On June 26, 1978 the Cincinnati Bengals traded two able but discontented players to the Washington Redskins. CB Lemar Parrish and DE Coy Bacon were exchanged for Washington’s 1979 first draft choice. It assured that, for the eleventh straight year, the Redskins would not have a selection in the first round. Under General Manager/Head Coach George Allen since 1971, they had invested heavily in veteran talent. Allen had departed following the ’77 season and the trade thus marked one of the first major deals by new Washington GM Bobby Beathard.
“It’s a big step for us, getting a couple of guys who have played that well,” said Washington’s incoming Head Coach Jack Pardee. “The number one pick is valuable. You hate to give one up. We are looking for more than one player who could help us right away. It had to be a multi-player deal.”
Lemar Parrish was 30 and had played eight seasons with Cincinnati. Outstanding as a kick returner as well as in the defensive backfield, he had been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons and again in the four years from 1974 to ‘77. An unheralded seventh-round draft choice in 1970 out of Lincoln University of Missouri, Parrish intercepted 25 passes, with a high of seven in 1971, and returned four of them for touchdowns. He also scored three more times on fumble recoveries and averaged 9.2 yards on 130 punt returns, with a league-leading 18.8 average in 1974 that included two TDs. His average on 61 kickoff returns was 24.7, with a top figure of 30.1 as a rookie.
Coy Bacon was 35 and a ten-year NFL veteran, although only the last two seasons were with the Bengals. Having played collegiately at Jackson State, he had originally performed in the minor league United and Continental Football Leagues and, after spending a year on the Dallas taxi squad, was obtained by the Rams in 1968, alternating with aging veteran DT Roger Brown the following year. Shifted to right end in 1970, he began to develop into an outstanding pass rusher and reached the Pro Bowl in ‘72. Bacon was traded to San Diego in 1973 as part of the deal that brought QB John Hadl to Los Angeles and arrived in Cincinnati in 1976, having been dealt for WR Charlie Joiner. He was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his seasons with the Bengals and, while sacks were not yet compiled for individual players, unofficially led the NFL with 26 in 1976.
Both players had been outspoken in denouncing the club and demanding a trade. Parrish was unhappy with his salary and had indicated that he would play out his option. Bacon did not like the new 3-4 defensive alignment. GM Paul Brown indicated that either rookie Ray Griffin, brother of double-Heisman Trophy winner Archie, also a Bengal, or Melvin Morgan would replace Parrish in the lineup at cornerback. However, it ended up being Louis Breeden, a first-year player who intercepted three passes on his way to 33 in ten years with the club. Rookie Ross Browner from Notre Dame, the team’s first draft choice, was to fill Bacon’s place. The three-man front that had alienated Bacon didn’t last the season, but Browner, who was injured at the start, came on strong in the second half. It was a disappointing year for the Bengals as a whole as they dropped to 4-12 following six straight records of .500 or better. Things would not turn around until 1981, when Cincinnati surged to the AFC Championship, and Breeden and Browner were both still starting in the defensive unit.
The veteran players filled areas of need for Washington. Parrish was expected to replace the retired Pat Fischer and it was hoped that Bacon would improve the pass rush. Parrish played well when healthy, but a broken arm cost him five games. Bacon (pictured below) started off strong but faded as the season progressed, along with other aging veterans on the defense. Washington followed suit in going 8-8, its worst record since the pre-George Allen year of 1970.
Both players had better seasons in 1979 and beyond. Parrish intercepted nine passes and was a consensus first-team All-NFL choice as well as Pro Bowl selection. He was selected to the Pro Bowl once more in ’80 and was traded to Buffalo following the 1981 season. Overall, he intercepted 21 of his career total of 47 passes in a Washington uniform (he picked off one last throw as a member of the Bills in ’82).
Bacon was unofficially credited with 15 sacks in 1979 and 11 in ’80. At age 39 and clearly past his prime, though, he had difficulties with new Head Coach Joe Gibbs and was waived prior to the 1981 season. He came back to play for the Washington Federals of the USFL in 1983. Unofficially, he was credited with 130 sacks over the course of his career.
As for the first draft pick that the Bengals acquired for 1979, it was used to take RB Charles Alexander from LSU, a two-time All-American who was nicknamed “Alexander the Great”. His pro career was not great, however, although he lasted for seven seasons in Cincinnati and was part of the 1981 AFC Championship team. He rushed for 2645 yards, averaging 3.5 yards per carry, caught 165 passes for 1130 yards, and scored a total of 15 touchdowns. Alexander’s best season was his second in 1980 when he achieved career highs in rushing (169 carries, 702 yards) and pass receptions (36).