Recency bias may make Trent Baalke the least favorite 49ers general manager in team history, but Joe Thomas of the late 1970s was infinitely worse.
Almost five years after former San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke was sacked, fans still point the finger at him and blame him for the team’s disgrace in 2015 and the subsequent headaches the Niners have. had before the general manager John Lynch and the head coach. Kyle Shanahan took over in 2017.
It’s understandable. Baalke clashed with head coaches, namely Jim Harbaugh, and he reportedly denied head coach Chip Kelly the opportunity to draft now Dallas Cowboys franchise quarterback Dak Prescott, too much.
And then there was also the draft of all these injured players. Baalke’s infamous “All-ACL” team.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Baalke still receives criticism from the fan base. But for those who want a not-so-memorable trip through the archives, there’s a former San Francisco GM who was much worse at his job than Baalke.
Joe Thomas is the worst GM in 49ers history
Former owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. is one of the most revered figures in franchise history, and rightly so.
But even he had his share of major mistakes.
DeBartolo took over a dilapidated squad in March 1977 and quickly appointed Thomas as general manager, which led to a previous “mutual separation” with then head coach Monte Clark. Thomas replaced Clark with Ken Meyer, one-chief, but still got involved in roster control, including overseeing who saw the game on match days.
Read more: How Trent Baalke dismantled the 49ers’ Super Bowl roster
Unsurprisingly, the 1977 49ers were 5-9, a notable drop from the still-not-warm 8-6 final the year before.
But if 1977 was bad, 1978 was good, much worse. And some might consider this season the worst year in Niners history, even beating Baalke’s last campaign with San Francisco, 2016.
The most scoring kicker was Thomas trading five Buffalo Bills draft picks for 31-year-old running back OJ Simpson, whose knees were gone and was no longer capable of being an impact player at this point. of her career . If a general manager did something like that today, he would be fired the following afternoon.
Yet Thomas also took out quarterback Jim Plunkett before the start of the season. And while Plunkett wasn’t exactly the answer until he joined the Oakland Raiders, at least he was a competent starter. Behind him, the 49ers had no one.
Ironically enough, it’s Thomas’ actions elsewhere that really highlight how bad a GM he was.
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You’ll be amazed to learn that it didn’t work out, as the 49ers struggled to make their way to a 2-14 season. Things got so bad mid-season that Thomas confiscated fan signs demanding he be fired, got into a physical fight with beat reporters, and tried to call off a Thanksgiving week game because he thought he was. there was a plot that would lead to his own assassination. So, you know, at least things weren’t boring.
Seriously, you could make a movie about it.
Thomas also employed two different head coaches that year, Pete McCulley and Fred O’Connor, which helped the team to a two-game winning season. Yay. And during Thomas’ brief stint as general manager, the Niners were 7-23 overall.
At least Baalke was in his job for a Super Bowl year, although some argue he inherited a stacked squad when he took office in 2011.
Thomas, meanwhile, took a declining team and accelerated it into the NFL slump before DeBartolo finally admitted the mistake and eliminated it after 1978.
Thankfully, in a proverbial “it’s darkest before sunrise” moment, Thomas’ sacking ultimately led DeBartolo to appoint Bill Walsh as San Francisco’s new head coach.
And the rest is a dynasty-type story, thankfully helping to erase the memory of Thomas, who must be seen as the worst executive the franchise never had.