By: Rajan Nanavati
If you’re an NFL team, there are many things in which you don’t want to find yourself on the wrong side of. Obviously, the worst one would be a losing season, especially since every loss hurts.
But many times, it’s often just as painful to be on the wrong end of a personnel deal that not only hurts your franchise, but ends up benefiting another franchise – with the former team only left to watch and wonder “what if?”
While many of the truly awful trades in NFL history are well documented, here are four trades that tend to fly under the radar of “worst trades in NFL history,” but very much affected at least one – if not both – of the teams involved.
The Houston Oilers Trade Wide Receiver Steve Largent To The Seattle Seahawks
Despite an All-American career at Tulsa University, the Houston Oilers not only gave up on wide receiver Steve Largent before he ever played an NFL game, but actually traded him before the 1976 season — Largent’s rookie season — started. Houston acquired an 8th round pick in exchange, which doesn’t even exist anymore. Meanwhile, Largent would go on to be named to seven Pro Bowl teams, and became the first wide receiver in NFL history to record more than 100 catches in one season. The seven-time All-Pro retired after a distinguished 14-year career that ended up with a Hall of Fame selection.
New England Trades Out Of The Draft Pick That Yielded Jerry Rice In The 1985 NFL Draft
Laying awake in his hotel room one night, Hall of Fame head coach Bill Walsh saw highlights of a little-known wide receiver from tiny Mississippi Valley State named Jerry Rice, and was so blown away by the receiver that he frantically tried to trade up with anyone who’d strike a deal in the 1985 NFL Draft. Walsh found a partner in the New England Patriots, and moved up from the 28th pick to the 15th pick and selected Rice, who arguably goes down as the greatest player in NFL history, while the Patriots selected an offensive lineman named Trevor Matich, who had an undistinguished NFL career.
The Indianapolis Colts Trade Running Back Marshall Faulk
Indianapolis Trades Marshall Faulk — Former Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian is one of the greatest executives in NFL history, but he made a grave mistake in trading away Marshall Faulk when the latter asked for a new contract after the 1998 season, when he put up over 2,200 combined yards and 17 total touchdowns. Polian traded Faulk to the St. Louis Rams for second- and fifth-round picks in the 1999 NFL Draft. As we all know, Faulk became the centerpiece for the Rams’ “Greatest Show On Turf” offense, winning the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year in each of his first three years in St. Louis, and the NFL’s MVP award in 2000.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Trade Quarterback Steve Young
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have an absolutely miserable team history, and one of their (many) lowlights came in the form of trading away future Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young. After showing promise in the now-defunct USFL, Young struggled in his first two seasons in Tampa Bay, but the Buccaneers wrote off Young way too quickly, trading him to San Francisco in exchange for second and fourth round picks. Young eventually led the 49ers to a Super Bowl win as the starting quarterback, and he and Jerry Rice became the most prolific quarterback-and-wide-receiver duo in NFL history.