New Jersey Generals

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New Jersey Generals
New Jersey Generals helmet New Jersey Generals logo
Founded 1983
Folded 1986
Based in East Rutherford, New Jersey, United States
Home field Giants Stadium
League USFL
Conference Eastern
Division Atlantic Division
Team History New Jersey Generals (1983–1985)
Team colors Scarlet Red, White, Royal Blue (Gold, Brown)                         
Head coaches 1983 Chuck Fairbanks (6–12)
1984–1985 Walt Michaels (25–13)
Owner(s) 1983 J. Walter Duncan/Chuck Fairbanks
1984–1985 Donald Trump

The New Jersey Generals were a franchise of the United States Football League (USFL) established in 1982 to begin play in the spring and summer of 1983. The team played three seasons from 1983 to 1985, winning 31 regular-season games and losing 25 while going 0–2 in postseason competition. Home games were played at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, which was called The Meadowlands for Generals games.

Uniforms

Team colors were scarlet, white, royal blue and sunflower gold. The primary logo was a gold five-star general wreath. Team helmets were solid scarlet with the logo decal on each side and a white face-mask. Home uniforms featured red jerseys with white numbers trimmed in royal blue, with numbers on the sleeves and no striping; pants were white with a single wide red stripe trimmed in blue down the sides from hip to knee. Road jerseys were white with red numbers trimmed in blue.[1] The team was the second in the New York metropolitan area to be known as "Generals," since there was a professional soccer team in the late 1960s known as the New York Generals.

History

1983

From the beginning, USFL founder David Dixon placed a premium on putting a team in the New York area. Initially, real estate magnate and future U. S. president Donald Trump was tapped to own the team. However, he backed out after paying an initial installment on the franchise fee, hoping instead to buy the struggling Baltimore Colts of the NFL. Needing a credible owner with the means to front a team in the nation's biggest market, Dixon persuaded Oklahoma oil magnate J. Walter Duncan to step in. Duncan had originally been slated to own the USFL's Chicago franchise, as he'd grown up in Chicago. However, he readily agreed to shift to New York.[2]

Duncan took on former New England Patriots coach Chuck Fairbanks as a minority partner; Duncan knew Fairbanks from his days as head coach at the University of Oklahoma. Fairbanks also served as general manager and head coach. They initially had an uphill battle to get a lease at Giants Stadium, but were able to obtain one on condition that they brand their team as "New Jersey" rather than "New York." They named the team the "Generals" after the large number of generals based in New Jersey during the Revolutionary War.[2]

The team made a big splash by signing Heisman Trophy-winning underclassman Herschel Walker, a running back from the University of Georgia. While the USFL had followed the NFL's lead in banning underclassmen from playing, league officials were certain that this rule would never withstand a court challenge. In an even more ominous development, Walker did not sign a standard player contract. Rather, he agreed to a three-year personal-services contract with Duncan. The contract was valued at $4.2 million—more than double the USFL's salary cap of $1.8 million. Nonetheless, the other owners knew having the incumbent Heisman winner in their fold would lend the USFL instant credibility, and allowed the contract to stand.

Despite the signing of Walker, who rushed for 1,812 yards and 17 touchdowns, the Generals finished their inaugural season with a 6–12 record. This was largely due to a porous defense which gave up the third-most points in the league (437).

1984

At 66 years old, Duncan soon tired of flying 2,000 miles from Oklahoma to New York to see his team play. He was not willing to be an absentee owner, and decided to sell to a local buyer. After the 1983 season, he found one in Trump, who had initially angled for the franchise in 1982 before backing out.[3]

Trump tried to lure legendary coach Don Shula from the Miami Dolphins. It was said[according to whom?] that Shula asked for a condominium in Trump Tower as part of his deal and Trump balked at the prospect. Once Shula declined, the Generals hired former New York Jets head coach Walt Michaels.[3]

The Generals responded to their poor 1983 showing with an influx of veteran NFL talent for 1984, including wide receiver Tom McConnaughey, quarterback Brian Sipe, defensive back Gary Barbaro, and linebackers Jim LeClair and Bobby Leopold. Both Walker and fullback Maurice Carthon rushed for over 1,000 yards (Walker 1,339; Carthon 1,042) as the Generals went 14–4, defeating the eventual champion Philadelphia Stars twice for that franchise's only two losses of the season. The Stars defeated the Generals 28–7 in a first round playoff game.

1985

The 1985 season saw the heralded signing of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Doug Flutie of Boston College. Despite Flutie's inexperience, the Generals traded Sipe to the Jacksonville Bulls to ensure Flutie would start.[3] Flutie struggled at times but played well overall until he suffered a broken collarbone against the Memphis Showboats in the season's 15th game and did not play again. The 1985 Generals finished 11–7 behind Walker's pro-football record 2,411 rushing yards but lost again to the Stars (transplanted to Baltimore) in the first round of the playoffs, 20–17.

1986

Almost from the moment Trump bought the Generals, he sought to use them as a vehicle to get an NFL team. To this end, he began advocating moving the USFL from a spring schedule to a fall schedule, directly opposite NFL. His long-term plans called for moving the Generals across the Hudson River to New York, which had not had a team play within its borders since the Jets moved from Shea Stadium in Queens to the Meadowlands. He intended to have the Generals play at Shea until the construction of a new 80,000-seat "Trump Stadium" in Manhattan.[3]

In 1984, he convinced most of his fellow owners to move to a fall schedule in 1986. Trump contended that if the USFL were to hold its own against the NFL, it would eventually force a merger with the more established league—in which the owners of any USFL teams included in a merger would see their investment more than double.

The Generals acquired the assets of one of the teams displaced by the vote to move to the fall, the Houston Gamblers, during the extended offseason. This was widely reported as a merger, since the Generals inherited all of the Gamblers' player contracts–including those of quarterback Jim Kelly and wide receiver Ricky Sanders. Michaels was fired, replaced with former Gamblers coach Jack Pardee, who planned to bring Kelly and the Gamblers' high-powered run and shoot offense with him. Fans immediately dubbed the Kelly-Walker led Generals as the USFL's "Dream Team."

However, the revamped Generals never played a down. The 1986 season was cancelled after the USFL won a minimal verdict in an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL; the league folded soon afterward.

Numerous Generals players, including Flutie, Walker and center Kent Hull went on to productive NFL careers. Flutie also starred in the Canadian Football League; Hull (with Gambler quarterback Kelly) played in four Super Bowls with the Buffalo Bills, and Flutie was the last quarterback to have led the Bills to the NFL playoffs until the 2017 season.

Single-season leaders

Season-by-season

Season W L T Finish Playoff results
1983 6 12 0 3rd Atlantic --
1984 14 4 0 2nd EC Atlantic Lost Quarterfinal (Philadelphia)
1985 11 7 0 2nd EC Lost Quarterfinal (Baltimore)
Totals 31 25 0 (including playoffs)

A-11 Football League

A new team using the New Jersey Generals' name, logo and colors was scheduled to be begin play in 2014 with the proposed A-11 Football League. The league was disbanded before any games were played.

References

  1. ^ "New Jersey Generals Archives - Fun While It Lasted". Fun While It Lasted.
  2. ^ a b Reeths, Paul (2017). The United States Football League, 1982-1986. McFarland & Company. ISBN 1476667446.
  3. ^ a b c d Pearlman, Jeff (2018). Football For A Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0544454385.
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