Most of the time when I write about “the worst pick” at a particular position it is because of how God awful the selected player performed on the field for Buffalo. Mike Williams at offensive tackle, John McCargo at defensive tackle. Players who actually suited up for the Bills and then performed horribly
Today is a slightly different story
In this particular case this player wasn’t bad in a Bills uniform, he was never in one. The name of this man is Tom Cousineau, LB from The Ohio State University. After a spectacular career for the Buckeyes, Tom was drafter number one overall by Buffalo in the 1979 draft (acquired from the 49ers for OJ Simpson). Buffalo was in desperate need for a defensive playmaker considering the following season they had given up 21 points per game. Almost before the commissioner could announce our draft pick, the CFL swooped in and doubled the standard NFL offer, stealing our #1 draft pick from us. Buffalo’s contract offer did come in low, at $1.2 million over five years, so, Cousineau accepted a competing offer—$850,000 for three years from the Montreal Alouettes.
Tom went on to be a star in the CFL, winning multiple awards and becoming the face of his franchise. This success however would not transfer over. See Tommy boy later in his career wanted to play in the big leagues and decided he wanted to come back to America and the NFL. Not wanting the guy who gave us a cold shoulder Buffalo traded his rights to Cleveland where he was inked for a franchise record $2.5 million contract, and in return we got the 14th pick in the 1983 draft. Tom never was the impact player anyone thought he was going to be in Cleveland. He lead Cleveland in tackling for a few years but never was a pro bowl caliber playmaker in the mold of Jack Ham. Bills fans were overjoyed that the All-American who snubbed us was considered one of the great disappointments in Cleveland.
But the important part of that trade is what we did with the pick. Buffalo used that draft choice to acquire yet another player who ditched us for a league willing to pay top dollar…QB Jim Kelly. Only differences between Tom and Jim is that when Kelly returned to the NFL it was to play in Buffalo. I don’t need to remind Bills fans what a difference Kelly made in our city’s football fortunes. This horrible linebacker sure did turn into one gem of a QB and certainly was worth the wait.