Terry Bradshaw’s Hall of Fame career was ending as John Elway was making his NFL debut in Pittsburgh 30 years ago in the season opener.
They weren’t talking then — Sept. 4, 1983 — and their icy relationship never thawed.
Bradshaw had ignited the famous quarterback feud months earlier when he criticized the Stanford star for refusing to sign with the Baltimore Colts as the NFL’s top draft pick.
Bucking the system, Elway said he would pass. He would instead play baseball for the New York Yankees, he said.
“I said, ‘Go to the Yankees then. Go play baseball,’” recalled Bradshaw, who 13 years earlier was the NFL’s No. 1 overall pick.
“I was a huge fan of his, but, boy, when I said that, we have not had…,” he paused, adding, “it’s been poo.”
They’ve talked maybe once during those three decades, says Bradshaw.
It wasn’t the only quarterback controversy for Bradshaw. He’s been in the doghouse with the Mannings – Peyton, Eli and Archie.
Bradshaw called out Eli Manning when he adopted Elway’s strategy and refused to sign with the San Diego Chargers, who had used the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft on Manning.
Bradshaw, who turned 65 this week, says he’s paid a price for his edgy opinions.
He made the comments during a Q and A with the Review-Journal earlier this summer, when he was in Las Vegas for the debut of his one-man headliner show.
The Q and A:
How the Elway dustup got started…
“All I remember was, well wait a minute. The worst team gets the best player. That’s the greatest compliment in the world. Why wouldn’t you go to Baltimore? I went to Pittsburgh. Do you think a Louisiana boy wants to go to (expletive) Pittsburgh? I would have rather gone in the fifth round and gone to the Saints or some place down home. But you know what? I saddled up and went.”
“John said, ‘He’s always been after me, always dogging me.’ That’s not true. I covered four of his games for CBS and he played great and I said he played great. Honest to God, I’m paid for opinions. That’s how I felt. You’re going to hate me?”
Later in the interview, Bradshaw added: “It just all gets back to you because I know people that know him. And I’ve heard the things he’s said and it’s just totally not true.”
The price of speaking your mind…
“I do know one thing in today’s world in the NFL. If you criticize a star player, my friend, you are blackballed. You won’t be doing any interviews with these guys and if you are they will be syrupy. You won’t get anything. Because these guys have agents now … I’ve tried to get — I’m not going to mention names — but I’ve tried to interview superstars and they’ve turned me down. And Fox doesn’t want anybody to know that. Because you’re Terry Bradshaw, everybody wants to sit down with you. But if you criticize, you’re ass is pretty much (unintelligible). They don’t have to talk to you.”
The story behind his most controversial Super Bowl prediction: San Francisco 55, Denver 3 at New Orleans in 1990:
After that prediction, “I went and got on a plane and when I landed all hell had broken loose. Goll-lee. CBS says ‘get your ass back down here’ and they put me on a pregame show and had me explain myself. I was just like, gawwwd. That’s CBS for you. I did ‘em a favor. I created chaos.”
“So when they (CBS) fired Brent Musberger, who did they come get to do the pregame show? They came after me. So being honest and giving your opinion, while it hurts people and while it steps on toes, if it’s honest and that’s how you feel, you get opportunities. I mean you can’t go on television and always say nice wonderful things because there’s not always nice wonderful things happening. There’s always a crisis. There’s always a guy having a bad day. But you don’t attack.”
A parting shot at the Mannings
“I may have interviewed him (Elway) for the Atlanta Super Bowl (in Miami in 1999). I think I did because I went to Denver and interviewed him there. I think he was good. I mean not (pause) … wasn’t like I was going to sit there and bring it up. If he had wanted to question me on it he could done it. I’m right there. I’m a big guy. You know, don’t have your dad call me.”
The Bradshaw Bio
Born: Sept. 2, 1948 in Shreveport, La.
NFL career: Played in 19 postseason games in 14 seasons, all with Pittsburgh; four Super Bowl titles in a six-year run. Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989 on the first ballot.
Television career: NFL commentator for CBS Sports and Fox Sports
Wacky fact: “I’m not 6-3 1/4 anymore. I’m like 6-1 3/4. My mother was 5-9. That’s where I got my height. She’s 5-3 now.”
Thursday’s NFL opener: John Elway’s Denver Broncos vs. the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. 5:30 p.m. Pacific (NBC, KSNV-TV, Channel 3)
“He couldn’t spell cat if you spotted him the ‘c’ and the ‘a.’” — Dallas Cowboys linebacker “Hollywood” Henderson, the week of 1980 Steelers-Cowboys Super Bowl.
Bradshaw: “He apologized years later. Dallas airport. He came to me. I didn’t see him. I understood what he was doing.” Pittsburgh won 35-31, with Bradshaw, voted the MVP after throwing for a then-record 318 yards and four touchdown passes, also a Super Bowl record.