|Based in||Chicago, Illinois, United States|
|Home field||Soldier Field|
|Team History||Chicago Blitz (1983-1984)|
|Team Colors||Red, Blue, Silver, White
|Head coaches||1983 George Allen (12-7)
1984 Marv Levy (5-13)
|General managers||Bruce Allen|
|Owner(s)||1983 Dr. Ted Diethrich
1984 Dr. James Hoffman
1984 The USFL
The Blitz were one of the twelve charter franchises of the USFL. The ownership group was headed by renowned heart surgeon Dr. Ted Diethrich, with legendary coach George Allen and Southern California developer Bill Harris as minority partners. Harris and Allen had originally sought the franchise, but a search for capital led them to Diethrich. Diethrich served as president, with Harris as executive vice president and Allen as chairman of the board and head coach.
Allen had been out of coaching since 1977; he had been a candidate for the vacant head coaching position with the Chicago Bears a year earlier, but Bears owner George Halas had never forgiven Allen for defecting to the Rams in 1965. Allen immediately became the "face" of the new team, and set about putting together the best 40-man roster he could find. The result was a team loaded with NFL veterans that was the early favorite to be the new league's first champion.
The Blitz finished in a tie for the Central Division title, but were awarded a wild card berth due to a regular season sweep by the eventual champion Michigan Panthers.
In the playoffs, the Blitz blew a 21-point lead over the Philadelphia Stars, losing 44-38 in overtime.
Struggling at the gate
Despite the fact that the Blitz was one of the strongest teams in the league (some suggested that they could have been competitive in the NFL), they struggled at the gate, averaging only 18,100 fans. (It should be noted that these numbers were very similar to the numbers both championship game participants, the Philadelphia Stars and Michigan Panthers, achieved in their first year. Both of those franchises would see dramatically higher attendance numbers in their second season based on their on-field success in their first year.)
Diethrich had lost millions of dollars in 1983, was not confident in the team's ability to draw fans in Chicago, and did not feel the losses justified making an investment for a team far from his home in Phoenix (he was the founder of the Arizona Heart Institute). As it turned out, Arizona Wranglers owner Jim Joseph had lost almost as much money as Diethrich, and was looking to sell the Wranglers.
Franchise swap with Arizona Wranglers
This resulted in one of the most unusual transactions in sports history. First, Diethrich sold the Blitz to fellow surgeon James Hoffman. Then Diethrich bought the Wranglers from Joseph. Hoffman and Diethrich then engineered a swap of assets in which Allen, the Blitz coaching staff and most of the Blitz players moved to Phoenix while most of the Wranglers roster moved to Chicago. (The most notable exception was that Wrangler triggerman Alan Risher stayed in Arizona to back up Greg Landry). The deal allowed Deithrich's coach, George Allen, to keep the NFL veteran loaded Blitz roster that Allen and the Chicago front office painstakingly assembled in 1983.
(While the USFL was active, the league considered the 1983 and 1984 Wranglers to be the same franchise, even though almost all the players were different.)
The deal transformed the Wranglers from a cellar-dweller to a powerhouse almost overnight, while turning the Blitz into a lesser version of the 4-14 Wranglers. The transaction raised serious questions about the USFL's credibility—especially in Chicago.
The trade created a situation that had the potential of making an already bad attendance situation in Chicago even worse.
The Hoffman Era
Hoffman spent heavily in promoting the new Blitz. He hired NFL veteran, future Pro Football Hall of Famer and Chicago native Marv Levy as coach. (Reportedly Levy had thought he would be taking over George Allen's team when he took the job.)
Talented, but raw longtime Bear backup QB Vince Evans was brought in to be the starting QB of the new Blitz. Evans signed in November 1983 to a 4 year $5 million deal. He was signed in spite of owning a very unimpressive 57.31 QB rating in 7 previous NFL seasons. Evans' accuracy was always an issue in the NFL. His most accurate season up to that point was 1980 where he completed 53.2% of his passes. He entered the USFL with a career NFL competition percentage of 48.7% and a 31-53 TD to INT ratio.
In January 1984, the Blitz tendered an offer that would have been the largest contract in football --- $2 Million dollars a year for 3 years --- to Bears star running back Walter Payton. Payton advised he would consider the offer, but that he would not be rushed by the Blitz. The Blitz 1984 season was scheduled to start on February 27 and the new ownership had little success selling season tickets. The Blitz needed Payton to sign quickly to help season ticket sales, so they put a deadline on the offer of 2/9/84. Before he made up his mind, the Blitz withdrew the offer realizing they simply did not have the finances.
With a less talented team and no big names to excite the fans, Chicago's season ticket sales predictably flat-lined, in spite of Hoffman sinking a lot of money into advertising. Fans were not happy that Hoffman had, for all intents and purposes, jettisoned the third-best team in the league in favor of an also-ran. Just prior to the start of the season, a frustrated Hoffman walked away from the Blitz, leaving the team to the minority owners. The Hoffman era ended before his new team had even played a down.
An even weaker Blitz team
Although the 1984 Blitz had many of the same players as the 1983 Wranglers, they were a weaker team due to two reasons.
First, there was the expansion draft and it's requirements. All of the initial 12 teams were required to make players available for the expansion teams.
Secondly, Evans was not a capable replacement for Risher, the League's 6th ranked passer in 1983.
The 1984 Season
The "new" Blitz made a wretched showing on the field, finishing with the third-worst record in the league. The 1983 Wrangler defense gave up a league worst 442 points and the 1984 Blitz were equally as challenged defensively finishing 2nd to last in the league with 466 points allowed.
The talented Evans was about what most fans expected --- a flashy talent with little accuracy or consistency and a penchant for turnovers. For the season, he completed 48.7% of his passes with 14 TDs and 22 INTs for a rating of 58.29. Featured HB Larry Canada was solid running for 915 yards and 7 TDs and adding 48 catches. WR Marcus Anderson led the team with 50 catches for 940 yards with 5 TDs. All-Pro P Jeff Gossett led the USFL with a 42.5 yard punt avg.
The New Blitz's on the field trouble led to problems at the gate. They only attracted 7,500 people per game, the second-lowest per game gate in the league. They never attracted more than 10,000 fans per game, a fact that would dramatically affect the team's bottom line. Early in the season, the Blitz' minority owners, drowning in red ink, returned the team to the league. The league could not simply fold the Blitz, however—its contract with ABC required the league to have teams in the New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago markets (not coincidentally, these markets are also home to ABC's strongest-performing owned and operated stations).
With 4 games to go, a press conference was held announcing that the Blitz would be shut down. It was also announced that Chicago White Sox minority owner Eddie Einhorn would be granted a new USFL franchise for Chicago. While it was stressed that Einhorn's franchise was not the Blitz, Einhorn retained the rights to all Blitz players and coaching staff—strongly implying the team would play in the 1985 season. ABC had no objections to this move, probably due to the USFL's anemic ratings in Chicago.
A strong proponent of the USFL's planned move to the fall in 1986, Einhorn opted not to field a team in the USFL's final spring lame duck season, 1985. As the league never played in the fall, this decision ended USFL football in Chicago.
Players who went on to the National Football League
The Blitz had a number of players who had played in the National Football League or would go on to play there. Some of them were Vince Evans, Tim Spencer, Trumaine Johnson, Greg Landry, Jeff Gossett, Vagas Ferguson, Richard Holland, Joe Ehrmann, Tim Wrightman, Larry Canada, Tom Thayer, Frank Minniefield, Jim Fahrnhorst, Marc May, Brian Glasgow, Walter Easley, Luther Bradley, Troy Thomas, Robert Cobb, Ed Smith, Stan White, Eddie Brown, Kevin Long, and Mark Keel.
1983 Blitz game results
REGULAR SEASON - (Home Attendance in Bold)
Sun.Mar. 6 - (W) BLITZ 28 @ Washington Federals 7 (Att. 38,007)
Sat.Mar.12 - (L) BLITZ 29 @ Arizona Wranglers 30 (Att. 28,434)
Sun.Mar.20 - (L) BLITZ 13 VS. DENVER GOLD 16 (Att. 22,600)
Sun.Mar.27 - (W) BLITZ 20 VS. LOS ANGELES EXPRESS 14 (Att. 10,936)
Sat.Apr. 2 - (W) BLITZ 42 @ Tampa Bay Bandits 7 (Att. 46,585)
Sun.Apr.10 - (W) BLITZ 22 VS. BIRMINGHAM STALLIONS 11 (Att. 13,859)
Sun.Apr.17 - (L) BLITZ 12 @ Michigan Panthers 17 (Att. 11,634)
Mon.Apr.25 - (W) BLITZ 17 VS. NEW JERSEY GENERALS 14 *OT* (Att. 32,184)
Sun.May 1 - (W) BLITZ 38 @ Los Angeles Express 17 (Att. 21,123)
Sun.May 8 - (W) BLITZ 31 VS. WASHINGTON FEDERALS 3 (Att. 11,303)
Sun.May 15 - (L) BLITZ 24 @ Philadelphia Stars 31 (Att. 20,931)
Sun.May 22 - (W) BLITZ 19 @ New Jersey Generals 13 *OT* (Att. 33,812)
Mon.May 30 - (W) BLITZ 36 VS. ARIZONA WRANGLERS 11 (Att. 13,952)
Mon.Jun. 5 - (L) BLITZ 15 @ Boston Breakers 21 (Att. 15,087)
Sun.Jun.12 - (W) BLITZ 31 VS. TAMPA BAY BANDITS 8 (Att. 21,249)
Fri.Jun.17 - (W) BLITZ 29 @ Birmingham Stallions 14 (Att. 22,500)
Sun.Jun.26 - (L) BLITZ l9 VS. MICHIGAN PANTHERS 34 (Att. 25,041)
Sun.Jul. 3 - (W) BLITZ 31 VS. OAKLAND INVADERS 7 (Att. 12,346)
Sat.Jul. 9 - (L) BLITZ 38 @ Philadelphia Stars 44 *OT* (Att. 15,684)
1983 Chicago Blitz roster
1. Frank Minnifield (CB) 2. Trumaine Johnson (WR) 3. Frank Corral (K/P) 5. Frank Garcia (P) 7. John Roveto (K) 8. Tom Porras (QB) 10. Bobby Scott (QB) 11. Greg Landry (QB) 14. Tim Koegel (QB) 15. Tom Rozantz (QB) 20. Maurice Tyler (CB) 21. Doug Dennison (CB) 22. Lance Shields (CB) 24. Virgil Livers (CB) 25. Eddie Brown (SS) 27. Luther Bradley (FS) 28. Don Schwartz (SS) 29. Richard Holland (FB) 31. Walt Easley (FB) 32. Carl Allen (FS) 34. Frank Collins (RB) 34. Walter Poole (RB) 37. Pat Schmidt (SS) 42. Jim Stone (RB) 43. Mack Boatner (FB) 46. Tim Spencer (RB) 48. Kevin Long (FB) 50. Steve Tobin (C/LS) 50. Jack Lafferty (C/LS) 51. Joe Federspiel (LB) 52. Stan White (LB) 53. Andrew Melontree (LB) 54. Robert Barnes (G) 55. Jim Fahnhorst (LB) 56. Ed Smith (LB) 57. Doak Field (LB) 58. Bruce Gheesling (LB) 59. Bruce Branch (G) 59. Tom Piette (C) 59. James Looney (OL) 59. Tim Darling (LB) 61. Tom Thayer (G) 62. Jim Lohmann (T) 63. Mark Buben (DE) 64. John Lee (DE) 65. Wally Pesuit (C) 66. Tim James (C/LS) 66. Bill McClung (G) 68. Tim Norman (G) 69. Kari Yli-Renko (T) 70. Kit Lathrop (DT) 71. Karl Lorch (DE) 72. Bob Cobb (DE) 73. Mark Stevenson (G) 74. Joe Ehrmann (DT) 75. Rob Taylor (T) 76. Ken Gillen (DE) 77. Junior Ah You (DE) 78. Nick Eyre (T) 79. Troy Thomas (DT) 79. Bob Newton (G) 80. Marcus Anderson (WR) 81. Tim Wrightman (TE) 82. Larry Douglas (WR) 84. Doug Cozen (TE) 86. Paul Ricker (TE) 88. Wamon Buggs (WR) 89. Lenny Willis (WR)
1984 Blitz game results
Mon.Feb.27 - (L) BLITZ 18 @ Michigan Panthers 20 (Att. 22,428)
Sun.Mar. 4 - (L) BLITZ 13 @ Memphis Showboats 23 (Att. 10,152)
Sun.Mar.11 - (L) BLITZ 36 vs. HOUSTON GAMBLERS 45 (Att. 7,808)
Sat.Mar.17 - (L) BLITZ 14 vs. OKLAHOMA OUTLAWS 17 (Att. 6,206)
Sun.Mar.25 - (L) BLITZ 35 @ New Orleans Breakers 41 *OT* (Att. 43,692)
Sat.Mar.31 - (W) BLITZ 21 @ Washington Federals 20 (Att. 7,373)
Sat.Apr. 7 - (W) BLITZ 16 vs. SAN ANTONIO GUNSLINGERS 10 (Att. 9,412)
Sun.Apr.15 - (L) BLITZ 7 @ Philadelphia Stars 41 (Att. 17,417)
Fri.Apr.20 - (W) BLITZ 49 vs. LOS ANGELES EXPRESS 29 (Att. 11,713)
Sun.Apr.29 - (L) BLITZ 13 vs. OAKLAND INVADERS 17 (Att. 7,802)
Sun.May. 6 - (L) BLITZ 21 @ San Antonio Gunslingers 30 (Att. 15,233)
Fri.May.11 - (W) BLITZ 29 @ Denver Gold 17 (Att. 45,299)
Fri.May.18 - (L) BLITZ 7 vs. BIRMINGHAM STALLIONS 41 (Att. 8,578)
Mon.May.28 - (L) BLITZ 17 vs. NEW JERSEY GENERALS 21 (Att. 4,307)
Sat.Jun. 2 - (W) BLITZ 14 @ Oklahoma Outlaws 0 (Att. 17,195)
Sun.Jun.10 - (L) BLITZ 13 @ Houston Gamblers 38 (Att. 24,243)
Fri.Jun.15 - (L) BLITZ 0 vs. ARIZONA WRANGLERS 36 (Att. 5,711)
Sun.Jun.24 - (L) BLITZ 17 vs. MICHIGAN PANTHERS 20 (Att. 5,557)
1984 Chicago Blitz roster
3. Kevin Seibel (K) 7. Jeff Gossett(P) 8. Vince Evans (QB) 11. Dennis Shaw (QB) 14. Tim Koegel (QB) 15. Ron Reeves (QB) 19. Carlton Peoples (CB) 20. Ronnie Harris (CB) 21. Trent Bryant (CB) 22. Donnell Daniel (SS) 24. Virgil Livers (CB) 25. Tommy Wilcox (SS) 26. Vegas Ferguson (RB) 27. Mike Fox (FS) 28. John Arnaud (FS) 29. Gary Worthy (RB) 33. Glenn Ford (RB) 35. Larry Canada (RB) 42. Jim Stone (FB) 44. Terdell Middleton (RB) 44. Roy Eppes (FS) 46. Doug Plank (SS) 47. Charles Armstead (CB) 51. Robin Fisher (LB) 51. Russ Washington (LB) 52. Jimmy Rivera (LB) 52. Jeff Gabrielson (OLB) 53. John Gillen (MLB) 54. Tom Kilkenny (LB) 55. Sam Norris (LB) 55. Dann Lute (LB) 56. Clinton Haynes (LB) 56. Greg Williams (LB) 56. Guy Ruff (LB) 57. Mark Fischer (C) 58. Jon Kimmel (LB) 58. Bob Knapton (LB) 59. James Looney (LB) 59. Ken Kelley (OLB) 60. Mike Weston (C) 61. Ray Cattage (DE) 62. Perry Hartnett (G) 63. Vince Stroth (T) 65. Glenn Hyde (G) 68. Curtis Bunche (DE) 70. Malcolm Taylor (DT) 71. Rod Walters (G) 72. Ken Times (DE) 73. Bob Simmons (G) 74. Doug Hoppock (T) 76. Mike Morgan (DT) 77. Dan Jiggetts(T) 78. Jerry Doerger (T) 79. Bruce Thornton (DE) 80. Marcus Anderson (WR) 81. Brian Glasgow (TE) 82. Darryl Stokes (WR) 82. Vic James (WR) 83. Mark Keel (TE) 84. Keith Magee (WR) 84. Dan Fulton (WR) 85. T.K. Ehlebracht (WR) 86. Gary Lewis (WR) 87. Oliver Williams (WR) 87. Frank McClain (WR) 88. Jackie Flowers (WR) 88. Shawn Potts (WR) 89. Kris Haines (WR) 91. Bob Clasby (DE) 91. Chris Lindstrom (DE) 93. Dennis Puha (DT) --. Andy Cannavino (LB) --. Kirk Wilson (CB) --. Kerry Baird (FS)
Single season leaders
Rushing Yards: 1157 (1983), Tim Spencer
Receiving Yards: 1327 (1983), Trumaine Johnson
Passing Yards: 2624 (1984), Vince Evans
Note: W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties
|1983||12||6||0||2nd Central||Lost Divisional (Philadelphia)|
|1984||5||13||0||5th WC Central||-|