Have you ever been passed over as a leader?  If you have lived long enough it has probably happened numerous times.  The good news is you are not alone.

My favorite documentary is ESPN’s 30 For 30 Elway To Marino.  This incredible feature chronicles the April 26, 1983 NFL Draft focusing on the organizations which refused to or were unable to trade for John Elway while also passing on Dan Marino who fell to the 27th pick.

As I listened to the reasoning of why organizations would not take the necessary steps to secure the services of these future Hall of Fame players, I began to understand why so many great leaders are passed over.

The following are 16 Reasons Great Leaders Are Passed Over as learned from the 1983 NFL Draft:

  1. Poor Performance – While viewed as equal to Elway heading into the 1982 season, Marino had a poor senior season lowering his draft stock.  Can you say “Jadaveon Clowney”.
  2. Faulty Information – There were officials of some NFL teams who were concerned Marino may have had a problem with “controlled substances.”  Dan’s college team, the Pitt Panthers, had previously instituted their own testing procedures which Marino passed each time.
  3. Organizational Stability – Elway had concerns about Baltimore Colts owner Robert Irsay and the stability of the franchise.  The Colts were an organization marked by dysfunction.  This culminated one year later when the team relocated to Indianapolis during the middle of the night.  Elway was right.
  4. Finances – To get talented leaders you must be willing to pay the price.  As the draft approached, teams were attempting to get Elway in a cheaper deal with the Colts.
  5. No Ownership Of Responsibilities – Many teams were attempting to trade for Elway prior to and during the draft.  However, there was confusion on who had the authority to make a deal for the Colts.
  6. Geographic Location – The New England Patriots were close to making a deal with Irsay but general manager Ernie Accorsi wisely would not trade Elway within the division.
  7. Organizations Have Other Needs – The Los Angeles Rams selected running back Eric Dickerson with the 2nd pick while the Seattle Seahawks selected running back Curt Warner with the 3rd pick.
  8. Loyalty To Current Leadership – With the 5th pick in the draft, Bill Walsh of the San Francisco 49ers considered the idea of trading a young Joe Montana for Elway.  Walsh simply could never trade him.  The 49ers instead traded the 5th pick to the San Diego Chargers.
  9. Organizations Are Just Not Serious About Acquiring Top Leaders – Though the Chargers now had three 1st round picks, many considered the possibility of trading for Elway was a negotiating ploy in the team’s dealings with quarterback Dan Fouts who was looking for a new contract.
  10. Upper Management Overrides Decision – A trade which would have allowed the Oakland Raiders to acquire the 6th pick from the Chicago Bears and trade for Elway is believed by many to have been shut down by then-commissioner Pete Rozelle.
  11. Bad Evaluations – You can only connect the dots looking backwards.  The Kansas City Chiefs selected Penn State quarterback Todd Blackledge of Penn State over Marino.  ESPN analyst Bud Wilkerson thought of Blackledge “as a clear winner.”
  12. Prisoners Of The Past – You can honor the past without being a prisoner of it.  The Pittsburgh Steelers and head coach Chuck Knoll decided with the 21st pick to build their aging team like they did in the early 70’s, defense first.  They drafted defensive tackle Gabriel Rivera instead of the hometown Marino.  The Steelers did not have the foresight to know they would have Terry Bradshaw for a couple of more years and then Marino for the next decade.
  13. Lack Of Assets To Acquire A Top Leader – The Dallas Cowboys continually were trying to acquire Elway in a trade but simply lacked the assets to acquire the pick.
  14. Incompetence – The New York Jets shocked the football universe when they drafted little-known California-Davis quarterback Ken O’Brien with the 24th pick over Marino.
  15. No Immediate Need – Marino was then passed over by the Cincinnati Bengals (25th) pick because they had no need for a quarterback.
  16. Listening To The Wrong People – The Raiders passed a 2nd time on Marino with the 26th pick because of the faulty rumors concerning Marino.

If you have been passed over as a leader, be encouraged.  Marino was finally selected by the Miami Dolphins with the 27th pick becoming one of the greatest players in NFL history.  Perhaps you will have a similar career.


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