No. 1: 49ers trade for an aging, washed-up O.J. Simpson in 1978
For those thinking Trent Baalke was the worst general manager in Niners history, think again. That not-so-great accolade should belong to former GM Joe Thomas, who made a mess of the team in the late 1970s before head coach Bill Walsh finally came into the picture.
One of Thomas’ worst moves didn’t make sense than, and it certainly wouldn’t make sense today.
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By 1977, Buffalo Bills running back O.J. Simpson was clearly on the decline. At 30 years old, he was no longer a threat to be the league’s leading rusher in any given year, and injuries had already begun to take their toll on his body.
Nevertheless, perhaps in a move to boost the fanbase’s interest, Thomas traded a first-round draft pick, two second-round picks, and a third- and a fourth-round pick to Buffalo to grab Simpson.
Imagine a general manager doing that for a 30-year-old running back today. He wouldn’t stay at his job for long after that. Neither did Thomas.
At least part of the moves paralleling Simpson’s acquisition was the 49ers netting wide receiver Freddie Solomon, who’d go on to be a vital part of the franchise’s first Super Bowl some years later.
But Simpson was more than lackluster during his final two years in the NFL, never averaging more than 4 yards per carry with the Niners before he eventually went on to… well, other things.