Asked if current Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was in play for the Denver Broncos at the top of the 2011 NFL draft, general manager John Elway left no room for doubt.
“No question,” Elway said, when asked by NFL.com’s Albert Breer if the Broncos would have considered Newton had the Panthers passed on the Auburn quarterback with the No. 1 pick in 2011.
The Panthers did take Newton first overall, leaving the pre-Peyton Manning Broncos to select Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller with the No. 2 pick. Both picks have worked out, as Newton is on the verge of winning the league’s MVP and Miller has made four Pro Bowls in five seasons.
The two top picks will face off during Super Bowl 50 on Sunday.
Still, everyone loves a good “what-if” scenario.
It’s easy for Elway to say Newton was in play back in 2011, but he’s probably not just giving the politically correct answer. The Broncos were coming off a 4-12 season in 2010, and even though Tim Tebow was a first-round pick the previous April, Elway’s new regime wasn’t tied to the quarterback. The next January, Elway was brought into the organization as the team’s new Executive Vice President of Football Operations. While general manager Brian Xanders remained, Elway was provided final say on personnel decisions.
A year later, Elway ditched the Tebow experiment and convinced Manning to come to Denver. Wooing Manning wouldn’t have been necessary had Elway had a chance to draft Newton at No. 2 overall in 2011.
Things didn’t work out that way. Newton is a mega star for Carolina, leaving Elway to hope Miller—his disruptive pass-rusher—makes more plays in the Super Bowl than the quarterback he couldn’t have back almost five years ago.