If Ryan Tannehill and his fellow draft classmates are able to turn an impressive NFL first act into full-fledged ownership of the league, they will be inextricably linked to the 1983 quarterback class.
It is the gold standard. The names — John Elway, Todd Blackledge, Jim Kelly, Tony Eason, Ken O’Brien and, of course, Dan Marino — are etched in NFL lore in permanent ink.
The next installment of ESPN’s award-winning 30-for-30 documentary series, “Elway to Marino,” which premieres tonight, at 8 p.m, on ESPN, revisits one of the more storied days in league history and tells it in a way that it’s never been told.
Ken Rodgers, the director of the film, recently called in to The Finsiders to give fans a primer ahead of the film’s release.
What really helped turn the film into an insider’s account, Rodgers said, was the involvement of Marvin Demoff, Elway and Marino’s agent, who narrated the film. By going back through the diary that Demoff kept at the time, they were unable to unearth some great stories.
“It’s a story that a lot of people knew. Everyone knows about the six quarterbacks; everyone knows about Marino dropping; and everyone knows about John Elway going No. 1,” Rodgers said. “But when we met Marvin Demoff, we realized, wow, we don’t know anything compared to what actually happened.”
It’s all a part of the mystique now: Dan Marino, the big-armed Pittsburgh quarterback, falls in the 1983 Draft; five other quarterbacks are taken before Don Shula gladly picks Marino at No. 27 (out of 28 first-round selections); Marino becomes an MVP quarterback for the Dolphins.
Did you know it almost didn’t happen? The Steelers seriously considered taking Marino to follow Terry Bradshaw. Art Rooney, in fact, was all set to keep Marino in Pittsburgh, but the franchise decided to go in the opposite direction, addressing defense with the the selection of Gabe Rivera.
“When you watch this film I think your perspective on the film and history will depend on what fan base you’re a part of,” Rodgers said. “Dolphins fans are going to love watching this film, I’ll tell you that, because they’re just going to see all these other teams pass on Dan Marino, knowing how things worked out.”
As the league evolved into the marketing behemoth that it is today, it has turned the Draft into a full-blown spectacle. Because of its import, it is covered quite extensively, with mock draft after mock draft trying to figure out who will go where.
Even with all that information overflow, it’s still hard to know exactly what’s going on, even, as Rodgers learned, after the Draft passes.
“Even 30 years later, we’re discovering new things about a Draft that seemingly everybody knows about already,” Rodgers said. “It’s really a fascinating look.”
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