30 for 30: Ricky for T.O.

Bobby Sansone, Senior Writer

October 30, 2009

What if I told you the league's greatest trade turned out to be its most lopsided?

YFFL 30 for 30

"I think the trade scared a lot of owners into pulling the trigger on any one player for one player deals for years."

"That trade really catapulted Mike and the Chickens to the pantheon. People still hate and fear the Chickens to this day."

"The Orangutangs still haven't recovered from that trade. Jon will tell you the same thing. It sent the once proud franchise into a tailspin."


For a conservative owner, Jon doesn't pull any punches when it comes to big trades. He certainly didn't when Mike came to him on the evening of July 1, 2004 shortly before the Yankees clipped the Sox in 13 innings. The game featured one of the greatest plays in MLB history as Derek Jeter leaped into the stands to make an unbelievable catch while Nomar Garciaparra watched from the dugout nursing an injury.

In Mike's classic persona, he was straight forward. "Ricky for T.O. Let's do it. Straight up."

I imagine Jon just shrugged his shoulders and said, "OK, sure" in his happy go-lucky mentality. After all, the league had just expanded to 16 teams the season prior and RBs were becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. A WR for a RB straight up was a no-brainer.

Ricky Williams Just 32 days after the trade, Ricky Williams walked away from the game and the Gooks

But the trade was much more than just a RB for just a WR. These were two of the five biggest names in the league at the time. Owens was coming off a 2002 season in which he scored 96 points and then 60 in 2003. Williams was just as effective scoring 122 in 2002 followed by a strong 80-point showing in 2003. The Gooks needed a compliment to the emerging Dominick Williams and a replacement for the aging Eddie George. Meanwhile, the Chickens desperately needed help at WR. Jerry Rice had scored just 20 points in 2003, as did Curtis Conway. Joe Horn was the only viable threat at WR. The depth of LaDainian Tomlinson and Jamal Lewis at RB meant that Ricky Williams was expendable.

"For about 30 days everyone was pretty happy. Then things got interesting..."

On August 2, 2004, just 32 days after the trade, Ricky Williams announced his retirement from football. Jon was devastated. The Gooks were suddenly a team in peril.

Mike Wilbon: "First Ricky retired. Then Jon tried to keep the franchise positive by changing the team name to the very hard to spell Orangutangs. Then he stuck to his plan and drafted a WR to replace Owens in the draft. And that didn't work out so well."

The Orangutangs selected Reggie Williams, a promising WR out of Washington with the 8th pick in the 2004 draft. Williams never panned out and finished with 34 career points in his short career.

Meanwhile, the Chickens were on their way to a record season.

Ron Jaworski: "The Chickens hit the jackpot. There is no denying that. They basically get Terrell Owens for free. They have the greatest player in the game in Tomlinson, they have two of the best QBs in McNabb and Brees. They have a stud TE in the making in Jason Whitten and then in the 2004 draft they land Phillip Rivers and Antonio Gates. I mean, can it get any better?"

Terrell Owens T.O. posted a then WR recorrd of 122 points the season of the trade to lead the Chickens to a 11-2 record and an NFC Championship

As for Ricky, he would never play for the Orangutangs again. He was placed on IR later that year and then cut the following year after yet another drug suspension. After a few more years of suspensions and injuries, Williams has finally made a name for himself in 2009 at the age of 32.

Terrell Owens thrived for years with the Chickens. From 20042008, he scored 444 points and recently hit 900 for his career and is now the top fantasy WR in YFFL history. Now, at the age of 35, Owens is finally starting to slow. Still, he looks back at that trade and simply replies with his signature smile.

The Orangutangs have gone 17-41-1 in the past five seasons and haven't made the playoffs since 2004. They past up on an opportunity to re-draft Ricky Williams this year and opted instead for Brian Robiskie.

Bobby Sansone: "That trade devastated the franchise. It was the biggest trade in league history and it ended up being the most lopsided as well. Just to think how it's affected both the Chickens and the Orangutangs since 2004 is quite scary. Not to mention it's scared off a lot of owners from making straight-up trades between 2 Pro Bowl caliber players in their prime."

In the 5.5 years since the Ricky Williams Terrell Owens trade, there hasn't been a single trade involving two 100-point players.

Up Next: What if I told you "down 29 points with 1 RB to play" would set the stage for the greatest comeback in YFFL history?