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USFL Alternative History: 1985 to...

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And as the Spring and Summer of 2004 played out in the USFL, fans in Las Vegas and Salt Lake City voiced their opinions on the future identity of their respective expansion franchises.  Which would you have chosen?

 

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Locos for Las Vegas. Stags for UTAH!

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Vipers and Stags

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Las Vegas Locos and UTAH Swarm...

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Vipers and U T A H Swarm.

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Las Vegas Vipers and Utah Stags.

 

But seriously, whatever the actual team name it gets, the locale for Salt Lake's team should be Utah. I cannot emphasize this enough.

 

Edited by DustDevil61
But seriously

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Las Vegas Locos and Salt Lake (City not included) Stags.

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Vipers and I'm so torn for the Utah team. Umm ummm ummmm ummmmm. The Swarm I guess.  Luv the violet color helmet 

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2005 USFL Season

The 2004 offseason began even before the 2004 USFL Championship was played, as one of the legends of the league, Coach Lindy Infante, who had been a head coach for 20 seasons with the Bulls and Blitz, announced his retirement.  The franchise opted to promote from within, despite the struggles of Infante’s recent Bulls squad, tabbing OC Mark Trestman as the new head coach, the youngest in the league.

 

It was not soon after this that two more retirements made front page news as Breakers QB Vinny Testaverde and San Jose QB Rich Gannon also announced their retirements.  The Breakers, still critiqued for the Favre-Testaverde trade, opted to rely on untested 3rd year backup Seneca Wallace, but San Jose had a prime candidate for their position in their sights as part of the territorial draft.  With their first pick in the territorial draft, the Samurai selected Cal QB Aaron Rodgers.  They quickly signed the local star and started selling newly designed jerseys with the #12 like hotcakes.

 

In addition to changes in New Orleans and San Jose, the 2004-2005 offseason could be called the Year of the QB Change.  No less than 7 teams either opted to replace their starter or found a young player in the draft who would lead to a controversy at the position.   New Jersey, dissatisfied with the inability of their qb’s to get the ball to Randy Moss, signed NY Jets QB Chad Pennington, an odd choice since he was infamous for his inability to chuck the deep ball.  However his accuracy in the short game would provide the Generals with record-breaking YAC statistics in 2005.

 

In Washington, the Sean King experiment had failed utterly and King was shipped off to San Antonio, who had dumped Sage Rosenfels.  There King would compete with 3rd year backup Chris Simms for starts.  The Federals replaced King by opening up the wallet and signing former Charger Drew Brees.  Brees, who had been unhappy with his demotion following the Chargers’ signing of Tom Brady, was eager to find a new home.  He quickly became the face of the Federals franchise.

 

The draft also provided several QB options beyond San Jose’s choice of Aaron Rodgers.  By season’s end both Pittsburgh and Baltimore were starting rookie QB’s,  the Blitz starting Purdue grad Kyle Orton on the first week of the season and Pittsburgh, who were expected to suffer through another long season with former Cowboy Quincy Carter at the helm took a late round flyer on Harvard’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, and by the midpoint of the season he was called on to replace an injured Carter and never gave up the reins.   

 

Other rookies who would find success in 2005 were Birmingham’s territorial pick, RB Cadillac Williams from Auburn, who paired with 2004’s rookie pick Eli Manning to help Birmingham move from 24th in the league to 12th in offensive production.   In Dallas, the defending champs opted to expand their passing game with the signing of Oklahoma wideout Mark Clayton, while in Jacksonville the Bulls reemphasized the run game with Miami Hurricane RB Frank Gore.  But, despite all of the offensive stars who signed with the USFL in 2005, by the season’s end it was unheralded LB Channing Crowder of the Orlando Renegades who walked away with the ROY award, having quickly developed into a turnover-producing machine, with 4 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles and 4 fumble recoveries, including an astonishing sack-fumble-return vs. Tampa that became instant highlight reel material.

 

In other news, league owners announced a new league alignment and schedule to go into effect in 2006 with their expansion to 28 teams.  The league would be divided into 2 conferences, an East and a West.  There was considerable debate about the structure as both of the easternmost divisions were the smaller 4-team divisions, but these were divided among the two conferences for now, with an understanding that future expansion (already in the works) to 30 teams would remedy the situation soon enough and allow for a true geographical alignment. 

 

The league, citing concerns about safety and injury prevention, as well as increased exposure, opted to expand their 14 week season to 16 weeks, but with 2 bye weeks per team.  Each franchise would play 14 games and have bye weeks both within weeks 5-8 and 10-13.  The byes were set up so that teams on a bye would face each other (typically division games) the following week, creating parity in preparation time between both clubs. 

 

Finally, the Las Vegas Vipers and Utah Stags were introduced as the two new franchises for 2006.  Utah had actually passed through a difficult negotiation between team owners, the city of Salt Lake, the state of Utah and the University of Utah regarding the name of the team.  The city wanted recognition through the use of “Salt Lake”, but the state and the university preferred Utah.  The negotiations hinged on funding for improvements to the university’s stadium, which led to the eventual decision to become the “Utah” Stags, allowing the university to coordinate stadium signage and the endzones with a “Utah” designation which worked for both the Utes and the Stags.  Both teams were announced midseason, with uniform and full logo packages to be unveiled at the 2006 USFL Draft the following Winter.

 

On the field the 2005 season was one of the league’s best.  Outstanding QB play, highlighted by young stars such as Philly’s Ben Roethlisberger, LA’s Carson Palmer, and Memphis’s Steve McNair, led their teams to the playoffs, while electric RB’s such as rookie Frank Gore in Jacksonville, Curtis Martin in Philly, Julio Jones in Chicago and Eddie George in Orlando made for a dynamic season in which we saw greater parity (11 teams finish within 1 game of .500) and greater opportunity.  The Federals returned to the playoffs for the first time since 1994 with Drew Brees at the helm.  Boston, on the flipside, struggled with both injuries and inner turmoil, only qualifying for the playoffs on the final week of the season thanks to a Portland loss to the Express which knocked them out. 

 

In the playoffs top seeds did what top seeds do, with all 4 bye teams knocking off their wildcard challengers and advancing to the Semifinals.  In the Semi’s Philly’s combination of deep balls from Roethlisberger to Toomer and gashing runs from Curtis Martin, the league’s MVP in 2005, overpowered Memphis, while in the other semi, the methodical short game of Matt Hasselbeck, and a tenacious Michigan defense led by Chris Hovan kept the Express at bay and confounded 2nd year QB Carson Palmer.

 

The Stars and the Panthers met in the league championship, a rematch of the very first USFL Championship in 2003.  This time, however, Jim Mora, in his second stint as Stars’ head coach, would not be denied.  The Panthers were up to the challenge and the game was close throughout, but when the Panthers took the lead with 3:01 left in the game, there was a sense in the stadium that they had scored too quickly and that the Stars had all the time they needed to mount a game-winning drive.  And so they did, with Ben Roethlisberger playing like a veteran instead of a 2nd year player, the Stars drove down the field with precision, reaching the 11 yard line with 43 seconds left on the clock.  After a failed attempt to catch the Panthers off guard with a draw to Martin, Roethlisberger hit TE Marcus Pollard with a 9 yard TD pass with 27 seconds left on the clock to take the game and to give Jim Mora his 4th USFL Championship.

 

2005 USFL Final Standings

NORTH

 

*PHI      11-3

*WSH    8-6

*BOS     8-6

NJ          6-8

 

ATLANTIC

 

* CHA    9-5

*JAX      8-6

BAL       5-9

ATL       4-10

 

CENTRAL

 

*MICH   11-3

CHI        7-7

PIT         6-8

STL        5-9

CLE       4-10

 

SOUTH

 

*MEM    10-4

*TBY     8-6

*ORL     8-6

BIRM     5-9

NOR      4-9-1

 

WEST

 

*HOU    9-5

*DAL     8-6

SAN      5-9

DEN      3-11

 

PACIFIC

 

*LA      11-3

POR     7-6-1

SJO      7-7

ARZ     4-10

 

 

2005 USFL Playoffs

Wildcard Round        Boston(12) d. Houston(5)             Charlotte(6) d. Orlando(11)

                                  Dallas(7) d. Washington(10)        Tampa Bay(8) d. Jacksonville(9)

 

Divisional Round      Philadelphia(1) d. Boston(12)         Los Angeles(2) d. Tampa Bay(8)

                                 Michigan(3) d. Dallas(7)                 Memphis(4) d. Charlotte(6)

 

Semifinal Round      Philadelphia(1) d. Memphis(4)       Michigan(3) d. Los Angeles(2)

 

2005 USFL Championship      Philadelphia 24  Michigan 22

 

2005 USFL Awards

2006 USFL Most Valuable Player: Curtis Martin, RB, Philadelphia

2006 USFL Coach of the Year: Jack Del Rio, Washington

2006 USFL Rookie of the Year:  LB Channing Crowder, Orlando

 

2005 USFL Relocation, Expansion and Uniform/Logo Redesign

  1. The Las Vegas Vipers and Utah Stags were announced, but full design/uniforms were delayed until the 2006 USFL Draft.
  2. The New Jersey Generals created a new secondary logo and wordmark that incorporated a silhouette of the state and the NJ initials.  New Uniforms featured the new logo on the pants, and a larger 5-star logo on the helmets.
  3. The Jacksonville Bulls, trying to revamp their image as they began with a new coach, returned the charging bull logo to the sleeves, something they had not worn since the 1991 season.  The logo charged across the new grey sleeves and yolk on the Nike designed uniforms.
  4. San Jose also opted to update their uniform and their logo, now featuring a metallic silver number scheme on the home jerseys and a greater presence of silver throughout.

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The Jacksonville Bulls reemphasize their dark grey/gunmetal and return the charging bull to their sleeve with their 2005 uniform update. 

 

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In New Jersey, emphasis on their squad as a NJ team is heightened with the new secondary logo.  

 

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And in San Jose a modified logo update and a greater emphasis on their "katana steel" silver creates a modern look for the Samurai.

 

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I bet the vipers will have sweet uniforms. The stags.....Colors are kind of ugly guess we will see lol. Was more in favor or the Swarm but then again there is a lot of Purple currently in the league. 

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