (who never played for the organization) spent all 16 of his NFL seasons in Denver and concluded his career with back-to-back Super Bowl wins with the Broncos, the second the final contest of his Hall of Fame career and one that ended with him being named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Another man who was also the first overall pick in his respective draft in 1998 and would start every game at quarterback for the organization until this past season, when injury sent him to the sideline for the entire 2011 campaign. Along the way he would also win a Super Bowl title while putting up some of the most impressive numbers of any player at his position in the league’s history.
John Elway (300) and Peyton Manning (399) are 2 of the 6 players in NFL annals to throw at least 300 touchdown passes in their career. Now they join forces, per say, in an attempt to bring Super Bowl glory back to one of the most enthusiastic fan bases in the league. The fact that Manning was let go by the Colts earlier this month following a season of inactivity and an offseason was certainly news in some regards and not surprising in others. And history tells us that one way or another, the fact that the veteran signal-caller will not finish his career with the team he was drafted by is hardly earth-shattering.
Dating back to the common draft in 1967, there have been 19 quarterbacks drafted first overall. In recent years, it’s become almost standard to take a quarterback with that number-one selection, which has been the case 11 times in the last 14 drafts dating back to ’98 and Manning. Compare those numbers to the first 31 years of the common draft when just 8 quarterbacks were selected first overall from 1967-97. In any case, these are not bad investments overall. A total of 7 of the 19 quarterbacks who were first overall picks have made at least 1 Super Bowl appearance, all but 1 (Drew Bledsoe) has won at least 1 title and the 7 have combined for a 14-5 record in the Big Game.
But regardless of the era and the circumstances and even pre-free agency in the league, more times than not that first overall pick quarterback-wise does not finish his career with the team that actually selected him (of course, that’s excluding Cam Newton, Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford, each whom are still playing under their initial contracts with the teams that picked them). In the case of both Elway (1983) and Eli Manning (2004), they were traded to the Broncos and Giants, respectively, and never played for the Colts and Chargers who actually picked them (and obviously worked out well for both of the teams they suited up for, each winning a pair of championship rings).
This past October, QB Carson Palmer (2003) went from Cincinnati to Oakland in a deal that affects the first round of this April’s draft. Bledsoe (1993) led the Patriots to Super Bowl XXXI but would finish career with the Bills and Cowboys. Of course, former Patriots’ QB Jim Plunkett (1971) eventually wound up with the Raiders, where he led the Silver and Black to a pair of Super Bowl wins in the 1980s. Unfortunately, rare are the Terry Bradshaw (1970) and Troy Aikman (1989), who played their entire double-digit careers with their original suitor (and combined to win 7 Super Bowls) while others like Vinny Testaverde (1987) and Jeff George (1990) became journeymen for any number of assorted reasons.
But back to Peyton Manning, who certainly has an appreciation for history and has to be aware of one somewhat painful fact. Only two quarterbacks, Craig Morton (Cowboys and Broncos) and Kurt Warner (Rams and Cardinals) have ever led 2 different franchises to the Super Bowl. Manning will not only attempt to become the third but the first to lead 2 different teams to a Super Bowl championship.
Will the Broncos’ newest number 18 succeed? It’s anyone’s guess but it’s a certainty that we’re on the verge of a whole new mania in Denver.