The 1983 NFL Draft produced more great quarterbacks than any other before or since. And that was just the first round. Six quarterbacks were taken in the first 27 picks that year, including two who would become among the top five (or so) ever to play the position, one who would play in four Super Bowls, two who would be fairly average and, not to be forgotten, a guy named Ken O'Brien who would flash enough brilliance to be named to two Pro Bowls but remain forever overshadowed by guys in his draft class named John Elway, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly. Elway to Marino, the latest entry in the ESPN Films "30 for 30" series, is fixated, no surprise, on the guys at the top. But in a documentary collection that has produced great films like June 17, 1994, The Two Escobars and Catching Hell, Elway to Marino is nothing more than a Ken O'Brien.
That's nothing to be ashamed of, but it's not much to cling to either. Director Ken Rodgers retells the events of the draft clearly and evocatively through talking-head interviews and archival footage, even going as far as to recreate the banquet room where then-NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle announced the picks under a gaudy chandelier. But drafts are only so interesting, particularly in retrospect — even drafts in which the consensus best talent available, Elway, used a potential Major League Baseball career as leverage to avoid signing with the Baltimore Colts, which had the top pick that year. And for all the ways Elway's draft experience was unusual, Marino's is actually typical. Sure, his eventual professional output suggests he should have been selected a lot sooner than 27th. But it wasn't all that long ago that NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers fell to the 25th pick in 2005, suffering all the while in the green room. And all-time legends Joe Montana and Tom Brady didn't get picked until the third and sixth rounds, respectively. So this stuff happens.