Former NFL quarterback Steve Bartkowski was taken No. 1 overall in the 1975 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons, and he played for 12 seasons, 11 of which were with Atlanta.
Bartkowski made two Pro Bowls in his tenure as starting quarterback for the Falcons, and according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he had some advice for Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow during an awards banquet Sunday evening — and it involves Burrow potentially refusing to play for the Cincinnati Bengals, should they draft him No. 1 in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Bartkowski to Burrow: ‘I Know What It’s Like to Go to a Bottom-Feeder Team’
At the Davey O’Brien award event Sunday, Bartkowski said he approached Burrow’s family to give them some advice. “They’re Ohio guys,” Bartkowski said. “I might’ve offended them by telling them that, if it’s the Bengals, I think I’d pull an Eli Manning on that one. I said, you’ve got a chance to do that. That’s happened. [John] Elway kind of set the tone, then the Mannings delved into it after Eli was picked by San Diego.”
Bartkowski is referencing, of course, the 2004 NFL Draft, in which the Chargers drafted Eli Manning first overall, but were told by Manning’s agent Tom Condon days before the draft that Eli would sit the entire season should they draft him. The Chargers did draft Eli, but traded him to the Giants and drafted Philip Rivers instead.
At the time, many wondered if Eli’s father, Archie, had orchestrated his son’s refusal to play for a then-abysmal Chargers franchise, although the elder Manning has denied any involvement in the decision. Bartkowski, who played for a very subpar Falcons team the bulk of his career, said he did not want that same fate to befall Burrow.
“It’s not the best organization,” Bartkowski said of the Bengals. “You know, times change, things change. Atlanta wasn’t a good organization until Arthur Blank bought the team. It was a terrible organization. They didn’t know the right hand from the left to be honest. I know what it’s like to go to a bottom-feeder team. I’d hate to see that happen to him to be honest. They beat me up. I spent more time at the hospital recuperating from injuries my first three years than I did throwing touchdowns. It was tough.”
For his part, Burrow seems to understand his position.
“I do have leverage,” Burrow said this past weekend. “[The Bengals] have their process and I have my process. We haven’t even gotten to the Combine yet. There’s a lot of things to happen. Right now, I’m focused on being the best football player I can be. I’m in this unique spot. You can go watch my film. I don’t have to prove myself at pro day and at the combine. I’m in a unique spot where I can really focus on getting ready for the season.”
Burrow has also denied the rumors he doesn’t want to play for the Bengals in 2020.
“We’re just all happy that he’s put himself in position to be discussed as the No. 1 possible draft choice,” Burrow’s father Jimmy said. “There’s so much to happen between now and draft day, we’ll just wait and see.”