Robert Irsay, the owner of the Baltimore Colts, apparently negotiated the trade that sent Stanford University quarterback John Elway to the Denver Broncos without consulting Coach Frank Kush or General Manager Ernie Accorsi.
In addition, guard Chris Hinton of Northwestern, the fourth player selected in last week's NFL draft and one of two players traded to the Colts for Elway, told The Washington Post last night that he will meet with the Chicago Blitz of the U.S. Football League today and the Colts Thursday in Chicago.
Hinton said the Colts did not contact him before they made the trade Monday and "I was highly upset about it."
Asked the chances of his signing with the Colts, Hinton said, "It's 50-50. Whoever offers me the best situation, that's what I'll take . . . Playing in the NFL is a real privilege. It's something I'll have to put a lot of thought into."
Reserve quarterback Mark Herrmann, the other player traded to the Colts, at first said he might retire because of his offseason job in Denver, but later said he probably would report.
According to league sources, the trade is not contingent on the players reporting. The Colts would own the rights to the players if they did not report, an NFL spokesman said.
The Colts also received the Broncos' No. 1 draft choice in next year's draft in exchange for Elway, who signed a series of five one-year contracts with Denver late Monday. The trade and Elway's signing were announced early yesterday morning. Sources say Elway will receive about $1 million annually from the Broncos. Before the draft, the Colts reportedly had an chance to get three No. 1 draft choices and a No. 2, in exchange for trading the rights to Elway. Instead, they drafted him.
Hinton, a 6-foot-4, 265-pound guard, was described by friends as feeling he'd been betrayed.
Hinton said: "Elway knew what was going on all along . . . The owners did all the wheeling and dealing the morning of the trade or before. Denver told me they'd make an offer on Friday, but they called on Friday and said, 'We'll get to you on Monday after we sign our free agents.' Then they called on Monday and said, 'We'll get to you on Wednesday.' But when the call came on Monday night, it was a trade . . . I never put it all together."
Denver Coach Dan Reeves told The Associated Press that the Broncos did not draft Hinton with the intention of trading him to Baltimore.
Elway, the No. 1 choice in last week's NFL draft, told the Colts before the draft that he would not play for them and would play professional baseball for the New York Yankees if the Colts drafted him. Nevertheless, the Colts drafted Elway when efforts to trade him failed.
Informed of the trade yesterday, Kush told AP, "We knew they were talking to a number of teams and that Denver was one of them, but we had no idea the trade was finalized."
But Kush declined to assess the trade, in part because of Hinton's reaction. "I can understand he would be in shock, as most people would," Kush said. "All we can do is sit and wait."
The Colts' public relations office released a statement saying Kush and Accorsi were unaware that the trade had been made and would have no comment. Kush reportedly learned of the trade at 8 a.m. yesterday from a reporter. The Broncos announced the trade in Denver 7 1/2 hours earlier.
Bruce Allen, general manager of the Blitz, said that team would try harder to sign Hinton.
"We've been discussing the Blitz with Chris since January," said Allen. "Now we've got a great opportunity to get him. I've talked to his lawyer a couple of times today, and we're going to be meeting later in the week."
Herrmann is seen as a backup quarterback for the Colts, who do not know the status of second-year player Art Schlichter, who has told the FBI he lost $389,000 gambling. Mike Pagel started for the Colts as a rookie last season and was backed up by David Humm.Yesterday's announcement by the Broncos followed a week of behind-the-scenes negotiations involving several NFL clubs.
Elway told a Denver press conference late Monday night he probably would have signed with the Yankees in another week if he had not been traded. An outfielder, he hit .318 in six weeks with the Yankees' farm team in Oneonta, N.Y., last summer.
Edgar F. Kaiser Jr., the owner of the Broncos, said he first discussed the possibility of trading for Elway on draft day and that Irsay had told him to keep in touch. The Broncos also were aided by the fact that the Colts had shown an interest in Hinton prior to the draft.
"We weren't much different from the 27 other NFL franchises. We all wanted him," said Kaiser. "We were just hopeful that we could put together an agreement and keep it quiet so as not to get the hopes of our fans up."
Kaiser said he talked with Irsay, a Chicago area businessman, several times between between draft day and Monday when they reached an agreement in principle.
Also competing in the final negotiations for rights to Elway were the Los Angeles Raiders, who before the draft were attempting to acquire a package of high draft picks from the Chicago Bears to trade for Elway.
Al Davis, the managing general partner of the Raiders, accused the NFL of attempting to block any deal that might sent Elway to the Raiders, and he threatened to go to court saying he has enough evidence to get the trade rescinded. Both the NFL and Jim Finks, general manager of the Bears, denied Davis' charges, although Finks did say the Raiders and Bears had talked about a draft choice package.