In 1975, Steve Bartkowski sat where Joe Burrow does today. The Falcons traded with the Colts a few days before the draft and selected the Cal quarterback with the No. 1 overall choice.
The Falcons were bad before Bartkowski got there. They were bad for three years after he arrived and won only one playoff game in the quarterback’s 11 seasons in Atlanta.
That’s why Bartkowski recommended to Burrow that he “pull an Eli Manning” and strong-arm his way out of going to Cincinnati.
“[Cincinnati] is not the best organization,” Bartkowski said Monday, via Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “You know, times change; things change. Atlanta wasn’t a good organization until Arthur Blank bought the team [in 2002]. 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.”
Bartkowksi and Burrow met at a Davey O’Brien Award event Sunday night in Fort Worth. That’s when Bartkowski, who is in the Falcons’ Ring of Honor, advised Burrow and his family to just say no to Cincinnati.
“They’re Ohio guys,” Bartkowski said. “I might’ve offended them by telling them that, [but] 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.”
The LSU quarterback danced around the subject Monday, saying “if they select me, they select me.”
But Burrow also acknowledged he has “leverage” as the Heisman Trophy winner and best player in the draft.
“I do have leverage,” Burrow said. “They have their process and I have my process. We haven’t even gotten to the Combine yet. There’s a lot of things that happen leading up to the draft and a lot of information gathered.
“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, so I’m in a unique spot where I can focus on getting ready for the year.”
Burrow said he has not talked to Carson Palmer, the No. 1 overall choice of the Bengals in 2003 and the brother of Burrow’s private quarterbacks coach, Jordan. Carson Palmer recently ripped the Bengals for not being driven to win.
“If we do have the conversation, it’ll happen down the road,” Burrow said. “We’re super focused. I’ve only been there a week. It’s all ball right now.”