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," there having been a professional soccer team in the late 1960s known as the "New York Generals."
The franchise was originally owned by J. Walter Duncan, with Chuck Fairbanks running the team as head coach and general manager for the 1983 season. The team made a big splash by signing Heisman Trophy-winning underclassman Herschel Walker, a running back from the University of Georgia. 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.
The team was purchased by New York real-estate magnate Donald Trump prior to the 1984 season. Trump tried to lure legendary coach Don Shula from the Miami Dolphins. Legend has it 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 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. The Generals merged with the Houston Gamblers during the extended offseason, adding such stars as quarterback Jim Kelly, wide receiver Ricky Sanders and head coach Jack Pardee, but 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 (as of 2011) is the last quarterback to have led the Bills to the NFL playoffs.
Single season leaders
- Rushing Yards: 2411 Herschel Walker (1985) (USFL Record)
- Receiving Yards: 715 Sam Bowers (1983)
- Passing Yards: 2540 Brian Sipe (1984)
- Sacks: 13 James Lockette (1985)
Note: W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties
|1984||14||4||0||2nd EC Atlantic||Lost Quarterfinal (Philadelphia)|
|1985||11||7||0||2nd EC||Lost Quarterfinal (Baltimore)|
- The 1985 Generals team was the second USFL team to feature two Heisman Trophy winners, with Doug Flutie and Herschel Walker. The Jacksonville Bulls had Archie Griffin and Mike Rozier.