New Jersey Generals
1983: By far the most notable team in the USFL was the entry in the New York market. Like the NFL’s New York Giants, the team would play in the Meadowlands, but identified with the state they played in becoming the New Jersey Generals. The Generals were owned by an up and coming real estate mogul named Donald Trump. Trump was just starting to make his mark on the New York skyline with the opening of Trump Tower and was quickly becoming the biggest mover and shaker in the big apple. Donald Trump looked to have the same impact on the world of professional football and made the earth shattering move of signing Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker. Trump along with co-owner J. Walter Duncan signed Walker to a personal services contract worth $4.2 million, more than double the $1.8 million salary cap. However, the contract circumvented the USFL salary cap and sent a president that would be used in later big signings. At the time the NFL banned underclassmen from entering the draft. The USFL had planned to honor that deal but after the Generals signed Herschel Walker who won the Heisman as a Junior at Georgia, realized such bans would not hold up in court and later opened the door for the NFL to follow suit. Before the season began, Donald Trump stepped away from the Generals and the USFL to concentrate on creating his casino in Atlantic City, which would help turn at least for a few years into an Eastern Las Vegas. On the field the New Jersey Generals coached by Chuck Fairbanks were not as successful as they struggled in their first season. The Generals dropped their first four games before beating the Arizona Wranglers 35-21. The Generals struggles though would continue as they finished the season with a record of 6-12 as their defense was one of the worst in the USFL allowing 437 points. Despite the poor showing, Herschel Walker had a solid season, leading the league in rushing with 1,812 yards and 17 touchdowns.
1984: Tired of traveling from Oklahoma Owner J. Walter Duncan gives up control of the New Jersey Generals as Donald Trump retakes the reigns, and begins having bigger designs on the future of the USFL. It is a year of quick transition before the Generals second season as Coach Chuck Fairbanks who also had an ownership share steps down. The Generals attempted to make another big splash with their next coach, as they attempted to lure Don Shula away from the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. However, a deal could not be reached as Shula requested a free condo inside Trump Tower. After the deal with Don Shula fell through New Jersey settled on former New York Jets Coach Walt Michaels. The Generals were successful in other pursuits as they poached former NFL MVP Brian Sipe away from the Cleveland Browns. They also added for All-Pro Safety Gary Barbaro, and linebackers Jim LeClair and Bobby Leopold to help their beleaguered defense. It was clear early that the Generals were improved as they won their first three games on the way to posting a solid record of 14-4. A key to the Generals turnaround was their backfield as Herschel Walker and Maurice Carthon shared the workload and each rushed for over 1,000 yards with Walker rushing for 1,339 yards with 16 touchdowns, while Carthon gained 1,042 yards with 11 scores.
1984 USFL Playoffs: During the regular season the Generals were the only team to beat the Philadelphia Stars, winning twice against their Atlantic Division rivals. The game was played at Franklin Field due to a scheduled Philadelphia Phillies playoff game, showing the pitfalls of spring football, which had so far only achieved moderate success. However, since the lockers at Franklin Field were too small the Generals and Stars needed to dress at the Vet and walk a block in uniform past the Spectrum. After a scoreless first quarter, the Stars erupted for 21 points in the second quarter and never looked back, winning the game 28-7 as they went on to win the USFL Championship Game.
1985: As the USFL entered its third season, Donald Trump had become of the league’s most influential owners and with attendance figures and league profits not living up to expectations, he led an effort to make the USFL challenge NFL directly by moving their games to the fall in 1986. At the same time the New Jersey Generals trumped the NFL again, signing Heisman winner Doug Flutie to a five-year deal worth $7 million. To pave the way for Flutie to get the starting job, Brian Sipe is traded to the Jacksonville Bulls. Flutie played well for a rookie, passing for 2,109 yards with 13 touchdowns before suffering a broken collar bone in Week 15 against the Memphis Showboats. Meanwhile the Generals other Heisman star, Herschel Walker was setting records, rushing a professional record 2,411 yards with 21 touchdowns. Led by Walker who was named the USFL MVP the Generals posted a record of 11-7 to qualify for the playoffs.
1985 USFL Playoffs: The New Jersey Generals hoped to have Doug Flutie for the playoffs, but the rookie quarterback was not fully recovered when they faced the Baltimore Stars at the Meadowlands in the quarterfinals. The Stars may have posted a mediocre 10-7-1 record but were still considered one of the league’s best teams and Owner Donald Trump expressed doubt his team could beat them in the playoffs especially with Ron Reeves playing quarterback. Unfortunately for the Generals, Trump was right as the Stars defense limited Herschel Walker to 56 yards on 25 carries. The Stars dominated early taking a 13-0 lead in the first quarter and held on to win 20-17.
1986: The move to the fall was met many pitfalls, as just eight teams remained in the USFL, with teams folding and merging as they were unable to secure stadium deals with the NFL playing aggressive defense. The New Jersey Generals would benefit as they took over the Houston Gamblers debts, which set them up to be a potential super team with Jim Kelly and Ricky Sanders, as Gamblers coach Jack Pardee was hired to replace Walt Michaels. However, the Generals super team would never see the field as the USFL’s fall season was cancelled as the league folded. The NFL had prevented the USFL from getting a television contract and made it difficult for the teams to get stadium deals. The USFL would sue the NFL claiming the league was a monopoly, even though the goal was for the NFL to merge and allow the USFL’s owners to recover their debts as spring football though having a nice niche audience was not making a profit. The USFL would win the suit, but in a strange twist was only rewarded $1, which destroyed any chance of the league being able to continue. Jim Kelly would go on to have a Hall of Fame career with the Buffalo Bills, while Herschel Walker went on to the Dallas Cowboys and was later part of the biggest trade in NFL history allowing Dallas to build a dynasty in the draft. Doug Flutie had a long professional career, though most of his success was in Canada.
©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 New Jersey Generals 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 4, 2016. Last updated on December 4, 2016 at 9:00 pm ET.