Arizona Wranglers

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Arizona Wranglers
Founded1982
Relocated1985 Merger with Oklahoma Outlaws: Arizona Outlaws
Based inTempe, Arizona, United States
Home fieldSun Devil Stadium
LeagueUSFL
ConferenceWestern
DivisionPacific Division
Team HistoryArizona Wranglers (1982–1985)
Arizona Outlaws (1985)
Team colorsFlag Blue, Red, Copper, Yellow, White                         
Head coaches1983 Doug Shively (4-14)
1984 George Allen (12-9)
Owner(s)1983 Jim Joseph
1984 Dr. Ted Diethrich
& Stan Atkins
Conference championships1984
Division championships1984

The Arizona Wranglers were a professional American Football team in the United States Football League that, name-wise, existed from late 1982 to mid-1985. They played at Sun Devil Stadium on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe, a suburb of Phoenix.

History[edit]

Founding[edit]

The team that would eventually become the Arizona Wranglers was originally supposed to be the USFL's Los Angeles franchise. The team's planned original owner, Alex Spanos, pulled out of his USFL commitment and instead bought a minority stake in the NFL's San Diego Chargers.

The owners of the Oakland Invaders, Bay Area real estate executives Jim Joseph and Tad Taube, flipped a coin to decide who would take action to become the new owner of the USFL's Los Angeles franchise. Joseph won the flip and got the USFL rights to Los Angeles, while Taube retained full ownership of the Invaders.

A few months later, fate shuffled the deck. The owners of the USFL's San Diego franchise, cable television pioneers Bill Daniels and Alan Harmon, could not secure access to Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego. (The USFL would never be able to successfully negotiate a lease to the Chargers' home stadium, a situation that would force a second USFL team, the Outlaws, to leave San Diego for another city before playing a down.)

USFL officials felt that Daniels and Harmon's ties to the cable industry would be better suited for the country's second-largest market. The league forced Joseph to surrender rights to Los Angeles to Daniels and Harmon, whose franchise became the Los Angeles Express. Joseph finally settled on a move to Phoenix, bringing professional football to that Arizona city for the first time.

1983 season[edit]

Joseph appeared to hold fast to the USFL's original blueprint. He aggressively marketed the team in Arizona while keeping a tight rein on spending (including player salaries). The results were a mixed bag. The roster was a young team with some talent at the skill positions, but fewer quality starters in the starting lineup and less depth of talent than their opponents. Due to a weaker product, the ticket sales were only in line with most other teams in the league.

The Wranglers were quite competitive at first, posting a 4-4 record and moving into a four-way tie for first in their division. However, they lost their last 10 games—tied for the longest losing streak in league history—finishing in a tie for the worst record in the league.

The 1983 Wranglers featured some talent on offense including the League's 6th ranked passer in rookie QB Alan Risher, 12th ranked rusher in 3rd year vet Leon Calvin Murray, and the league's #7, #10, #11 receivers (1983 rookies TE Mark Keel, WR Jackie Flowers, and WR Neil Balholm, respectively).

Their defense was not as strong, although it looked fairly strong on paper before the season. The Wranglers signed San Francisco 49er ILB Jeff McIntyre and ILB Glen Perkins from the University of Arizona. But during pre-season McIntyre, who had a personal services contract with Joseph, asked to be traded because of contract issues. Perkins suffered a knee injury that slowed his play and development.

The Wranglers probably benefited early on from the league's decision not to have a preseason. When the rest of their opponents reached mid-season form, the undermanned Wrangler defense appeared to have trouble keeping the games within reach of the offense. The Wranglers gave up 442 points, easily the most in the league. The Wranglers only scored more than 23 points once all season --- in their week 2 upset of George Allen's Chicago Blitz.

In hopes of avoiding Arizona's often-oppressive summer heat, the league scheduled 6 Wranglers home games in the first half of the season. The team only played 3 of their last 9 games at home.

1983 Schedule[edit]

Week Day Date Opponent Game site Attendance Television Final Score W/L Record
Regular Season
1 Sunday March 6, 1983 Oakland Invaders Sun Devil Stadium 45,167 0-24 L 0–1
2 Saturday March 12, 1983 Chicago Blitz Sun Devil Stadium 28,434 ESPN 30-29 W 1–1
3 Saturday March 19, 1983 Los Angeles Express Sun Devil Stadium 29,335 21-14 W 2–1
4 Saturday March 26, 1983 at Birmingham Stallions Legion Field 5,000 ESPN 7-16 L 2–2
5 Sunday April 3, 1983 New Jersey Generals Sun Devil Stadium 31,382 21-35 L 2–3
6 Monday April 11, 1983 at Washington Federals RFK Stadium 13,936 ESPN 22-21 W 3–3
7 Sunday April 17, 1983 Boston Breakers Sun Devil Stadium 20,911 23-44 L 3–4
8 Saturday April 23, 1983 Denver Gold Sun Devil Stadium 21,557 24-3 W 4–4
9 Monday May 2, 1983 at Oakland Invaders Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum 27,460 ESPN 20-23 L 4–5
10 Saturday May 7, 1983 Michigan Panthers Sun Devil Stadium 20,423 ESPN 10-21 L 4–6
11 Sunday May 15, 1983 at Tampa Bay Bandits Tampa Stadium 32,327 14-20 L 4–7
12 Sunday May 22, 1983 Philadelphia Stars Sun Devil Stadium 18,151 7-24 L 4–8
13 Monday May 30, 1983 at Chicago Blitz Soldier Field 13,952 ESPN 11-36 L 4–9
14 Sunday June 5, 1983 at Los Angeles Express Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum 13,826 13-17 L 4–10
15 Saturday June 11, 1983 Washington Federals Sun Devil Stadium 16,656 11-18 L 4–11
16 Friday June 17, 1983 at Denver Gold Mile High Stadium 42,621 6-32 L 4–12
17 Saturday June 25, 1983 at New Jersey Generals Giants Stadium 30,612 ESPN 14-21 L 4–13
18 Sunday July 3, 1983 at Michigan Panthers Pontiac Silverdome 31,905 ABC 7-33 L 4–14

Sources[1][2][3]

1983 USFL Draft[edit]

Arizona Wranglers 1983 USFL Draft selections
Draft order Player name Position Height Weight College Contract Notes
Round Choice Overall
1 2 2 Traded to the Chicago Blitz
1 6 6 Received from the Chicago Blitz Eric Dickerson RB 6'2" 190 Southern Methodist
2 23 23 Gary Williams WR 6'2" 215 Ohio State
3 26 26 Sid Abramowitz OT 6'6" 280 Tulsa
4 47 47 Rob Fada OG 6'2" 265 Pittsburgh
6 27 196 Jamar Wall CB 5'10" 204 Texas Tech
7 27 234 Sean Lissemore NT/DE 6'4" 298 William & Mary

Transaction with the Chicago Blitz[edit]

Joseph lost millions of dollars in the 1983 season. Like most of the other owners, he'd bought into the league knowing to expect years of losses. However, he was disappointed in the team's attendance and unwilling to stick it out in Arizona.

In a stroke of luck for Joseph, Chicago Blitz owner Dr. Ted Diethrich (a Phoenix resident and founder of the Arizona Heart Institute) wanted a chance to move closer to his business interests in the Phoenix area. Despite fielding a team that had come up one game short of the USFL title game, the Blitz' attendance had been lackluster at best. Diethrich had lost millions of dollars, and didn't believe those losses justified an investment that far from home.

Diethrich thought he had a solution to both his and Joseph's problems—an unprecedented swap of franchises. Diethrich sold the Blitz to fellow surgeon James Hoffman, then bought the Wranglers from Joseph. Allen, who had been chairman and head coach of the Blitz, took the same posts in Arizona. and his entire coaching staff moved to Phoenix as well. Hoffman and Diethrich then engineered a swap of assets in which most of the Blitz players moved to Phoenix while most of the Wranglers roster moved to Chicago. (The most notable exception was that Wrangler quarterback Alan Risher stayed in Arizona to back up former Blitz quarterback Greg Landry). The deal allowed Allen to keep virtually all of the NFL veteran-loaded roster that he had painstakingly assembled for the Blitz in 1983. It also allowed Diethrich to get a team in his hometown; he'd originally sought a USFL franchise for Phoenix in 1983, only to buy controlling interest in the (original) Blitz after being unable to get a lease for Sun Devil Stadium

Diethrich wanted to take the Blitz name with him to Arizona, but Hoffman rebuffed him. As a result, Diethrich rebranded his team as the "New" Arizona Wranglers. 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 league powerhouse almost overnight. However, trading a team that had been, at worst, the third-best team in the league for a lesser version of one of the worst teams in the league raised questions about the USFL's credibility—especially in Chicago. The Blitz would never recover, and would be effectively euthanized at the end of the season (Eddie Einhorn was awarded a replacement Chicago franchise, but it never played a down).

1984 season[edit]

The 1984 Wranglers finished in a tie for first in the Western Division. In the playoffs, they upset the powerful Houston Gamblers, then defeated the Los Angeles Express for the conference title. Although the Express had a better record, the game was played at Sun Devil Stadium because the Express' home field, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, was being readied for the 1984 Summer Olympics. To accommodate the oppressive summer heat in the state, as well as the ABC Sports television schedule, the game kicked off at 8:30 p.m. local time (11:30 p.m. Eastern time).

The Wranglers' run ended in the championship game with a 23-3 defeat by the Philadelphia Stars in what would be Allen's last game as a professional coach. QB Greg Landry retired after the season. Allen retired as coach in September 1984, but remain involved with the team. Allen named assistant coach Paul Lanham as head coach. [1]

The Wranglers intended to change to red jerseys for the 1984 season, but the league office had put in a rule that stated any team changing jersey colors (in this case, blue to red) had to wait one season before doing so.[citation needed]

1984 Schedule[edit]

Week Day Date Opponent Game site Attendance Television Final Score W/L Record
Preseason
1 Sunday January 29, 1984 Oakland Invaders Sun Devil Stadium 6–0 W 1–0
2 Bye
3 Saturday February 11, 1984 vs. Denver Gold Casa Grande, Arizona 14–31 L 1–1
4 Bye
Regular Season
1 Sunday February 26, 1984 Oakland Invaders Sun Devil Stadium 29,176 ABC 35–7 W 1–0
2 Friday March 2, 194 Tampa Bay Bandits Sun Devil Stadium 31,264 ESPN 17–20 L 1–1
3 Monday March 12, 1983 Washington Federals Sun Devil Stadium 25,218 ESPN 37–7 W 2–1
4 Sunday March 18, 1984 at Michigan Panthers Pontiac Silverdome 43,130 ABC 26–31 L 2–2
5 Saturday March 24, 1983 Oklahoma Outlaws Sun Devil Stadium 29,434 ESPN 49–7 W 3–2
6 Sunday April 1, 1984 at Denver Gold Mile High Stadium 31,666 7–17 L 3–3
7 Sunday April 8, 1984 Phiadelphia Stars Sun Devil Stadium 30,252 ABC 21–22 L 3–4
8 Sunday April 15, 1984 at New Jersey Generals Giants Stadium 31,917 ABC 20–3 W 4–4
9 Saturday April 21, 1984 at Houston Gamblers Houston Astrodome 23,117 ESPN 24–37 L 4–5
10 Saturday April 28, 1984 San Antonio Gunslingers Sun Devil Stadium 12,259 23–24 L 4–6
11 Monday May 7, 1984 at New Orleans Breakers Louisiana Superdome 22,937 ESPN 28–13 W 5–6
12 Sunday May 13, 1984 at Oakland Invaders Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum 20,004 3–14 L 5–7
13 Saturday May 19, 1983 Denver Gold Sun Devil Stadium 21,741 41–6 W 6–7
14 Saturday May 26, 1984 at Los Angeles Express Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum 11,702 ESPN 17–24 L 6–8
15 Sunday June 3, 1984 at Birmingham Stallions Legion Field 32,500 ABC 38–28 W 7–8
16 Friday June 8, 1984 Jacksonville Bulls Sun Devil Stadium 15,513 45–14 W 8–8
17 Friday June 15, 1984 at Chicago Blitz Soldier Field 5,711 36–0 W 9–8
18 Saturday June 23, 1984 Los Angeles Express Sun Devil Stadium 35,258 ESPN 35–10 W 10–8
Playoffs
Divisional
Playoff
Sunday July 1, 1984 at Houston Gamblers Houston Astrodome 32,713 ABC 17–16 W
Conference
Championship
Saturday July 7, 1984 Los Angeles Express Sun Devil Stadium 33,188 ABC 35–23 W
USFL
Championship
Sunday July 15, 1984 vs. Philadelphia Stars Tampa Stadium 52,662 ABC 3–23 L

Sources[4][5][6]

1984 Arizona Wranglers Roster[edit]

(Games played/games started in parenthesis), height, weight, age, college

  1. Minnifield, Frank CB (18/15), 5.09, 180, 24, Louisville; 38 tackles, 13 assists, 7 PDs[clarification needed], 2 fumbles recovered, 4 interceptions, 74 yards returned
  2. Johnson, Trumaine WR (18/18), 6.03, 193, 23, Grambling; 90 receptions, 1,269 receiving yards, 14.1 average per reception, 13 touchdowns
  3. Corral, Frank K/P (18/0), 6.02, 210, 28, UCLA; 11/21 field goals made, 63/65 points after touchdown, 96 points, 69 punts, 41.4 average yards per punt, 58 yard long punt, 6 touchbacks, 17 punts within the 20 yard line
  4. Risher, Alan QB (18/0), 6.02, 190, 23, Louisiana State; 64/104, 61.5%, 728 yards, 3 touchdowns, 7 interceptions
  5. Porras, Tom QB (IA/18G), 6.02, 193, 26, Washington
  6. Landry, Greg QB (18/18), 6.04, 207, 37, Massachusetts; 283/449, 63.0%, 3,534 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, 15 interceptions
  7. McNair, David FS (15/0), 6.00, 190, 22, University of Florida; 13 tackles, 3 assists, 2 fumbles recovered
  8. Dennison, Doug RB (13/0), 6.01, 200, 32, Kutztown State, 8 carries, 48 rushing yards, 1 touchdown, 30 receptions, 244 receiving yards
  9. Shields, Lance CB (18/6), 6.00, 175, 23, Drake; 27 tackles, 10 assists, 2 PDs
  10. Johnson, Randy RB (7/0), 5.11, 205, 21, Texas-Arlington; 13 carries, 53 rushing yards
  11. Barbieri, Ryan (safety) SS/LB (5/4) 5.11, 224, Scottsdale community college
  12. Brown, Eddie SS (16/4), 5.11, 190, 31, Tennessee; 31 tackles, 17 assists, 4 PDs,[clarification needed] 1 fumble recovered, 2 interceptions, 20 punt returns, 11.0 yards per punt return
  13. Bradley, Luther FS (18/18), 6.03, 197, 28, Notre Dame
  14. Schwartz, Don SS (IA/2G), 6.01, 195, 28, Washington State
  15. Walton, Ted SS (11/1), 5.10, 198, 26, Connecticut
  16. Allen, Carl CB (11/11), 6.00, 175, 28, Southern Mississippi
  17. Long, Kevin FB (18/18), 6.01, 219, 29, South Carolina
  18. Laird, Bruce SS (13/13), 6.01, 195, 33, American International
  19. Clark, Allan RB (18/0), 5.10, 190, 26, Northern Arizona
  20. Boatner, Mack FB (18/0), 6.00, 220, 25, Southeastern State (La.)
  21. Sanchez, Lupe CB (9/4), 5.10, 197, 22, UCLA
  22. Spencer, Tim RB (18/18), 6.01, 216, 23, Ohio State
  23. Ohton, Dave LS (5/0), 5.10, 220, 22, Arizona State
  24. Sullivan, Gerry C (18/18), 6.04, 250, 31, Illinois
  25. White, Stan LB (18/18), 6.01, 225, 34, Ohio State
  26. Melontree, Andy LB (18/0), 6.03, 214, 26, Baylor
  27. Casey, Derrick LB (5/0), 6.01, 230, 23, San Francisco State
  28. Fahnhorst, Jim LB (18/18), 6.04, 230, 25, Minnesota
  29. Smith, Ed LB (18/18), 6.02, 218, 26, Vanderbilt
  30. Field, Doak LB (14/0), 6.02, 224, 25, Baylor
  31. Gheesling, Bruce LB (18/0), 6.01, 212, 23, Furman
  32. Piette, Tom LS (17/0), 6.04, 243, 23, Michigan State
  33. Thayer, Tom G (16/16), 6.04, 261, 22, Notre Dame
  34. Kehr, Rick G (IA/2G), 6.03, 270, 24, Carthage
  35. Buben, Mark DE (18/1), 6.03, 260, 27, Tufts
  36. Lee, John DE (18/17), 6.02, 261, 31, Nebraska
  37. Kiewel, Jeff G (IA/18G), 6.04, 254, 23, Arizona
  38. Stadnik, John T (13/10), 6.04, 278, 24, Western Illinois
  39. Huffman, David G (18/18), 6.07, 255, 26, Notre Dame
  40. Lathrop, Kit DT (18/18), 6.04, 254, 27, Arizona State
  41. Lorch, Karl DE (18/18), 6.04, 235, 33, Southern California
  42. Hickman, Dallas DE (14/0), 6.06, 234, 28, California
  43. Stevenson, Mark G (IA/3G), 6.03, 276, 28, Western Illinois
  44. Ehrmann, Joe DT (14/9), 6.03, 248, 34, Syracuse
  45. Taylor, Rob T (18/18), 6.06, 280, 23, Northwestern
  46. Giddens, Frank T (15/8), 6.07, 320, 24, New Mexico
  47. Thomas, Todd T/LS (5/0), 6.06, 270, 24, North Dakota
  48. Smith, Robert DE (4/0), 6.07, 256, 22, Grambling
  49. Hill, Al (IA/8G), 6.03, 205, 24, Arizona
  50. Wrightman, Tim TE (IA/9G), 6.03, 225, 24, UCLA
  51. Douglas, Larry WR (16/2), 6.01, 192, 26, Southern
  52. Locklin, Kerry TE (2/0), 6.04, 235, 30, New Mexico State
  53. Brown, Clay TE (2/0), 6.03, 220, 25, Brigham Young
  54. Tolbert, Mark WR (10/0), 5.09, 175, 25, Cal-Poly Pomona
  55. Ricker, Paul TE (18/18), 6.03, 233, 27, Norwich
  56. Cozen, Doug TE (4/0), 6.04, 241, 26, Illinois
  57. Buggs, Wamon WR (4/4), 6.02, 198, 23, Vanderbilt
  58. Willis, Lenny WR (18/14), 5.11, 188, 30, Ohio State
  59. 1 Epps, Nick DE (4/0), 6.03, 247, 21, Illinois
  60. YungOUNG, Wilbur DT (15/9), 6.06, 285, 34, William Penn

Head Coach: George Allen

Quarterbacks Coach: Roman Gabriel

Offensive Line: John Payne

Secondary: Donald "Deek" Pollard

Defensive Line: John Teerlinck

Offensive Backs: Ray Wietecha

Strength & Conditioning: Warren Anderson

Merger with the Oklahoma Outlaws[edit]

Despite making it to the championship game, Diethrich was bleeding in red ink. He expected his all-star team's attendance to be much greater than the 25,776 fans per game the no-name Wranglers averaged in 1983. However, as had been the case a year earlier, Phoenix-area fans viewed the Wranglers mostly with indifference. Despite fielding a winning team, the Wranglers' 1984 attendance figures (25,568 fans per game) were lower than the 1983 numbers, as fans were slow to warm to the new players.

After losing millions for the second year in a row and realizing that he would never see the remainder of the $7.2 million that Hoffman had promised to pay him for the Blitz, Diethrich decided to get out. He found a willing buyer in Oklahoma Outlaws owner William Tatham, who was looking for a larger market with an acceptable stadium. The two men reached a deal in which the two teams would be merged as the Arizona Outlaws, with the Outlaws as the nominal survivor. Tatham was to own 75 percent of the merged team, while Diethrich would own 25 percent. However, when Diethrich hinted that the merged team might have to file for bankruptcy, the merger fell apart, and Diethrich decided to get out of the league altogether. As a result, the deal was restructured so that the Wranglers folded and the Outlaws took their place in Phoenix. However, since Tatham acquired all the Wranglers' player contracts, the deal was still widely reported as a merger.[7][8]

Single season leaders[edit]

Rushing yards: 1207 (1984), Tim Spencer

Receiving yards: 1258 (1984), Trumaine Johnson

Passing yards: 3534 (1984), Greg Landry

Season-by-season[edit]

Season W L T Finish Playoff results
1983 4 14 0 4th Pacific Division
1984 10 8 0 2nd Pacific Division Won Divisional Playoff (Houston)
Won Western Conference Championship (Los Angeles)
Lost USFL championship (Philadelphia)
Totals 16 23 0 (including playoffs)

Head coaches[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ statscrew.com 1983 Arizona Wranglers Game-by-Game Results
  2. ^ usflsite.com 1983 USFL Season
  3. ^ profootballarchives.com 1983 Arizona Wranglers (USFL)
  4. ^ statscrew.com 1984 Arizona Wranglers Game-by-Game Results
  5. ^ usflsite.com 1984 USFL Season
  6. ^ profootballarchives.com 1984 Arizona Wranglers (USFL)
  7. ^ Reeths, Paul (2017). The United States Football League, 1982-1986. McFarland & Company. ISBN 1476667446.
  8. ^ Pearlman, Jeff (2018). Football For A Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0544454385.

External links[edit]