Order the new book, The United States Football League, 1982–1986.
New Jersey Generals
Years of existence: 1983-1985
Owner: J. Walter Duncan, Chuck Fairbanks (1983), Donald Trump (1984-)
Stadium: Giants Stadium (76,891)
Colors: Scarlet, white, royal blue and metallic gold
Overall Regular Season Record: 31-23 (.574)
Overall Playoff Record: 0-2
Yearly Standings and Average Home Attendances1983: 6-12 (35,004)
1984: 14-4 (37,716)
1985: 11-7 (41,268)
The league's cornerstone franchise, the New Jersey Generals did little to deflect any attention given to them. They began with the February 23 signing of underclassman RB Herschel Walker, the Heisman Trophy winner in 1982, to a whopping contract. Inking a college player with remaining eligibility was then a no-no and caused the league scouting problems when several universities closed their doors to USFL scouts. The Generals argued, correctly by the way, that had Walker pursued the matter in court, he would have won anyway. Whatever the case, the USFL had signed its first huge name.
As would become his trademark with New Jersey, Walker started slowly but bounced back to lead the league with 1,812 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns. He also led the team with 53 catches for 489 yards. Other than Walker, coach Chuck Fairbanks' Generals were terrible. Their defense gave up more points (437) than any other team besides Washington and Arizona (442 each), and their quarterbacks tossed 29 interceptions to just 12 touchdown passes.
Donald Trump, who had been interested in the franchise from the beginning, bought the team from J. Walter Duncan and Chuck Fairbanks at the conclusion of the 1983 season and immediately opened his wallet to pro football's top talent. He hired popular former Jets coach (doesn't that sound weird) Walt Michaels and lured former NFL MVP quarterback Brian Sipe away from the Browns. He also built the team defensively by signing all-pro defensive back Gary Barbaro and linebackers Willie Harper, Bobby Leopold and Jim LeClair. Besides signing talent, Trump also busied himself with the task of convincing his fellow owners of the need to move to a fall schedule and head-to-head competition with the NFL.
As expected, the Generals were vastly improved in 1984. They recorded a 14-4 mark and handed the Philadelphia Stars their only two losses of the year. Walker finished with 1,339 yards rushing and 16 scores. Sipe threw for 2,540 yards with 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, not spectacular but a vast improvement for New Jersey. But the Generals' biggest improvements were on defense where they moved to third in the USFL. Unfortunately, New Jersey was completely dismantled by the Philadelphia Stars, 28-7, in the first round of the playoffs.
Again Trump flashed his cash and this time landed Heisman-winning quarterback Doug Flutie fot the 1985 season. Although most observers felt that Flutie needed time to develop, Trump traded Sipe to Jacksonville, ensuring Flutie would start. Despite a slow start and a broken collarbone, Flutie threw for 2,109 yards with 13 TDs and 14 picks and scrambled for 465 yards and six touchdowns, a decent first season considering the pressure he was under. Walker, however, was the star of the show. He set a new professional football record with 2,411 yards rushing and added 21 scores on the ground. Once again, though, New Jersey ran into the buzzsaw Stars in the playoffs and fell, 20-17.
Not done yet, Trump began building for 1986. He finally engineered a merger with the Houston Gamblers that saw the addition of Jim Kelly and his receiving corps. But the USFL's dream team never took the field. The league called off the 1986 season at the conclusion of the antitrust suit against the NFL. Trump was the one who pushed for the move to the fall, and he was also the one who pulled the plug on the season.Their Finest Hour: From the beginning, the Generals were inextricably linked with one player- Herschel Walker. It's been said that Walker bore the weight of the league on his shoulders, the star player for the USFL's most important franchise. For much of his career with the Generals, Walker struggled to get the respect he deserved. That finally ended 16 games into the 1985 season against the Jacksonville Bulls. The Generals had lost Doug Flutie with a shoulder injury the prior week and desperately needed a win to keep pace with the Birmingham Stallions. But once again the focus was on Walker, who had run for more than 100 yards the past nine games and whose 1,961 yards were just 144 short of Eric Dickerson's pro record for yards in a season. The Generals led, 14-10, at halftime on TD runs by Walker and Maurice Carthon. Needing 51 yards to break Dickerson's mark, Walker took a handoff, cut to the middle, shed two tacklers, and raced 55 yards for the touchdown in a game New Jersey would win, 31-24. Walker accomplished the feat in 16 games, the same as Dickerson, and would go on to run for 2,411 yards and 21 TDs on the season.
1983 New Jersey Generals Roster |
1984 New Jersey Generals Roster
1985 New Jersey Generals Roster
1983 New Jersey Generals Statistics |
1984 New Jersey Generals Statistics
1985 New Jersey Generals Statistics