(Chuck Fusina photo courtesy of Penn State University)
(Doug Williams photo courtesy of the Washington Redskins)
Talk of Fame Network
Carl Peterson, the head of USA Football, visited with the Talk of Fame Network show this week to talk about a league very close to his heart – the USFL.
Peterson was the general manager of the Philadelphia Stars and put together a team that would dominate the spring league, reaching all three USFL title games and winning the last two. The USFL folded after the 1985 season, and Peterson went on to great success in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs, building a team that would win 102 games in the 1990s.
We asked Peterson to put together his all-time All-USFL team for us, and he chose one of his own, Chuck Fusina of the Stars, as the quarterback. That position was one of the strengths of the USFL with Doug Flutie, Bobby Hebert, Jim Kelly, John Reaves, Doug Williams and Steve Young all taking snaps in that league. Kelly and Young would go on to have Hall-of-Fame careers in the NFL, Williams would become a Super Bowl MVP, and Flutie and Hebert would become Pro Bowlers.
That’s our question in this week’s Talk of Fame Network poll — who would you have chosen as your all-time USFL quarterback? Here are your six options:
Chuck Fusina, Philadelphia/Baltimore: Quarterbacks are judged by their jewelry, and no one had more USFL jewelry than Fusina. He took the Stars to all three USFL title games and won two of them. He was the MVP of the 1984 title game. Fusina posted a league-best 48-13-1 record in his USFL career and was one of only two quarterbacks to pass for more than 10,000 yards.
(Chuck Fusina on the cover of the 1985 Baltimore Stars media guide)
Bobby Hebert, Michigan/Oakland: Hebert was the other quarterback to pass for 10,000 yards — and the 13,137 yards he amassed over his three seasons made him the USFL’s all-time leading passer. He faced Fusina in two of the three USFL title games, winning the 1983 game and losing in 1985. He was both the All-USFL quarterback and the title game MVP in 1983.
Jim Kelly, Houston: Kelly was a first-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills who spurned the NFL to sign with the USFL Houston Gamblers. He stepped in as the trigger in the Run & Shoot offense of Mouse Davis and passed for a pro football-record 5,219 yards as a rookie, leading his Gamblers to a pro football record 618 points. In two seasons Kelly passed for 9,842 yards and a USFL-record 83 touchdowns. He was named the All-USFL quarterback in both 1984 and 1985.
(Jim Kelly and Jack Pardee on the cover of the 1985 Houston Gamblers press guide)
John Reaves, Tampa Bay: Kelly had the Run & Shoot. Reaves had the Fun ‘N Gun of Steve Spurrier. Like Fusina and Hebert, Reaves played all three USFL seasons and threw 1,362 passes, third most after Hebert and Fusina. Unlike Hebert and Kelly, who were just starting their careers, Reaves was at the end of his. He went with his fellow Gator Spurrier to Tampa at the age of 33. He threw for more yards in his three-year USFL career (9,561) than in his 11-year NFL career as a backup (3,417).
Doug Williams, Oklahoma/Arizona: A former first-round NFL draft pick of Tampa Bay, Williams bolted to the USFL in a contract dispute with the Buccaneers in 1984. He played one season with the Oklahoma Outlaws and a second with the Arizona Wranglers.He passed for 6,752 yards with 36 touchdowns and 38 interceptions. But those two seasons kept him active and laid the groundwork for his move to the Washington Redskins, where he became a Super Bowl MVP in 1988.
Steve Young, Los Angeles: Much like the Rams were desperate for a marquee name when they traded up for quarterback Jard Goff in the 2016 NFL draft, the Los Angeles Express was desperate for a marquee name in 1984. So the Express signed Young to a whopping 10-year, $40-million contract off the BYU campus. He passed for 4,102 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushed for 883 yards and nine more scores in his two seasons. When the USFL folded, Young moved on to Tampa Bay and then San Francisco, where he became an NFL MVP, a league passing champion and a Super Bowl champ.
(Steve Young on the cover of the 1985 Los Angeles Express media guide)