Chicago Blitz

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For the current Continental Indoor Football League team, see Chicago Blitz (CIFL).
Chicago Blitz
Chicago Blitz logo

Founded 1982
Folded 1984
Based in Chicago, Illinois, United States
Home field Soldier Field
League USFL
Conference Western
Division Central Division
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 Chicago Blitz was a professional American football team that played in the United States Football League in the mid-1980s. They played at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois.

Team history[edit]

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.

George Allen[edit]

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.

1983 season[edit]

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[edit]

The Blitz was one of the strongest teams in the league. Indeed, some suggested that the Blitz and the two finalists, the Philadelphia Stars and Michigan Panthers, could have been competitive in the NFL. However, they struggled at the gate, averaging only 18,100 fans--a total that looked even smaller in the relatively spacious configuration of Soldier Field. It should be noted that these numbers were very similar to the gates for the Stars and Panthers 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 lost millions of dollars in 1983. Although he, like most of the other owners, knew that he could expect years of losses until the USFL established itself, he soon lost confident in the team's ability to draw fans in Chicago. He also 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[edit]

This resulted in one of the most unusual transactions in sports history. Diethrich sold the Blitz to fellow surgeon James Hoffman, then bought the Wranglers from Joseph. Hoffman and Diethrich then engineered a swap of assets in which George 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, 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 Hoffman Era[edit]

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. (Levy reportedly thought he would be taking over George Allen's team when he took the job.)

Bears backup QB Vince Evans was brought in to be the new Blitz starting quarterback. 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 seven previous NFL seasons. Evans' accuracy was always an issue in the NFL. His most accurate season up to that point was 1980 when 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 a year for 3 years) to Bears star running back Walter Payton. Payton promised to consider the offer, but would not be rushed. 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 quickly to help 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, 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 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[edit]

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 its 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[edit]

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 second to last in the league with 466 points allowed.

Evans was the quarterback many 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 punter Jeff Gossett led the USFL with a 42.5-yard avg.

The Blitz attracted only 7,500 people per game, the second-lowest average gate in the league. The inability to draw even 10,000 per game 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 USFL 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 (home to ABC's strongest-performing stations).

Shutting down[edit]

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[edit]

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 Fahnhorst, Marc May, Brian Glasgow, Walter Easley, Luther Bradley, Troy Thomas, Robert Cobb, Ed Smith, Stan White, Eddie Brown, Kevin Long, and Mark Keel.

There are currently two coaches in the Pro Football Hall of Fame that coached in the USFL, both coached the Blitz: George Allen (1983) and Marv Levy (1984).

1983 Blitz game results[edit]

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)

USFL SEMI-FINALS

Sat.Jul. 9 - (L) BLITZ 38 @ Philadelphia Stars 44 *OT* (Att. 15,684)

1983 Chicago Blitz roster[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

Rushing Yards: 1157 (1983), Tim Spencer

Receiving Yards: 1327 (1983), Trumaine Johnson

Passing Yards: 2624 (1984), Vince Evans

Season-by-season[edit]

Season W L T Finish Playoff results
1983 12 6 0 2nd Central Lost Divisional (Philadelphia)
1984 5 13 0 5th WC Central -
Totals 17 20 0 (including playoffs)

External links[edit]