|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)
|Owner(s)|| 1983 Dr. Ted Diethrich|
1984 Dr. James Hoffman
1984 The USFL
Team history Edit
The Blitz were one of the charter members 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. 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 that was the early favorite to be the new league's first champion.
They finished in a tie for the Central Division title, but were awarded a wild card berth due to being swept by the eventual champion Michigan Panthers. In the playoffs, they blew a 21-point lead over the Philadelphia Stars, losing 44-38 in overtime.
Struggling at the gateEdit
Despite the fact that the Blitz were one of the strongest teams in the league (some suggested that they could have been competitive in the NFL), they struggled a little at the gate, averaging only 18,100 fans. (It should be noted that these numbers were very similar to the numbers 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, 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 put his team on the market as well.
Franchise swap with Arizona WranglersEdit
This resulted in one of the most unusual transactions in sports history. Diethrich and his group sold the Blitz to Milwaukee heart surgeon James Hoffman. The Diethrich group then bought the Wranglers from Joseph. Almost immediately after Diethrich closed on his purchase of the Wranglers, he and Hoffman agreed to swap their assets—players, coaching staff and all. The result was that, with few exceptions, the 1983 Blitz became the Wranglers, while the 1983 Wranglers became the Blitz. (The most notable exception was that Wrangler triggerman Alan Risher stayed in Arizona to back up Veteran Greg Landry).
(While the USFL was active, the league considered the 1983 and 1984 Blitz 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, but the league allowing the transformation of the Blitz into a lesser version of the 4-14 Wranglers raised 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 EraEdit
Although the 1984 Blitz had many of the same players as the 1983 Wranglers, they were weaker in two specific ways. All of the initial 12 teams were required to make players available in the expansion draft. Secondly, while the 1983 Wranglers featured the League's 6th ranked passer in rookie QB (Alan Risher), 12th ranked rusher in 3rd year vet Calvin Murray, and the league's #7, #10, #11 receivers (1983 rookies TE Mark Keel, WR Jackie Flowers, and WR Neil Balholm, respectively), triggerman Risher stayed in Arizona in the transaction.
Hoffman spent heavily in promoting the new Blitz. He hired NFL veteran and Chicago native Marv Levy as coach. 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 starter, in spite of owning a very unimpressive 57.31 rating in 7 previous NFL seasons. Evans' accuaracy 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 (Evans signed in November 1983 to a 4 year $5 million deal).
In January, the Blitz tendered an offer that would have been the largest contract in football --- $2 Million dollars a year for 3 years --- to Bears running back Walter Payton. Payton advised he would consider the offer, but would not be rushed by the Blitz. The Blitz 1984 season was scheduled to start on February 27 and they had little success selling season tickets. The Blitz needed Payton to sign quickly to help season ticket sales, so they had 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 flatlined, 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 --- walking away before his new team even played a down.
The 1984 SeasonEdit
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 perchant 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. WR Jackie Flowers lead the team with 51 catches for 904 yards with 8 TDs.
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, 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 LeagueEdit
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, Vagas Ferguson, Richard Holland, Joe Ehrmann, Tim Wrightman, Larry Canada, Tom Thayer and Kevin Long. Jeff Gossett
1983 Blitz game resultsEdit
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 rosterEdit
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 (TE) 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 resultsEdit
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 rosterEdit
3. Kevin Seibel (K) 7. Jeff Gossett(P) 8. Vince Evans (QB) 11. Dennis Shaw (QB) 13. David Whitt (P) 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. Richard Holland (FB) 33. Glenn Ford (RB) 35. Larry Canada (FB) 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 (LB) 53. John Gillen (LB) 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 (LB) 60. Mike Weston (C) 61. Mike 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 (TE) 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 (TE) 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 leadersEdit
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||-|