|New Jersey Generals|
Played in Giants Stadium
in East Rutherford, New Jersey
|United States Football League (1983–1985)
|Team colors||Scarlet red, white, royal blue, gold, brown|
|Owner(s)||1983 J. Walter Duncan/Chuck Fairbanks|
1984–1985 Donald Trump
|Head coach||1983 Chuck Fairbanks (6–12)|
1984–1985 Walt Michaels (25–13)
|League championships (0)|
|Conference championships (0)|
|Division championships (0)|
|Playoff appearances (2)|
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.
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. 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.
From the beginning, USFL founder David Dixon placed a premium on putting a team in the New York area. Initially, 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.
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.
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) and a feeble passing attack led by ex-New Orleans Saints career backup Bobby Scott.
At 66 years old, Duncan soon tired of flying as far as 1,500 miles (2,400 km) from his home in Oklahoma City to see his team play. Believing that the Generals were far too important to the USFL to have an absentee owner, he decided to sell to a local buyer. After the 1983 season, he found one in Donald Trump, who had initially angled for the franchise in 1982 before backing out.
Trump promptly fired Fairbanks. Seeking a high-profile coach, he initially tried to lure Joe Gibbs of the Washington Redskins. When those talks failed, he turned to legendary Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula. Trump offered him a $5 million contract. Shula was receptive, but insisted on getting a rent-free apartment at Trump Tower. In October 1983, Trump announced that the deal was all but done, but the only snag was Shula's insistence on an apartment. A furious Shula broke off talks. Years later, former Dolphins' running back Larry Csonka, by then an executive with the Jacksonville Bulls, said that he believed Shula would have taken the job, but was angered at being "thrown out to the press" by Trump. After Joe Paterno of Penn State turned him down as well, Trump hired former New York Jets head coach Walt Michaels.
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.
1984 schedule and results
|3||February 11||vs. Philadelphia Stars||W 28–20||1–0||Deland, Florida|
|4||February 17||vs. Washington Federals||W 27–24||2–0||Orlando, Florida||3,784|
|1||February 26||at Birmingham Stallions||W 17–6||1–0||ABC||Legion Field||62,300|
|—||March 2||at Jacksonville Bulls||Postponed; rescheduled for March 4||Gator Bowl Stadium|
|2||March 4||at Jacksonville Bulls||W 28–26||2–0||ABC||Gator Bowl Stadium||73,227|
|3||March 11||Philadelphia Stars||W 17–14||3–0||ABC||Giants Stadium||46,716|
|4||March 18||at Houston Gamblers||L 25–32||3–1||ABC||Houston Astrodome||35,532|
|5||March 25||Washington Federals||W 43–6||4–1||Giants Stadium||38,075|
|6||March 31||at Los Angeles Express||W 26–10||5–1||ABC||Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum||19,853|
|7||April 8||Memphis Showboats||W 35–10||6–1||Giants Stadium||43,671|
|8||April 15||Arizona Wranglers||L 3–20||6–2||ABC||Giants Stadium||31,917|
|9||April 22||at Pittsburgh Maulers||W 14–10||7–2||ABC||Three Rivers Stadium||14,418|
|10||April 29||Michigan Panthers||W 31–21||8–2||ABC||Giants Stadium||50,908|
|11||May 6||Oklahoma Outlaws||W 49–17||9–2||ABC||Giants Stadium||34,917|
|12||May 11||at Washington Federals||L 17–31||9–3||RFK Stadium||11,367|
|13||May 21||Pittsburgh Maulers||W 16–14||10–3||ESPN||Giants Stadium||41,212|
|14||May 28||at Chicago Blitz||W 21–17||11–3||ESPN||Soldier Field||4,307|
|15||June 3||at Tampa Bay Bandits||L 14–40||11–4||ABC||Tampa Stadium||45,255|
|—||June 8||New Orleans Breakers||Postponed; rescheduled for June 10||Giants Stadium|
|16||June 10||New Orleans Breakers||W 31–21||12–4||ABC||Giants Stadium||23,114|
|17||June 16||Denver Gold||W 27–7||13–4||Giants Stadium||28,915|
|18||June 24||at Philadelphia Stars||W 16–10||14–4||ABC||Veterans Stadium||37,758|
|June 30||vs. Philadelphia Stars||L 7–28||0–1||ABC||Franklin Field||19,038|
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. Flutie struggled at times but played well overall until he suffered a broken collarbone against the Memphis Showboats in the season's 15th game, sidelining him for the rest of the season. 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.
1985 schedule and results
|1||February 2||vs. Memphis Showboats||W 16–3||1–0||Charlotte, North Carolina||11,667|
|2||February 9||at Tampa Bay Bandits||L 7–21||1–1||Tampa Stadium||32,370|
|3||February 15||at Orlando Renegades||W 24–14||2–1||Florida Citrus Bowl||33,000|
|1||February 24||at Birmingham Stallions||L 28–38||0–1||ABC||Legion Field||34,785|
|2||March 1||at Orlando Renegades||W 28–10||1–1||ESPN||Florida Citrus Bowl||32,748|
|3||March 10||Los Angeles Express||W 35–24||2–1||ABC||Giants Stadium||58,741|
|4||March 17||at Baltimore Stars||L 9–29||2–2||ABC||Byrd Stadium||31,026|
|5||March 24||Tampa Bay Bandits||W 28–24||3–2||ABC||Giants Stadium||41,079|
|6||March 30||at Arizona Outlaws||L 13–31||3–3||ESPN||Sun Devil Stadium||30,432|
|7||April 7||Houston Gamblers||W 31–25||4–3||ABC||Giants Stadium||34,573|
|8||April 14||Portland Breakers||W 34–7||5–3||ABC||Giants Stadium||38,245|
|9||April 19||at Memphis Showboats||W 21–18||6–3||ESPN||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||44,339|
|10||April 29||Orlando Renegades||W 24–7||7–3||ESPN||Giants Stadium||38,084|
|11||May 5||at Jacksonville Bulls||L 20–30||7–4||ABC||Gator Bowl Stadium||60,100|
|12||May 12||Baltimore Stars||W 10–3||8–4||ABC||Giants Stadium||34,446|
|13||May 19||at Denver Gold||L 24–28||8–5||ABC||Mile High Stadium||29,129|
|14||May 26||at Tampa Bay Bandits||W 30–24 (OT)||9–5||ABC||Tampa Stadium||44,539|
|15||June 1||Memphis Showboats||W 17–7||10–5||ESPN||Giants Stadium||45,682|
|16||June 10||Jacksonville Bulls||W 31–24||11–5||ESPN||Giants Stadium||36,465|
|17||June 15||at Oakland Invaders||L 29–34||11–6||ESPN||Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum||24,338|
|18||June 23||Birmingham Stallions||L 6–14||11–7||ABC||Giants Stadium||44,098|
|Quarterfinal||July 1||Baltimore Stars||L 17–20||—||Giants Stadium||26,982|
Almost from the moment he bought the Generals, Trump 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 the NFL. Trump's 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 after the 1983 season. He intended to have the renamed New York Generals play at Shea until the construction of a new 80,000-seat "Trump Stadium" in Manhattan; the stadium never came to fruition.
In 1984, Trump convinced most of his fellow owners to move to a fall schedule in 1986. He 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 off-season. 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 only a nominal one dollar verdict in an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL (which was trebled to three dollars due to it being an antitrust suit); 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.
- Rushing yards: 2,411 Herschel Walker (1985; USFL record)
- Receiving yards: 715 Sam Bowers (1983)
- Passing yards: 2,540 Brian Sipe (1984)
- Sacks: 13 James Lockette (1985)
|1984||14||4||0||2nd, Atlantic||0||1||Lost Divisional Playoffs (Philadelphia)|
|1985||11||7||0||2nd, Eastern||0||1||Lost Quarterfinals (Baltimore)|
- "New Jersey Generals Archives – Fun While It Lasted". Fun While It Lasted. 16 May 2015.
- Reeths, Paul (2017). The United States Football League, 1982-1986. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-1476667447.
- Pearlman, Jeff (2018). Football For A Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0544454385.
- statscrew.com 1984 New Jersey Generals Game-by-Game Results Retrieved December 30, 2018
- usflsite.com 1984 USFL Season Retrieved December 30, 2018
- profootballarchives.com 1984 New Jersey Generals (USFL) Retrieved December 30, 2018
- statscrew.com 1985 New Jersey Generals Game-by-Game Results Retrieved December 30, 2018
- usflsite.com 1985 USFL Season Retrieved December 30, 2018
- profootballarchives.com 1985 New Jersey Generals (USFL) Retrieved December 30, 2018