1983: The road to Arizona was long and winding for the USFL. It began when Alex Spanos who had planned to own the Los Angeles franchise pulled out to purchase the NFL’s San Diego Chargers. Jim Joseph and Tad Taube who jointly owned the Oakland Invaders had a chance to take over the Los Angeles Express with a coin flip. Johnson won and took over the USFL’s Los Angeles entry. Meanwhile cable television pioneers Bill Daniels and Alan Harmon, could not secure access to Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego. Feeling that they would be better suited to own the Express, Daniels and Harmon displaced Jim Joseph who was given a chance to own another team and chose Phoenix market. Jim Joseph wanted to keep cost under control and did not spend as much as the other USFL teams. Coached by Doug Shively the Arizona Wranglers played well in the early part of the season as they split their first eight games. However, the gap of talent would show itself the rest of the season as they dropped their last ten games and finished at 4-14 which matched the Washington Federals for the worst record in the USFL’s first season. Part of the Wranglers struggles was most of their late season games were on the road to avoid the grueling summer heat in Arizona. Despite the Wranglers struggles, Alan Risher was the league’s sixth leading passer with 2,672 passing yards and 20 touchdowns with 16 interceptions.
1984: Despite their cost-efficient ways the Arizona Wranglers lost millions like the rest of the league. Owner Jim Johnson wanted to be part of the USFL but was unwilling to stick it out in Arizona. Chicago Blitz Owner Dr. Ted Diethrich a Phoenix resident, who founded the Arizona Heart Institute, wanted a chance to move closer to his business interests in the Phoenix area. The Blitz were the third best team in the 1983 season and a decision was made for complete trade of teams. The players and coaches in Chicago became Arizona Wranglers and vice versa. The deal would raise major questions about the USFL’s legitimacy. Now coached by Hall of Famer George Allen the transformed Arizona Wranglers continued their success from Chicago and were now a contender while the old Wranglers continued to struggled going 5-13 in Chicago. In a complete reversal of their first season, the Wranglers finished strong winning their last four games to post a record of 10-8. Greg Landry was a key to the Wranglers strong season, passing for 3,534 yards with 26 touchdowns, while Kit Lathrop was named outstanding lineman as Arizona had one of the USFL’s strongest defenses.
1984 USFL Playoffs: Matched against the high-power offense of the Houston Gamblers, the Arizona Wranglers defense did a good job keeping the game close, but down 16-3 in the fourth quarter it appeared the game was slipping away. However, Arizona got a break when Dale Walters shanked a punt, taking advantage Tim Spencer cut the deficit to six points with a 20-yard scoring run with 6:11 left. Walters would shank another punt to set up the Wranglers again, this time it was Greg Landry connecting with Doug Dennison on an 11-yard touchdown pass with 1:49 left to win the game 17-16 at the Astrodome. In the USFL Semifinals the Wranglers caught a break as they faced the Los Angeles Express, who they lost the divisional tiebreak against However, do to the Summer Olympics in LA the game was moved from the Los Angeles Coliseum to Sun Devils Stadium. The game was tight throughout, with the Wranglers taking the lead for good 40 second into fourth quarter as Kevin Long scored to cap a ten play 80-yard drive. The Wranglers added two more fourth quarter touchdowns to win the game 35-23 to advance to the second USFL Championship Game.
1984 USFL Championship Game: The Arizona Wranglers would face the Philadelphia Stars in Tampa. The Stars scored on the game’s opening possession and never looked back, as the Wranglers never got anything going against the Philadelphia defense. Part of the problem was the Stars ball control as they had a time of possession of 43:19. The Stars would manage just a Frank Corral field goal as the Stars won the game 23-3. The game would be the final for both George Allen and Greg Landry who retired following the game. Initially assistant coach Paul Lanham was going to take over as the Wranglers head coach, but due to Owner Dr. Ted Diethrich’s continued money losses the Wranglers on the verge of folding decided to merge with the Oklahoma Outlaws. The team would combine players and became the Arizona Outlaws.
©MMXVI Tank Productions. Stats researched by Frank Fleming, all information, and team names are property of the United States Football League. This site is not affiliated with the Arizona Wranglers of the USFL. This site is maintained for research purposes only. All logos used on this page were from Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos Page.
Page created on December 20, 2016. Last updated on December 20, 2016 at 11:00 pm ET.