We're less than two weeks from the draft, and the annual Brett Favre watch is well underway.
So we're also seeing the usual stories this time of year calling the Falcons trade of Favre to the Packers for a draft pick after his rookie season the worst draft pick trade or overall trade in NFL history.
For the record, I disagree.
Never mind the stories about Favre's drinking, that he partied much harder than he practiced while with Atlanta, that coach Jerry Glanville didn't want him on the team, that he would have been in competition just to hang on to the #3 QB spot, or that when he got on the field his rookie year, two of his four pass attempts were incomplete - and the other two were intercepted.
Nope, forget all that stuff. The bottom line is that Atlanta traded its second round pick one season for a first round pick the next season. That's hardly the worst trade in NFL history, regardless of what players are taken with those picks.
So let's cut then-VP of Player Personnel Ken Herock a little slack. He didn't make the worst trade ever.
Click here for another side of the story you might not have known...
On second thought, go ahead and rip Herock to shreds. He deserves it, because he DID make what is probably the all time worst trade.
He just didn't do it in Atlanta.
It's actually a two-parter. Either part alone would be a contender for the worst trade in NFL history. Put them together, and the result is a masterpiece of horror. It's the "Plan 9 From Outer Space" (or "Manos: The Hands Of Fate") of GM work.
I apologize for this turning into a long story, but believe me, it's worth it. It's a gem.
Because of a 1980 trade, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't have a second round pick in 1982.
Read about it (and what a cheapskate Dolphins owner Joe Robbie was) here
When the 1982 draft came around, then-GM Ken Herock really liked a small school defensive end named Booker Reese, from Bethune-Cookman. The Bucs planned on taking him in the first round. What happened on draft day is a matter of who you believe.
Offensive lineman Sean Farrell unexpectedly slid down the draft board and was still available when Tampa hit the clock at #17. The Buffalo Bills called, wanting to move up five spots from their #22. They offered to swap their second rounder for one of Tampa's two third rounders as the trade price.
There was a lot of noise at the draft site in New York (mainly Giants fans already shouting for their preferred pick, as the G-Men were going to be on the clock right after Tampa). And there apparently was a bad phone connection between Tampa and their man on-site, equipment manager Pat Marcuccillo.
With about five minutes clock time remaining, Marcuccillo handed in a card with Sean Farrell's name on it. The folks in Tampa denied it, but the story in newspapers around the country (and fledgling cable network ESPN, which was right there covering it live) is that the Bucs made a mistake and either turned in the wrong card or turned in a card too soon.
After Farrell's name was announced, Marcuccillo went back and conferred with NFL officials - apparently saying it was a mistake and trying to "undo" the pick. But the Giants turned in their card almost immediately after Tampa, so the commish said no dice.
Was it a mistake? Here's one version of the story...
...and the denial by the Buccaneers.
Bottom line = the Bucs got Farrell, not Reese, and they had no second round pick to take Reese. So they immediately started scrambling and tried to work a deal to move up.
They ended up giving the Bears their first round pick the following year (1983) for Chicago's second rounder, but in the end they got their man.
Herock proclaimed his draft an instant success, saying his first two picks were as good as anyone's.
Article with GREAT comments from Herock on Tampa's draft prowess...
(I really love this one, especially the stuff about how much better they were at drafting by taking more chances - as opposed to going for more of those lame, boring picks like Lee Roy Selmon, Doug Williams or Hugh Green.)
And they all lived happily ever after.
Well, not quite...
Tampa quarterback Doug Williams was the lowest paid starting QB in the NFL (at a mere $120k - less than many backups and less than some punters and kickers) but chose to play out his initial contract rather than hold out for more money. But when his contract expired after the 1982 season, he wanted to get paid.
Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse made an offer he called "generous". Williams' agent called it "embarassing". At that point it became pretty obvious that Williams would ended up bolting for the brand new USFL.
That wouldn't have been such a big problem, as the upcoming draft was even then regarded as the best in NFL history for quarterbacks. There was just one catch... Herock had given up his first round pick the prior year.
Story on the Williams contract and the 1983 QB class...
...continued. (Wow - Ken O'Brien as a Buccaneer?)
So he worked a deal with Cincinnati, once again giving up Tampa's future first round pick (in 1984) for Bengals backup QB Jack Thompson.
(Browse the whole page, not just this Mizell column)
The Throwin' Samoan was Cincinnati's third stringer (most teams kept only two QBs on the roster) behind Ken Anderson and Turk Schonert. He had been a first round pick back in 1979 but was already regarded as a bust.
He had never completed 50% of his passes for a season, had never averaged 100 passing yards per game for a season, had a career QB rating below 60, and had not even attempted a pass attempt in his one and only game appearance the previous year. And for this, Herock was willing to part with a future first round pick.
The Bucs flopped, and the pick Tampa gave up became the # 1 overall selection of the 1984 draft.
In other words, the Bucs missed out on their chance to draft Dan Marino or Ken O'Brien (their choice - both were still on the board when what would have been Tampa's pick came up) because Herock felt he just had to have Booker Reese. For an encore, he gave away the first overall pick of the draft straight up for a third string bust who hadn't thrown a pass in nearly two years. And the one first round pick he got right throughout the whole mess was quite literally by mistake.
And now the "Animal House"/"Stripes"-style montage of what happened to the key players...
"Accidental" draft pick Sean Farrell had a productive, 11 year NFL career, including five seasons with the Buccaneers. When he became a free agent in 1987, Tampa re-signed him and then traded him to New England for three draft picks, including a second rounder.
The man on-site at the 1982 draft, Pat Marcuccillo, resigned his position as equipment manager for "personal reasons" during the 1982 players strike. Within a week, he was charged with grand larceny for stealing 1,520 Bucs jerseys and selling them to a Chicago sports memorabilia dealer for $21k.
The Chicago dealer (who reportedly didn't know Marcuccillo was selling them illegally) sold many of them to another dealer in San Antonio for $20 apiece.
The San Antonio dealer then brought his jerseys to Tampa, advertising "Genuine Buccaneers Game Jerseys" for sale in the local paper. That caught the attention of the Buccaneers front office, who prompted police to begin their investigation that eventually led to Marcuccillo's arrest.
And just like they had claimed that there was no error with the draft card, the Bucs claimed at the time that they had no idea why Marcuccillo was leaving and that his resignation was a surprise. (Hmmm.... 1500 jerseys went missing and the equipment manager suddenly quits during the police investigation... Nope, nothing unusual here. No clue why he left.)
(Enter 23 for the page number; the article is on the lower right side of the page)
Booker Reese flopped in 1982 and 1983, developed drug and alcohol problems, and was dumped for a conditional 12th round pick after the first game of the 1984 season.
He also had another off-field issue...
He appeared in 11 games for the Los Angeles Rams, who sent him to rehab after he failed a drug test and then released him the following year.
But he did meet the condition for the Bucs to get their 12th rounder
He signed with the San Francisco 49ers in 1985 but again failed a drug test and was released, ending his NFL career.
He was convicted of cocaine possession in 1999 and was sent back to prison for a parole violation in 2004.
The Chicago Bears used Tampa's first round 1983 pick to select Willie Gault, who lasted 11 seasons in the NFL as a wide receiver and return man.
Before the NFL, he was a track star (110 meter hurdles, 4x100 relay) and a member of the U.S. Olympic team. But he missed his chance to compete when the U.S. boycotted the 1980 games. He was ruled ineligible for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles because he was a professional football player.
He did become an alternate in 1988, but in Calgary rather than Seoul.
Jack Thompson didn't even win the Bucs starting job coming out of camp, but became the starter after the other quarterback (Jerry Golsteyn, career QB rating of 36.2) put in horrid performances in the first two games. Thompson then spent the 1984 season as the backup to Steve DeBerg, who was acquired in a trade for two draft picks. It was Thompson's final year in the NFL.
Headline story on his release
And the beat writer's column on the side of the same page
(Interesting comparisons: Culverhouse said no to paying Doug Williams $800k and then $600k in 1983, but note the contract the Bucs had given Thompson and also how much Steve Young made in the USFL.)
The Bengals traded Tampa's #1 overall pick of 1984 to the Patriots, who used it to select WR Irving Fryar. Fryar racked up 12,785 receiving yards over his 17-year career, putting him 13th on the all-time receiving list. He's also tied for 14th in receiving touchdowns with 84.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers managed a 5-4 record and made the playoffs in the strike-shortened 1982 season but utterly tanked in 1983, going 2-14 to start a remarkable string of 12 consecutive seasons with 10+ losses.
Ken Herock left the Buccaneers in June of 1984, reportedly to take over the USFL's Washington Federals, who were planning to move to Florida.
He ended up with the Raiders instead, helping them on their way from their 11-5 and 12-4 records in 1984/1985 to their 8-8 and 5-10 records in 1986 and the shortened 1987 season.
Right after the 1987 draft, the Smith family handed him the keys to the Falcons, where he remained for the next ten seasons.
His first draft choice as Falcons head of personnel...