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 1983–85, 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."
The franchise was originally owned by Oklahoma oil magnate J. Walter Duncan, who took on former New England Patriots coach Chuck Fairbanks as a minority partner. Fairbanks also served as general manager and head coach.
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. Eventually, nearly all of the other teams jettisoned league founder David Dixon's original blueprint and began signing star players to expensive contracts—a step which ultimately proved to be the league's undoing.
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).
At 66 years old, Duncan soon tired of flying 2,000 miles from Oklahoma to New York to see his team play. After the 1983 season, he and Fairbanks sold their interest to real estate magnate Donald Trump. Trump tried to lure legendary coach Don Shula from the Miami Dolphins. It was said 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. 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.
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 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.
The USFL planned to play its 1986 schedule in the fall, directly opposite the NFL, thanks mostly to Trump's strong advocacy of direct competition with the older, established league. Two years earlier, Trump sold most of his fellow owners on a move to the fall by arguing that it would eventually force a merger with the NFL—in which the owners of any USFL teams included in a merger would see their investment more than double.
The Generals merged with the Houston Gamblers during the extended offseason, adding such stars as quarterback Jim Kelly and wide receiver Ricky Sanders. Michaels was fired, replaced with former Gamblers coach Jack Pardee, who planned to bring the Gamblers' high-powered run and shoot offense with him. However, the USFL's "Dream Team" never took the field. 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 is the last quarterback to have led the Bills to the NFL playoffs.
|1984||14||4||0||2nd EC Atlantic||Lost Quarterfinal (Philadelphia)|
|1985||11||7||0||2nd EC||Lost Quarterfinal (Baltimore)|
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.
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