1983: The Denver Gold owned by real estate mogul Ron Blanding looked to bring in familiar names to help promote the USFL to fans throughout the Rockies. Among the familiar faces running the Gold was Coach Red Miller, who had led the NFL’s Denver Broncos to Super Bowl XII. The move paid off, as the Denver Gold playing at Mile High Stadium led the USFL in attendance averaging 41,736 fans per game. While other teams in the USFL were free spending, the Gold chose to keep player salaries in check, and had a roster of mostly unknown and unproven players. The Gold had a solid, defense led by Kyle Whittingham and Putt Choate, but struggled on offense as they went through four different quarterbacks. No quarterback struggled more than Jeff Knapple, who led the Gold in passing yards, with 1,191, while having an embarrassing 3-19 touchdown to interception ratio. Ken Johnson was not much better, passing 1,115 yards with six touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Late in the season Denver’s offensive struggles and mounting tension between Coach Red Miller and ownership led to a change, as Miller was relieved of his duties after a 4-7 start. After Charley Armey lost his lone game as interim coach, Craig Morton, who as quarterback led the Broncos to the Super Bowl took over the remainder of the season and led the Gold to a 3-3 record over the final six games resulting in a final record of 7-11.
1984: Craig Morton remained on as coach of the Denver Gold as they entered their second season. The Gold continued to play on a budget, as they made no efforts to land big name players through free agency or the draft. This would pay off as Ron Blading sold the Gold to auto dealer Doug Spedding for $10 million, making himself the only USFL owner to make a profit. Craig Penrose, played well early in the season, helping the Gold win seven of their first eight games passing for 1,984 yards with 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. The Gold rushing attack was led by Harry Sydney who gained 961 yards, with 12 touchdowns. However, after a Penrose suffered an injury, the Gold again found themselves in a quarterback shuffle as Bob Gagliano, Fred Mortensen and rookie Ken Hobart split time over the second half of the season as the Gold lost eight of their last ten games and finished with a record of 9-9. Despite their continued struggles, the Gold remained the USFL’s leader in attendance, drawing 33,953 fans.
1985: As the USFL’s third season got underway, the Denver Gold changed coaches again, hiring Run & Shoot guru Mouse Davis. Davis employed a two quarterback quick pace scheme with Bob Gagliano and Vince Evans sharing the duties. Each had solid numbers with Gagliano passing for 2,695 yards with 13 touchdowns, while Evans passed for 2,259 yards, with 12 touchdowns. In addition, Vince Evans was dual threat rushing for 283 yards with seven scores. The new approach paid off as the Gold made the playoffs for the first time by finishing second in the Western Conference win a record of 11-7. However, as the Gold started to win fan support crashed, as the move to the fall basically left them as a lame duck. Owner Doug Spedding was one of two owners opposed to the USFL’s move to the fall for the 1986 season, and was in discussions with Tampa Bay Bandit Owner John Bassett over starting a new spring football league. Part of the opposition was apprehension to challenge the NFL and the Denver Broncos. The feeling extended to the fans as the Gold averaged just 14,446 less than half the previous year and a third of what they drew in the USFL’s first season.
1985 USFL Playoffs: The Denver Gold would travel the Liberty Bowl for their first playoff game against the Memphis Showboats. The Gold had been the higher seed, but the ABC Television Network afraid of showing an empty Mile High Stadium, pressured to have the game played in Memphis. The game was over before it even began as the Showboats defense led by Reggie White smothered Vince Evans and the Denver offense, taking a 13-0 halftime lead. Things only got uglier in the second half as the Showboats cruised to a 48-7 win, for the largest postseason blow in USFL history.
1986: Plans for a new spring league never came to fruition, as Tampa Owner John Bassit became seriously ill due to a battle with cancer. Without a new league to join, the Gold briefly considered relocating before cutting their losses and merging with the Jacksonville Bulls. However, the move to the fall would never come to fruition as a the USFL’s lawsuit against the NFL resulted in a $1 reward despite winning the case, which ended up forcing the league to cease operations.
©MMXVII 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 Denver Gold 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 January 16, 2017. Last updated on January 16, 2017at 1:00 am ET.