21 August 2007

A look back at one of the great trades of all-time

Butler

Somewhere, in the afterlife, if you believe in such things, John Butler is smiling.

That’s because he made the best trade in pro sports history.

The trade didn’t involve Babe Ruth or Lou Brock, who were sold for basically nothing and turned into Hall of Famers, but Michael Vick and LaDanian Tomlinson.

People may forget that it was the San Diego Chargers, coming off a 1-15 season, that had the first pick in the 2001 draft right after Vick led Virginia Tech to the national title game against Florida State. Not only was Vick regarded as the No. 1 pick of the draft, he was viewed as a once in a generation player, a player who could change the game.

Butler, who built the Buffalo Bills teams of the early 1990s and went onto San Diego before dying of cancer in 2003, however, was weary of signing a top pick with top pick money at quarterback right after the disastrous pick of Ryan Leaf by the Chargers in 1998. So Butler, after being unable to come to terms with Vick before the end of the draft, made the shocking move of trading an instant superstar and got a player he was very high on, Tomlinson along with a third-rounder that year, a second-rounder the following year, and Tim Dwight.

The move was compared by some to the Colts giving away John Elway or the Blazers passing on Michael Jordan. Others called in a smart move. Even until about a year ago, it was a highly debatable topic.

Guess who is smiling now.

You have to wonder how things would be different if the Chargers had picked Vick. Would the Falcons have ridden LT and Matt Schaub (who the Falcons gave away this spring) to a Super Bowl last season? Would the Chargers have ever made the playoffs in a hyper-competitive AFC?

But one thing you can’t wonder is how smart the LT-Vick trade ended up being for San Diego regardless of Vick’s issues. Vick never really became the elite NFL player people thought he would become, while Tomlinson would likely make the Hall of Fame even if he quit tomorrow.

The sun is a little brighter today in San Diego, if that was possible, and a little darker in Atlanta because of John Butler. Who would have thought that?

13 comments:

Steven said...

LaDanian Tomlinson =! Babe Ruth

kpfarabaugh said...

Vick led Tech to the title game in Jan 2000 (the 99 season). The 2001 draft occurred after OU beat FSU for the title

Tom said...

As good as LT has been, and I think that right now he's the best RB in the NFL, Vick is 2-2 in the playoffs and LT is 2-2. Now granted, the Falcons might have been a better team going into the 2001 season (they had played in the Super Bowl after the 1998 season) but at least they've won a playoff game (or two). Stupid Marty and Marlon McCree!

PenFoe said...

Don't forget that 3rd rounder was Tay Cody.

He kind of puts this trade over the top.

BJ said...

Wasn't Drew Brees also part of that trade?

Jackson said...

yup, drew brees was the second rounder. holler.

Doug said...

great post.

for my money ladanian tomlinson is hands-down the best player in the nfl. the as-yet-unmentioned clincher here, though, is that LT is just as good a man (if not better) as he is a player. off the field he's one of the most upstanding, virtuous, honest, down-to-earth, humble, loyal (i could go on here) individual the game has ever seen. putting him next to vick--physically AND morally--makes a talented yet sadistic man look like a pop-warner-caliber bloodthirsty nazi.

so, uh, yeah--greatest trade of all time. thank god for john butler.

Seth said...

also don't forget the chargers draft day trade of 2004. granted, time will tell on this one, but the chargers traded eli manning for draft picks which resulted in philip rivers, shawn merriman, and nate kaeding. all 3 were in the pro bowl last year. they also obtained another pick which they traded to tampa for roman oben.
so yeah, 2001 and 2004 sure were some great draft days for the chargers.

jesse said...

A lot of people get confused and think the chargers got drew brees from the falcons. brees was the chargers own 2nd rounder, but they wouldn't have taken him if they took vick.

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