By Patrick Mondout
The pre-Bill Walsh San Francisco 49ers made a huge mistake by trading
five draft picks for aging tailback O.J. Simpson prior to the 1978 season.
That set in motion a chain of events that led to Buffalo ending up with a
quarterback that would lead them to four Super Bowls.
The draft picks the Bills obtained included what became the number one
pick overall in the 1979 draft and a second rounder was used on future Pro
Bowl running back Joe Cribbs.
Happy with Joe Ferguson at quarterback, the Bill passed on Jack
Thompson and took Ohio State linebacker Tom Cousineau. He was unhappy with
the contract the Bills were offering and became the only number one
overall selection to bolt for the Canadian Football League, where he
played for three seasons for the Montreal Alouettes before his rights were
traded to Cleveland.* The constant contract squabbles between the Bills
and their players (including Joe Cribbs) finally became too much for Bills
coach Chuck Knox and he resigned.
The Bills got the last laugh, however. The trade with Cleveland netted
them the number 13 pick overall in
the 1983 draft and they selected future Hall of Fame quarterback Jim
Kelly. Cousineau never lived up to his potential and finished his career
with the 49ers - the team that originally owned the first pick in the '79
Lest you feel sorry for Bill Walsh and the 49ers, note that he too got
a quarterback that took him to four Super Bowls (and he was 4-0 in those
games) in third rounder Joe Montana from Notre Dame.
The Chicago Bears traded defensive lineman Wally Chambers to the
Buccaneers prior to the 1978 season for a 1979 first round pick. Chambers
was on the downside of his career and played two unremarkable seasons
before retiring. The Bears replaced Chambers with future Hall of Famer Dan
Hampton with the pick it received from the Bucs - number four overall.
The Saints shocked the draft experts by taking a kicker with the 11th
pick overall - and incredible blunder regardless of how he turned out. Two
picks later the San Diego Chargers picked up future Hall of Famer Kellen
Winslow with a pick they obtained from Cleveland (who already had a future
Hall member in Ozzie Newsome at TE). Placekicker Erxleben, who hit four of
eight field goals over five seasons was also asked to punt. He was lousy
at both and was soon out of the league.**
Hampton, Winslow and Montana are the only member of the Hall from the
1979 draft class.
Below is the first round of the 1979 NFL draft. We also have the
entire 12 round draft.
1 - Acquired from San Francisco 49ers
2 - Acquired from Tampa Bay Buccaneers
3 - Acquired from Washington Redskins
4 - Acquired from Cleveland Browns
5 - Acquired from Oakland Raiders
6 - Acquired from San Diego Chargers
7 - Acquired from Houston Oilers
* Technically the Houston Oilers signed
him to an offer sheet which the Bills matched and then he was traded to
**But it wasn't the last we heard of him.
As a currency trader for Austin Forex International in Texas, Erxleben
received a seven year prison sentence and was ordered to pay $28 million
in restitution plus a $1 million fine in 2000 for his involvement in a