By Peter Schaffer
Carson Palmer’s trade to the Raiders was the only notable move on another dull trade deadline day in the NFL. (Paul Sakuma – AP) Who can forget the “Lawrence Welk” trade of the century involving the Vikings, Cowboys and Hershel Walker in 1989. It’s called a “Lawrence Welk trade” because it involved “a ona and a twoa and a threeanda.” Those were the good old days in the NFL, when blockbuster trades occurred as often as Barry Sanders’ unbelievable runs. The current problem with the NFL is that the trade deadline occurs too early in the season (after the sixth week), which effectively minimizes the chance of any substantial trades occurring. The current trade deadline also limits teams’ abilities to get better during the season either for the short or long term.
In 1989, the Minnesota Vikings received RB Herschel Walker and some late-round picks who amounted to very little (other than Jake Reed), and the Dallas Cowboys received LB Jesse Solomon, LB David Howard, CB Isaac Holt, RB Darrin Nelson (traded to San Diego after he refused to report to Dallas), DE Alex Stewart, Minnesota’s first-round pick in 1990 (traded this pick along with pick (81) for pick (17) from Pittsburgh to draft a running back named Emmitt Smith), Minnesota’s second-round pick in 1990 (Alexander Wright), Minnesota’s sixth-round pick in 1990 (traded to New Orleans, who drafted James Williams), Minnesota’s 1st round pick in 1991 (Alvin Harper), Minnesota’s second-round pick in 1991 (Dixon Edwards), Minnesota’s second-round pick in 1992 (Darren Woodson), Minnesota’s third-round pick in 1992 (traded to New England, who drafted Kevin Turner), Minnesota’s first-round pick in 1993 (traded to Philadelphia Eagles, and then to the Houston Oilers, who drafted Brad Hopkins).
No doubt the trade turned out to be incredibly one-sided in favor of the Cowboys, and it’s credited with building the foundation for the Cowboys’ era of dominance in the 1990’s. But that is what trades are supposed to be about in professional sports. The Vikings mortgaged their future in hopes of immediate success, and the Cowboys traded their short-term success for long-term legacy.
The same has happened in other sports such as in baseball where my childhood hero, Tom Seaver of the Mets was dealt in the infamous “Midnight Massacre” (the other Met trade that day involved struggling outfielder Dave Kingman). Seaver was traded to the Cincinnati Reds on June 15, 1977 (the trading deadline for that year) for Pat Zachry, Steve Henderson, Doug Flynn, and Dan Norman. The Boston Bruins of the NHL also traded Phil Esposito, Carol Vadnais and Ken Hodge to their long-time and hated rivals, the New York Rangers, for Jean Ratelle and Brad Park, etc. These trades and many more like them were exciting when made, because the trade gave their teams optimism and created fan frenzy.
Sure… last week the Raiders, out of desperation due to the untimely (or timely injury, depending on how you look at it) injury to quarterback Jason Campbell, mortgaged their future by giving up a first- and potential second first-round pick for disgruntled Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer. And the Eagles and Lions swapped back ends of their rosters: washed up running backs Jerome Harrison and Ronnie Brown in a trade that was voided after a brain tumor was discovered during Harrison’s physical with the Eagles. But the reality is that the 2011 trade deadline came and left with little to no fanfare and even less activity.
What would be in the best interest of the league, teams and players is to move the trade deadline back by a minimum of two to four weeks. This would give enough time for teams to truly assess where they are going for the current season. Teams will know if it is time to jettison hope and players since their short term prospects are bleak, in hopes of building for the future. And teams desiring to win today can do so by accumulating current stars for immediate playoff runs.
Players involved would like it since they will invariably be moving from losing teams to winning teams, teams will love it because they have a chance to build for championships and the fans will love it as this would give their beloved teams either the chance to win this year or next.
After five games, teams all still feel like they can right the ship and still have respectable — if not playoff — seasons. In addition, teams who are struggling have coaching staffs and front office people who are trying to show team ownership that they deserve more time to succeed at their current jobs, and thus are trying to save the jobs with good team performance. To jettison talent at this time would sabotage any chance of these teams succeeding and saving their coaches’ or general managers’ jobs.
Five games into the NFL is just not enough time to make this determination. The NFL must take a serious look at this issue and ultimately decide to move the deadline back until mid-November or even Thanksgiving for the good of the league, the players, the teams and, most importantly, the fans.
By Peter Schaffer | 11:17 AM ET, 10/25/2011