The USFL's Philadelphia Stars

The USFL's Philadelphia Stars

Postby vikingsfan1963 » Sat Jun 06, 2020 10:44 pm

What made this franchise so successful? I know they had some name players and others who made names for themselves, but the what were some of the important ingredients that got the Stars to the title game all three years of the league's existence?
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Re: The USFL's Philadelphia Stars

Postby JohnH19 » Sun Jun 07, 2020 2:12 am

I didn't follow the USFL closely but the Stars franchise seemed like it had an aura of stability. It was run by quality football people like Jim Mora who was a fine coach and GM Carl Peterson who was a good recruiter with a sharp eye for talent. Chuck Fusina played very well at QB and Kelvin Bryant was an excellent back. Sam Mills was missed by the NFL because he was undersized but, as we all know, he turned out to be a great player and the leader of an excellent defense. Those key people were there for all three years of the league's existence.

I wonder how long the league might have survived if a certain someone wouldn't have urged the other league owners to adopt a fall schedule in 1986.
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Re: The USFL's Philadelphia Stars

Postby 74_75_78_79_ » Sun Jun 07, 2020 9:49 am

I guess the Stars could be seen as the early-'00s Pats or the '81/'84 Forty Niners. Not the 'sexiest' team, didn't have the 'star'-power others may have had, but still were the best in the end. I always wondered how and why they let the Hebert-led Panthers beat them in that first season's title game. Michigan did, however, post an 11-2 regular season finish after starting 1-4. One of those down-the-stretch defeats was a 9-point loss to those Stars at the Vet though. '84 obviously was their peak-performance. 16-2, both losses to the 14-4 Generals (instant-rivalry) but the second of those was in the final week of the season when the Stars already clinched their division. A fourteen-game win-streak they had going into that very finale, and then they convincingly beat the Generals, 28-7, in the divisional playoff the following week en route to the title. In '85, finishing 10-7-1, they kind-of mimicked the Villanova basketball team of that very year - a quite unspectacular regular season team that still wins-it-all. That final Stars squad (now in Baltimore) basically went from the '91 Redskins to the '11 Giants.

How do you think both Stars champion squads stacked up to the best college teams of '84 & '85 respectively? They, in '84, vs BYU? The following year vs Switzer's Sooners who trounced unbeaten Penn St? Michigan Panthers vs Schnellenberger's Hurricanes '83 while we're at it?
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Re: The USFL's Philadelphia Stars

Postby BD Sullivan » Sun Jun 07, 2020 4:31 pm

Ironically, at the end of 1982, with just a few months before the start of the first season, the Stars looked to be in chaos because their original HC, George Perles, bolted to take the Michigan State job that opened up.

As far as why they thrived, they had Carl Peterson running things and a generally hands-off owner in Myles Tannenbaum. They did have the misfortune of playing most of that first season at the same time as the 76ers, who were steamrolling their way to an NBA title, while the Phillies would eventually win the pennant that season.
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Re: The USFL's Philadelphia Stars

Postby Teo » Sun Jun 07, 2020 11:00 pm

I think their offensive line was very underrated: the Oates brothers (why Bart was overlooked by the NFL and why Brad bounced from team to team?). Irv Eatman should have been a higher NFL Draft choice (as Kelvin Bryant) if the USFL was not around. Chuck Commiskey had been a late 1981 Eagles draft choice who improved greatly with the Stars.
Last edited by Teo on Wed Jun 10, 2020 2:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The USFL's Philadelphia Stars

Postby nicefellow31 » Mon Jun 08, 2020 11:34 am

Teo wrote:I think their offensive line was very underrated: the Oates brothers (why Bart was overlooked by the NFL and why Brad d from team to team?). Irv Eastman should have been a higher NFL Draft choice (as Kelvin Bryant) if the USFL was not around. Chuck Commiwkey had been a late 1981 Eaglles draft choice who improved greatly with the Stars.


I remember Irv Eatman having a huge game against Ohio State in the early 80's. However he was a defensive lineman. They converted him to an offensive tackle his senior season so that may have something to do with his draft position.
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Re: The USFL's Philadelphia Stars

Postby Bryan » Mon Jun 08, 2020 11:37 am

Teo wrote:I think their offensive line was very underrated: the Oates brothers (why Bart was overlooked by the NFL and why Brad d from team to team?). Irv Eastman should have been a higher NFL Draft choice (as Kelvin Bryant) if the USFL was not around. Chuck Commiwkey had been a late 1981 Eaglles draft choice who improved greatly with the Stars.


Yeah, the OL was key. The Stars drafted well had a young, stable team compared to all the other USFL franchises, who either had multiple owners or spent money signing ex-NFL players who were at the end of their career. The Stars defense was young and athletic, and they were remarkably effective. The first two seasons they allowed about 100 fewer points than the 2nd best defense. Even in their last season where they weren't as good, they still allowed the fewest points in the USFL.

I think two keys to their success was that Chuck Fusina was good enough to function in the USFL, and that Cliff Stoudt was Birmingham's QB. If the USFL had slightly better defenses, perhaps the Stars wouldn't have been able to get by with Fusina as their QB. The Stallions were the closest USFL team to the Stars in terms of style of play, and faced off against the Stars in both the 84 and 85 postseasons. Luckily for the Stars, Cliff Stoudt was intent on proving himself the worst postseason QB in two different leagues, as the Stars ran up 20-0 and 28-0 4th quarter leads in each game.
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Re: The USFL's Philadelphia Stars

Postby nicefellow31 » Mon Jun 08, 2020 12:03 pm

nicefellow31 wrote:
Teo wrote:I think their offensive line was very underrated: the Oates brothers (why Bart was overlooked by the NFL and why Brad d from team to team?). Irv Eastman should have been a higher NFL Draft choice (as Kelvin Bryant) if the USFL was not around. Chuck Commiwkey had been a late 1981 Eaglles draft choice who improved greatly with the Stars.


I remember Irv Eatman having a huge game against Ohio State in the early 80's. However he was a defensive lineman. They converted him to an offensive tackle his senior season so that may have something to do with his draft position.


So I tweeted Eatman himself and asked about his career at UCLA. His response

Recruited as OL, switched to DE as a sophomore stayed there until last five weeks of senior year

https://twitter.com/BIGIRVSATX1/status/ ... 98311?s=20

Wow. I can't imagine anybody accepting that type of change so late in their senior year of college football.
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Re: The USFL's Philadelphia Stars

Postby Throwin_Samoan » Mon Jun 08, 2020 1:20 pm

JohnH19 wrote:
I wonder how long the league might have survived if a certain someone wouldn't have urged the other league owners to adopt a fall schedule in 1986.


They were bleeding money as it was, they agreed to a TV contract at launch that limited their options, and despite success in a few markets, the USFL wasn't "working" in the spring, either. (And don't get me wrong - I loved the league.)

Even before Jeff Pearlman's book, there was plenty written about how unstable it was, how far it drifted from its original concept, how owner egos and arms races hastened the red ink, and how the first commissioner was weak and the second was inept. They turned down a substantial cable TV deal, thinking they could get even more. They still would have lost their Los Angeles and Chicago franchises, John Bassett dying was the end of the league's actual soul, and the cracks in the façade were obvious.

It's chic now to say they'd still be around if they hadn't attempted to move to the fall (or that they'd at least have lasted a while longer), but the economics of the game changed pretty substantially not long after the USFL's heyday. They would have been less likely - not more likely - to be able to outbid NFL teams for college players and free agents. And the stadium game tilted decidedly against a competitor league not long after that, too. NFL teams extorted new stadiums AND the control of them (even taxpayer-funded ones, which was all of them, I think), which presciently has locked out competitors from using the most viable stadiums in most markets.

So you'd have been trying to take on the NFL with markets like Memphis and Phoenix and Baltimore and Birmingham and the like. (New Orleans wouldn't have had to move to Portland without the league moving to the fall, but they might have been forced to move somewhere else anyway.)

It's not likely the USFL could have been a functioning spring league for much longer unless it had stayed true to its original thrifty concept and not chased expansion fees and the antitrust suit. But we'll never know. I just think it was unlikely.
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Re: The USFL's Philadelphia Stars

Postby NWebster » Mon Jun 08, 2020 2:24 pm

Throwin_Samoan wrote:
JohnH19 wrote:
I wonder how long the league might have survived if a certain someone wouldn't have urged the other league owners to adopt a fall schedule in 1986.


They were bleeding money as it was, they agreed to a TV contract at launch that limited their options, and despite success in a few markets, the USFL wasn't "working" in the spring, either. (And don't get me wrong - I loved the league.)

Even before Jeff Pearlman's book, there was plenty written about how unstable it was, how far it drifted from its original concept, how owner egos and arms races hastened the red ink, and how the first commissioner was weak and the second was inept. They turned down a substantial cable TV deal, thinking they could get even more. They still would have lost their Los Angeles and Chicago franchises, John Bassett dying was the end of the league's actual soul, and the cracks in the façade were obvious.

It's chic now to say they'd still be around if they hadn't attempted to move to the fall (or that they'd at least have lasted a while longer), but the economics of the game changed pretty substantially not long after the USFL's heyday. They would have been less likely - not more likely - to be able to outbid NFL teams for college players and free agents. And the stadium game tilted decidedly against a competitor league not long after that, too. NFL teams extorted new stadiums AND the control of them (even taxpayer-funded ones, which was all of them, I think), which presciently has locked out competitors from using the most viable stadiums in most markets.

So you'd have been trying to take on the NFL with markets like Memphis and Phoenix and Baltimore and Birmingham and the like. (New Orleans wouldn't have had to move to Portland without the league moving to the fall, but they might have been forced to move somewhere else anyway.)

It's not likely the USFL could have been a functioning spring league for much longer unless it had stayed true to its original thrifty concept and not chased expansion fees and the antitrust suit. But we'll never know. I just think it was unlikely.


I think the most likely outcome over time - and this is likely what many among the ownership hoped for (it was referred to in the Small Potatoes 30 For 30 - would be an AAFC style semi-merger where a handful 4-5 teams merge in and the other are distributed by a draft. The NFL actually held a USFL/CFL Supplemental draft in Spring of 84. I'd think if 4-5 teams merged the Stars would certainly have been one of them, likely along with the Express, the Invaders, the Generals and maaaybe the Gamblers and Showboats. Now that said, none of these would merge in to the NFL with the success that the Browns did, but merging in with the best QB in the combined league makes a huge difference.
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