John Elway Was Almost Traded For Joe Montana in 1983

Published on February 9th, 2022 1:46 am EST
Written By: Dave Manuel

Legendary Joe Montana playing for San Francisco 49ers. It's almost too ridiculous to even imagine - Joe Montana being traded for John Elway in 1983?

I mean, Joe Montana is regarded as being one of the very best NFL players of all time, and he was just 1 1/2 seasons removed from winning Super Bowl XVI in 1981.

With that being said - a Joe Montana/John Elway swap nearly happened in 1983.


In April of 2013, ESPN released their "Elway to Marino" documentary.

This documentary confirmed, via multiple sources (including Elway's agent and the General Manager of the Baltimore Colts), that a potential Montana for Elway trade was actually entertained by 49ers head coach Bill Walsh.

In December of 1982, Stanford quarterback and consensus #1 pick of the upcoming draft, John Elway, informed the Baltimore Colts (who had the #1 pick) that he did not want to play for them.

Elway had some leverage, as he had been drafted by the New York Yankees and threatened to forego the NFL to play professional baseball instead.

During the strike-shortened 1982 regular season, the San Francisco 49ers finished with a record of 3-6-0, despite winning the Super Bowl the year before.

Joe Montana had a good season, throwing for 2,613 yards and 17 touchdowns in 9 games.

The lacklustre season, however, had the 49ers head coach, Bill Walsh, contemplating making a change - a big one.

In pre-draft discussions with Elway's agent, Marvin Demoff, Walsh apparently said that the 49ers would be "interested in Elway" if the team could trade Montana.

There was enough there for Ernie Accorsi, the General Manager of the Colts, to call Walsh to feel out the possibility of a deal.


In the end, however, Walsh decided that he could "never" trade Montana, and that's where things ended.

The 49ers kept Joe Montana, who would lead them to three more Super Bowls and finished his storied career as one of the very best quarterbacks to ever play the game.

The Colts, on the other hand, would draft John Elway with their #1 pick in 1983, ultimately trading him to the Denver Broncos after Elway refused to play for their team.

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