Thursday, September 8, 2022

O.J. Simpson for Jack Youngblood?

 By John Turney 
In the Summer of 1976, there were fairly serious trade talks by the Los Angeles Rams and the Buffalo Bills about swapping O.J. Simpson for Jack Youngblood.

The Rams had failed to reach the Super Bowl in Chuck Knox's three years as the coach of the Rams, though they got close. The Rams defense was stellar and deep but the offense, while steady, was not very explosive and that caused owner Carroll Rosenbloom and general manager Don Klosterman concern, they wanted an offense that could get them over the hump—to the Big Game.

As far as the Bills situation Simpson was becoming disgruntled in Buffalo. He'd won all the personal awards and set records but he wanted a few things: To be in California for "marital issues" and to also be able to pursue acting, and he wanted to be with a contender.

It is hard to know how serious the Rams were but Bills owner Ralph Wilson was earnest in trying to grant Simpson's request. 

According to Dave Anderson's column in the New York Times, in the mid-Summer of 1976 there were at least preliminary conversations, "(I)nformed sources say that Buffalo is seeking defensive end Jack Youngblood, considered by some experts as the best in the NFL at that position, linebacker Jim Youngblood and running back Lawrence McCutcheon."

Anderson also reported that the Rams made counter offers of draft picks (similar to what the 49ers paid the Patriots for Jim Plunkett that offseason) or a package of players that included McCutcheon, a pick between Jack Reynolds or Jim Youngblood, a choice between Mike Fanning or Cody Jones, plus Jack Snow and Steve Preece.

Wilson scoffed and those proposals saying he wasn't interested in draft picks and wanted players, especially Jack Youngblood and McCutcheon.

Youngblood also and a sense of humor about it. When he ran into Wilson when the player's committee (which he was part of) met with the owners he said to Wilson, "How's it going, boss?"

Meanwhile; Simpson threatened to retire asking, "Am I not going to play football because the deal didn't get done?"

Ultimately the Rams made it known to the Bills that Jack Youngblood was "untouchable", Youngblood noted that "(A)round camp, I was suddenly Carroll Rosenbloom's son."
Newsday (Nassau Edition) (Hempstead, New York) Sep 29, 1976
Youngblood's reaction to the ordeal was one of being flattered (for being highly prized) and also one of cold reality about life in the NFL, "You play bad and you hear you might get traded, you play good and you hear you might get traded." 

Simpson didn't report to the Bills until September and was not in game shape. He played but didn't start in the opener and through the first three weeks of the season he averaged 2.6 yards on 41 carriers.

By October he was back to being O.J. and he closed with 1398 yards in the final 11 games. The next year he got hurt midseason and early in 1978 he finally got his trade to a West Coast team—the San Francisco 49ers. 

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