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Trade of the Century: John Elway for Joe Montana

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1988

June-August:

It is the summer of 1988 in Denver and Quarterback John Elway of the Denver Broncos is in the middle of a very public feud with his coach, Dan Reeves. He does not agree with Reeves' style of play calling, his emphasis on defense, and with owner Pat Bowlen giving him GM duties. He feels that he should be allowed to throw the ball more and that more players of a better offensive caliber should be brought in. In late July, Elway asks to be traded. Immediately half of the league begins calling Denver's front office.

August 2: Bowlen and Reeves both agree that they will entertain offers for Elway only under the following conditions: It must be a direct swap and it must be for a quarterback of equal talent, one higher draft pick, and it must be someone who is able to exhibit leadership on the field. With those criteria, they narrow the list down to four quarterbacks: Warren Moon of the Houston Oilers, Randall Cunningham of the Philadelphia Eagles, Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers, and Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins. They begin making overtures to those teams about the possibility of a trade.

August 4:

9:01 A.M.

Joe Montana is working out in a weight room when his wife comes in and says that his agent has been trying to get hold of him. Montana goes home and calls him.

9:26 A.M.

Montana puts down the phone and is visibly shocked after hearing about the trade proposal. "What's going on?" he is asked.

"Well it's the Broncos in Denver. They want to trade me for Elway." He is stunned.

August 5

Not 24 hours after first hearing about the offer, Joe Montana is officially traded to the Denver Broncos for John Elway.

August 7

A shocked Elway and Montana hold their first official press conferences with their new teams.

September 4

The first regular season is played, and the Broncos defeat the Seaheawks 24-21 in overtime. Montana has a decent game, passing for 350 yards and engineering a last minute game-tying drive with 10 seconds left in regulation. Elway and the 49ers also win, defeating the Saints in New Orleans by a score of 42-28.

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