Order the new book, The United States Football League, 1982–1986.
Years of existence: 1983-1984
Owner: Jim Joseph (1983), Dr. Ted Diethrich (1984)
Stadium: Sun Devil Stadium (70,030)
Colors: Flag blue, yellow, red, copper and white 1983; Red, copper, yellow, flag blue and white 1984
Overall Regular Season Record: 14-22
Overall Playoff Record: 2-1
Yearly Standings and Average Home Attendances1983: 4-14 (25,776)
1984: 10-8 (25,568)
The Wranglers were actually two different teams, the struggling 1983 squad of Doug Shively and the 1984 team that made it all the way to the second USFL championship game. This was due to the swapping of the Arizona and Chicago Blitz franchises after the 1983 season. Dr. Ted Diethrich of Arizona owned the Blitz and was finally able to work out the trade to own the team in his neck of the desert. The exchange meant that the strong Blitz squad became the new Wranglers and the weak Wranglers became the new Chicago entry.
Arizona started fairly well in its inaugural season, as the Wranglers went 4-4 over the first eight weeks and were tied for the lead in the Pacific Division. The bottom fell out there, though, and they lost the final 10 games in the first year. It's not difficult to see why. Arizona scored the fewest points in the league and tied the Washington Federals (who else?) by giving up the most. QB Alan Risher was steady, throwing for 2,672 yards with 20 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Jackie Flowers caught 63 passes for 869 yards and 11 scores.
The 1984 team got off to a slow start after the move from Chicago (a handful of original Wranglers remained with the club), but righted the ship and earned a wild card spot in the playoffs with a 10-8 mark. They traveled to Houston for their first playoff game, and scored two touchdowns in the final seven minutes to beat the Gamblers, 17-16. Next up was the Los Angeles Express in the Western Conference championship. L.A. should have hosted the game, but preparations for the Olympics made that impossible. Arizona hosted but had to postpone the game several hours because of extreme heat. When the clubs finally played in 100-plus degree temperatures, the Wranglers wilted the Express with 21 fourth-quarter points in a 35-23 win. The season ended bitterly when Arizona was manhandled by the Philadelphia Stars, 23-3, in the second USFL Championship at Tampa.
Coach George Allen's Wranglers relied heavily on their ground game in 1984. Tim Spencer topped the team with 1,212 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns, and Kevin Long added 1,010 yards and 15 scores. Arizona scored the third most points in the league and gave up the second fewest. Veteran QB Greg Landry threw for 3,534 yards with 26 TDs and 15 interceptions, and Trumaine Johnson caught 90 balls for 1,268 yards and 13 scores. Defensively, end John Lee led the USFL with 20 sacks, while end Karl Lorch added 13.5 and tackle Kit Lathrop contributed 13.
Following the season, Diethrich decided it was time to join forces with another team. The Wranglers eventually merged with Bill Tatham's Oklahoma Outlaws, and the Arizona Outlaws were born.Their Finest Hour: Although their journey to the 1984 title game was memorable, particularly their playoff win over the Gamblers, the 1983 team played a game that won't be forgotten by anyone who saw it. In week two, the Wranglers, who had been whipped 24-0 by the Oakland Invaders the week before, played the vaunted Chicago Blitz, 28-7 winners over Washington the previous week and the favorite to win it all. Chicago ran out to a 29-12 lead by early in the fourth quarter, but Arizona quarterback Alan Risher didn't quit. He immediately directed Arizona on an 85-yard TD drive culminating with a miraculous, falling two-point conversion throw. The Wranglers held the Chicago offense and Risher directed a 55-yard scoring drive to pull Arizona within two. The Arizona defense stood tall again, and the Wranglers took over on their own 42 with only 1:06 left in the game. Risher guided the team down the field to the Blitz 16 where kicker Jim Asmus nailed a 33-yard field goal with one second left for a 30-29 Wranglers' win.
1983-84 Arizona Wranglers Roster|
1985 Arizona Wranglers Roster (prior to merger)
Arizona Wranglers Website
1983 Arizona Wranglers Statistics |
1984 Arizona Wranglers Statistics