1983: Before they even took the field, the Washington Federals seemed to be doomed. Hoping the afterglow of the Washington Redskins Super Bowl XVII victory could boost interest in the new league, the Washington Federals instead were blinded, and shunned by fans who showed no interest in the USFL from the start. Owned by prominent Washington attorney Berl Bernhard and coached by Ray Jauch, who had some success in the CFL, the Federals did have a decent crowd of 38,007 as they hosted the Chicago Blitz in the USFL’s first game at RFK Stadium. However, some of that crowd was curiosity and the return of former Redskins Coach George Allen who led the Blitz to a 28-7 victory. Attendance would never again come close to that number as the Federals would quickly drop to the bottom of the league. After losing their next two games on the road, the Federals drew just 11,404 fans at RFK Stadium as they beat the Michigan Panthers 22-16 in overtime for their first win on Kim McQuilken’s 22-yard pass to Joey Walters. The Panthers would go on to win the first USFL Championship, the Federals would go on to lose their next nine games, quickly establishing themselves as the worst team in the new league’s first season. The road to 1-13 was paved with much frustration, as Owner Berl Bernhard compared them to a bunch of trained gerbils. The Feds had several close losses including a 22-21 loss to the Arizona Wranglers in Week 6. Leading 21-16 late in the fourth quarter, the Federals were turned away at the goaline, when Joe Gilliam’s quarterback sneak fell short. Rather than go for a field goal they tried to pad the lead, turning the ball over on downs. One play later Allan Risher and Jackie Flower connected on a 98-yard touchdown to win the game for Arizona 22-21. That loss all but summed up the Federals first season. Injuries were a major reason behind the struggles as they rotated through three quarterbacks, including Joe Gilliam a former Pittsburgh Steeler who once battled Terry Bradshaw for the starting job, but had been out of the game for more than five years after battling heroin addiction. The Federals would finish the season strong, winning their three of their last four games, including a 21-14 win over the USFL’s best team the Philadelphia Stars in the final game of the season. However, their 4-14 record would rank worst along with the Wranglers. In his comeback attempt Joe Gilliam finished with 673 yards with five touchdowns and 12 interceptions, while Kim McQuilken’s was the team’s leading passer with 1,912 yards seven touchdowns and 14 picks. Mike Hohensee also saw plenty of action with 1,297 yards, with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. Craig James was the Federals leading rusher with 823 yards, before his season ended with a neck injury.
1984: Despite their struggles, Owner Berl Bernhard decided to stick it out in Washington for one more year, as the Washington Redskins fell short of repeating, losing to the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XVIII. As for the Washington Federals, their future was summed up in the first game of the season as they suffered a humiliating 53-14 loss to the expansion Jacksonville Bulls. Following the loss all three starting linebackers were cut as Coach Dick Jauch was fired. Former Maryland Terrapins and Dallas Cowboys running back Dick Bielski would take over the coaching reigns but the news only got worse as Craig James suffered a season ending knee injury. The Federals would go on to lose their first eight games, before beating the Oakland Invaders in Week 9 on the road 31-14. The Federals however, would once again be the worst team in the USFL, posting a record of 3-15, despite an 31-17 upset win over the New Jersey Generals in Week 12 and a 20-17 win over the New Orleans Breakers to end the season. The 3-15 record was matched by the Pittsburgh Maulers, who in posting their 3-15 record had beaten the Federals twice. Despite the terrible season, Mike Hohensee had respectable numbers passing for 2,766 yards with 17 touchdowns and 20 interceptions, while Joey Walters was one of the top receivers in the league with 1,410 yards and 13 touchdowns. With the loss of Craig James, Curtis Bledsoe took over the rushing lead, running for 1,080 yards with seven scores. The Federals struggles combined with the continued Redskins success all but made success of a USFL team impossible, as the Federals played in a nearly empty RFK Stadium, averaging just 7,694 fans, the worst in the league. With a combined 7-29 record in two seasons and no fan interest there was no choice but to sell the team. After a deal to move to Miami fell apart with the USFL moving its games to the fall in 1986, the Washington Federals were on their way to Disney World, as they were rebranded the Orlando Renegades.
©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 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 January 30, 2017. Last updated on January 30, 2017 at 11:30 pm ET.