WideRight

USFL Alternative History: 1985 to...

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So was that Gold season the worst in USFL history?

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Okay, so the Breakers lost this time around.

I still think they're going to be the USFL's definitive dynasty by the new millennium.

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Funny question, do the Wranglers have Red home uniforms in this alternate universe? Or do they wear white every game?

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2 hours ago, mkg74 said:

Funny question, do the Wranglers have Red home uniforms in this alternate universe? Or do they wear white every game?

Oh, yeah.  Teams figured out that they don't like to wear them so they started forcing it.  Similar to the Cowboys wearing blue.  

 

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15 hours ago, Jimmy Lethal said:

So was that Gold season the worst in USFL history?

I believe it may be.  Rich Kotite is not likely to survive the offseason. 

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2 hours ago, WideRight said:

I believe it may be.  Rich Kotite is not likely to survive the offseason. 

 

No matter what universe he’s in, Rich Kotite will never have a winning season.

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We are coming up on 1995.   Will the NFL expand to Jacksonville and Charlotte?  Will the Browns leave Cleveland for Baltimore?  How might the presence of the USFL impact these major changes in the NFL?  What are your thoughts, perhaps some of your ideas will make it into the plans.

 

I need a couple of days because I am still working on 1996 expansion designs, but I will say that in 1995 two founding USFL teams will finally have a uniform change, but will it be an overhaul or a tweak?  

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20 hours ago, neo_prankster said:

 

Pretty cool. How are the Outlaws doing in attendance at the Alamodome?

 

Also, will the Gamblers push the Oilers out, or will they be able to co-exist together?

I would say the Outlaws are up and down, as the team has been.  The question is whether or not the presence of the Gamblers makes it easier or harder for the Oilers to get a new stadium deal in Houston.  My general premise is that if the NFL owner is willing to work with the USFL owner, it is actually easier to get a new stadium built because you have 3 parties (2 teams plus public money) so you are asking less of the city, which makes it more viable, but only if the two owners can agree to work together.

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6 minutes ago, WideRight said:

We are coming up on 1995.   Will the NFL expand to Jacksonville and Charlotte?  Will the Browns leave Cleveland for Baltimore?  How might the presence of the USFL impact these major changes in the NFL?  What are your thoughts, perhaps some of your ideas will make it into the plans.

 

I need a couple of days because I am still working on 1996 expansion designs, but I will say that in 1995 two founding USFL teams will finally have a uniform change, but will it be an overhaul or a tweak?  

 

NFL:

Expansion: Carolina for sure, but they might need another cat name if you want to keep the Panthers look. I would have a coin toss between the Jaguars and Ravens for the second spot.

Relocation: I prefer the Rams and Browns stay put. If someone has to move, maybe the Raiders?

 

USFL:

Hmmm...maybe San Diego can get a USFL club if the Chargers end up leaving?

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If the Raiders go back to Oakland, will Al Davis form a partnership with the Invaders to build a new Stadium?  

 

Carolina Wildcats?  :P

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18 hours ago, mkg74 said:

If the Raiders go back to Oakland, will Al Davis form a partnership with the Invaders to build a new Stadium?  

 

Carolina Wildcats?  :P

 

I don't think the Raiders are going back to Oakland since they and the Express built a brand new stadium in Carson.  It opened in 1993, so both the Express and Raiders are staying put.  But, maybe not all USFL teams are as stable as the Express right now.  Who is to say?

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Charlotte Aviators, since, you know, North Carolina was first in flight.

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So... fair warning as the USFL expands during the 1990's.  I really don't think I can bypass the 90's obsession with teal and/or purple.  Just be ready for that because that is going to happen. 

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44 minutes ago, WideRight said:

So... fair warning as the USFL expands during the 1990's.  I really don't think I can bypass the 90's obsession with teal and/or purple.  Just be ready for that because that is going to happen. 

 

Are we also gonna see jerseys with the logos on the chest?

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4 hours ago, neo_prankster said:

 

Are we also gonna see jerseys with the logos on the chest?

No, cannot do that.  Too minor league.  Just like you won't see zubazz pants like in the Arena league.  It is just such an ugly development.  I look at the quality of the USFL designs in the mid 80's and I just have to believe that they, like the NFL, would avoid some of the more extreme uniform trends of the time.  

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1995 Season (part 1)

 

Stunning changes in the NFL in 1995 created a ripple effect which would also dramatically alter the future of the USFL.  Tired of losing significant numbers of draft picks and veterans to the USFL, the NFL and NFLPA developed a new CBA, altering the salary cap concept to allow for higher low-end salaries which would make the USFL salaries outside of the exemption players far less attractive.  This would lead the USFLPA to start to push for changes in the league’s salary system as well.  These discussions became even more tense as the USFL began to negotiate new television contracts with FOX, ABC, ESPN and NBC, which was hoping to get a piece of the pie.  Greater potential for TV money, several profitable seasons for the USFL and a relatively low wage for most USFL players was a combustible formula which would explode one year later.

 

The NFL also saw two major team relocations which would impact the USFL in ways expected and unexpected.  As those in the know had expected, the city of St. Louis, working with the Frontiere family and the USFL’s St. Louis Lightning franchise, agreed to a development plan for a downtown domed stadium.  The Rams announced their immediate relocation to St. Louis just as the 1984 NFL season concluded.  For 2 years it would be a tight schedule in Busch Stadium with the Lightning, Rams and Cardinals all vying for space, but the new stadium helped to buoy the fortunes of the USFL franchise, as did the improved play under Wade Phillips.

 

More shockingly, the NFL approved the relocation of the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore.  Browns fans were stunned, and despite promises from the NFL that a franchise would return to Cleveland within the next few years, fans started to clamor for an alternative, but Cleveland had no USFL bid in the anticipated expansion process, so there could only be one way to acquire a franchise, convince a current USFL team to relocate.  And so a process of wooing began between city officials, local ownership partners and several USFL franchises, particularly those in non-NFL cities who were having difficulties making headway for public funding for stadium renovation or replacement.

 

Also in 1995 the NFL, after an unexpected delay, announced their expansion, now scheduled for the fall of 1996.  The two new franchises would be located in Charlotte, North Carolina and in Jacksonville, Florida.  With Baltimore and St. Louis already receiving transplant NFL teams, these two cities were seen as the only other viable options.   Charlotte would be a new, untested market, but the success of the USFL’s Jacksonville Bulls helped lock in that city as a viable NFL destination.

 

As expected by many in league circles, almost as soon as the NFL announced Charlotte as an expansion destination, the USFL did the same.  It quickly became clear that this was another instance of the two leagues cooperating in order to obtain what each need, a private-public partnership for stadium construction.  The two rival Charlotte franchises would begin play within months of each other, but in a strange turn of events, the USFL and NFL had to negotiate almost every aspect of the dual expansion, even going so far as having the USFL agree to delay the Charlotte franchise until Spring of 1997 so that the NFL’s new franchise would be seen as the first new franchise.   The USFL got some compensation for this, enough that league owners did not balk when the NFL franchise opted to name their team the Carolina Panthers, a clear borrowing from Michigan’s successful squad.   They and the Jacksonville Jaguars would begin play in Fall 1996, while the USFL’s still-nameless Charlotte franchise would begin play in Spring of 1997.

 

In a bit of a surprise move, the USFL not only named Charlotte as a 1997 expansion team, but opted to award the three remaining franchises on the horizon.  Boston would join Charlotte as a 1997 startup, playing in Boston College’s recently expanded Alumni Stadium.  A year later the league would add franchises in Atlanta and San Jose, California.   This last franchise was awarded despite the protestations of the Oakland ownership group who, dealing with difficult stadium issues and a tough market to crack, were in no way looking for more local competition for fans and sponsorship dollars.

 

The 1994-95 off-season was again one of significant player relocation as the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts made a successful bid to lure Panther QB Jim Harbaugh back to the older league.  Jacksonville also suffered a blow as their star RB, Rodney Hampton, defected to play for the New York Jets, but perhaps the biggest blow was the loss of LA Express Head Coach George Seifert, who had guided the Express to the best record in the USFL in 1994.

 

The Express were quick to raid the NFL for Seifert’s replacement, going with the very successful OC of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ron Ehrhardt.   A second NFL coordinator, San Francisco’s defensive guru, Ray Rhodes, would be tabbed to revitalize the Denver Gold, who had seen a total collapse under Rich Kotite, finishing 1994 with a paltry 2 wins, the worst record in league history. 

 

The USFL also raided NFL rosters as the Wranglers managed to wrangle RB Garrison Hearst from their fall rivals, the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.  Another big name RB, the 49ers’ Ricky Watters moved close to his Notre Dame roots by signing with the Chicago Machine and Houston Oiler QB Chris Chandler found a new home in Memphis. 

 

In the 1995 USFL Draft the winner was Colorado, as both of the UC star players ended up staying at home.  The Denver Gold spent big on both QB Kordell Stewart and RB Rashan Salaam, keeping the duo in the state and bringing newfound excitement to Mile High Stadium for local Buffs fans.  Elsewhere the biggest signing, and a player who would go on to be the face of the franchise, was U. of Miami DT Warren Sapp, chosen in the territorial draft by the Tampa Bay Bandits.  Sapp would go on to anchor the Banditball Defense for years to come.  Later in the draft, Philadelphia and Washington also found gems as Philly finally had a stud RB to replace Kelvin Bryant in late round pick Curtis Martin while the Federals found a big play receiver in Va. Tech’s Antonio Freeman.

 

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1995 Season (part 2)

 

The 1995 season was another mired in injuries as some of the biggest names in the league suffered season-ending injuries, including Denver’s new star, Rashan Salaam, Oakland’s Bill Musgrave, Chicago’s Jeff George and what seemed to be half of Washington’s entire defense.  Owners actually began discussing the issue of the 18 game season as a possible concern after several years of late season injuries.  On the field the season saw the continued strength of Dick Vermeil’s Stars, Jack Pardee’s Gamblers and June Jones’ Bandits.  Columbus also had its best season since the expansion and Birmingham returned to respectability after 2 basement-dwelling seasons. 

 

In the playoffs, home field again proved to be key as all 4 of the top seeds found themselves in the semifinal round.  In that round the Houston offense, no longer a pure Run & Shoot, but a balanced fast-paced attack which utilized the full talents of both Jim Kelly and league MVP Thurman Thomas, fought it out against the arm and legs of Steve Young and the Express.  In the end the balance of Houston was too much for the Bandits and Houston returned to the Championship Game for the first time in 4 years.  In the other matchup, the June Jones offense, led by Mark Brunell, paired with a pass rush headed by rookie Warren Sapp, still angry he had not won Rookie of the Year the week before, was too much for the Philadelphia Stars.  The Championship was billed as a game for the ages, as many expected the Tampa defense to shred the O-line of Houston, but the Gamblers effectively employed screens, draws and play action to offset the Bandit pass rush.  While the strategy kept Jim Kelly from accumulating his normally pinball-like numbers, it allowed the Gamblers to build up a 17-3 halftime lead, one they would never relinquish, winning handily by a score of 31-13 to give Jack Pardee and Jim Kelly their 3rd USFL title.

 

1995 Final Standings

 

NORTHEAST

 

*PHL        13-5

*NJG        10-8

*BALT        9-9

WSH         4-14

SOUTHEAST

 

*TBY       14-4

*BIRM      9-9

MEM        7-11

JAX          6-12

 

CENTRAL

 

*CBS      11-7

STL          9-9

MICH       8-10

CHI          7-11

SOUTHWEST

 

* HOU        14-4

* NOR        10-8

SAN            7-11

DEN            5-13

 

WEST

 

* LA       11-7

* ARI     10-8

POR       8-10

OAK       8-10

 

 

 

1995 Playoffs

Wildcard Round     New Orleans d. Baltimore      New Jersey d. Birmingham

 

Divisional Round    Houston d. New Jersey          Tampa Bay d. New Orleans

                               Philadelphia d. Arizona           Los Angeles d. Columbus

 

Semifinals             Houston d. Los Angeles           Tampa Bay d. Philadelphia

 

1995 Championship     Houston 31    Tampa Bay  13

 

1995 Awards

1995 USFL MVP Thurman Thomas, RB, Houston

1995 USFL Coach of the Year:  June Jones, Tampa Bay

1995 Rookie of the Year: Curtis Martin, RB, Philadelphia

 

 

1995 Relocation, Expansion or Uniform/Logo Changes

1)      Four Expansion Franchises Named:  Charlotte (1997), Boston (1997), Atlanta (1998) and San Jose (1998).

 

2)      The Michigan Panthers updated their uniforms, another Nike reinvention, while retaining their unique swooping-panther logo and burgundy, light blue and champagne color scheme.

 

3)      The Oakland Invaders also modified their uniforms, returning to a stronger use of yellow, while retaining their Air Force inspired logo.

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Michigan retains its colors and logo, but takes on a new NIKE design (which might be familiar to some other "Panther" fans). 

1995 Panthers.png

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