American Football Database
Known forNFL General Manager

Joe Thomas was a former National Football League (NFL) general manager and also served as the head coach of the Baltimore Colts for part of the 1974 season.

Thomas was director of player personnel for the Minnesota Vikings and the Miami Dolphins in the 1960s, staying with the latter until after the 1971 season, when he was fired by team owner Joe Robbie. Prior to the next campaign, he arranged for Robert Irsay to purchase the Los Angeles Rams for $19 million before exchanging them for Carroll Rosenbloom's Baltimore Colts in the most bizarre transaction in NFL history.[1] As a result of this deal, Thomas became general manager of the Colts. After a 5–9–0 finish in 1972, the first losing record in sixteen years, Thomas began rebuilding the team, albeit controversially. It all started on January 22, 1973 when Johnny Unitas was traded to the San Diego Chargers. During the next ten days, Tom Matte would follow Unitas to San Diego, Bill Curry was sent to the Houston Oilers, Billy Newsome to the New Orleans Saints, Norm Bulaich to the Philadelphia Eagles and Jerry Logan to the Rams.[2] By the end of 1976, he had had five different head coaches in his five-year tenure, having fired Super Bowl V-winning coach Don McCafferty after just five games in 1972. then following him with John Sandusky, Howard Schnellenberger. Thomas himself, and Ted Marchibroda. When he targeted Marchibroda next, despite two straight Colts playoff seasons, Irsay had had enough and fired Thomas.

Thomas then was hired as GM of the San Francisco 49ers in 1977 by new owner Eddie DeBartolo at the recommendation of Al Davis and immediately fired head coach Monte Clark.[3] The 49ers went 7-23 in Thomas' two seasons with the franchise, and his biggest trade, a series of 5 high draft picks for O.J. Simpson, was a colossal bust, as Simpson proved to be washed up. Thomas also fired two more head coaches, Ken Meyer and Pete McCulley, and Thomas' third hire, Fred O'Connor, was fired along with Thomas at the end of the 1978 season. Fortunately for the 49ers, the new GM/head coach, Bill Walsh, targeted a quarterback in the third round named Joe Montana, and the two of them restored San Francisco's franchise from the lows under Thomas.