Portland Breakers

The New Orleans Breakers were an American football team that played in the United States Football League (USFL) in the mid-1980s. Before moving to Portland, Oregon, the franchise was previously in Boston, Massachusetts as the Boston Breakers and New Orleans, Louisiana as the New Orleans Breakers.[1]

Portland Breakers
Established 1982
Folded 1985
Played in Civic Stadium
in Portland, Oregon
Portland Breakers logo.png
League/conference affiliations
United States Football League (1983–1985)
  • Eastern Conference (1984)
  • Western Conference (1985)
    • Atlantic Division (1983)
    • Southern Division (1984)
Team colorsBreaker Blue, Royal Blue, Silver, White
Owner(s)1983 George Matthews and Randy Vataha
1984 Joseph Canizaro, Neal Kaye Sr. and Randy Vataha
1985 Joseph Canizaro
Head coach1983–1985 Dick Coury (25-29)
Team history
  • Boston Breakers (1983)
  • New Orleans Breakers (1984)
  • Portland Breakers (1985)
League championships (0)
Conference championships (0)
Division championships (0)
Home stadium(s)

A new United States Football League – legally distinct from its predecessor, but using its team nicknames – is scheduled to begin play in April 2022, and a new version of the New Orleans Breakers, coached by Larry Fedora, will be one of eight teams competing.[2][3]


Boston BreakersEdit

The team started out in 1983 as the Boston Breakers, owned by Boston businessman George Matthews and former New England Patriots wide receiver Randy Vataha. However, finding a stadium proved difficult. The lack of a professional-quality stadium had stymied previous attempts at pro football in Boston before the Patriots arrived in 1960.

The largest stadium in the region was Schaefer Stadium in Foxborough, home of the Patriots. However, it was owned by the Sullivan family, owners of the Patriots, and Matthews and Vataha were not willing to have an NFL team as their landlord. As a result, their initial choice for a home facility was Harvard Stadium, but Harvard University rejected them almost out of hand. They finally settled on Nickerson Field on the campus of Boston University, which seated only 21,000 people – the smallest stadium in the league.[4] The team's cheerleaders were called "Heartbreakers".

Coach Dick Coury put together a fairly competitive team led by quarterback Johnnie Walton (then 36 years old, a former Continental Football League and World Football League alumnus who had been out of football since the late 1970s) and Canadian Football League veteran halfback Richard Crump. The Breakers finished 11-7, finishing one game behind the Chicago Blitz for the final playoff spot. Walton, who had retired from pro football years earlier and had spent the previous three years coaching college football, was the league's seventh ranked passer. Coury was named coach of the year.

Despite fielding a fairly solid team, playing in Nickerson Field doomed the team in Boston. The stadium had been built in 1955 (though parts of it dated to 1915), and had not aged well. It was so small that the Breakers lost money even when they sold out as visiting teams got a portion of the gate proceeds. The Breakers and Washington Federals were the only teams to draw fewer than 14,000 per game in 1983. The other 10 teams drew over 18,000 per game. (The fans who came to the games were generally passionate; the documentary Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL? made note of a particular Breakers victory in which fans stormed the field afterward.)

Concluding that Nickerson Field was not suitable even for temporary use, Matthews again approached Harvard, but the school refused again. He then hashed out a deal to move to Foxborough, but ultimately decided against being a tenant of an NFL team. He considered an offer to sell a stake in the team to Jacksonville, Florida businessman Fred Bullard, but pulled out after Bullard proposed firing Coury in favor of Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. (Bullard would ultimately land an expansion franchise, the Jacksonville Bulls.) After floating offers to move to Seattle, Honolulu, and Portland, Matthews decided to move to New Orleans. He sold a 31 percent interest to New Orleans real estate developer Joe Canizaro, and the move was approved by the USFL on October 18, 1983. Matthews later sold his remaining stake to Canizaro, but Vataha remained as team president.[4]

1983 Boston Breakers scheduleEdit

Week Day Date Opponent Game site Attendance Television Final score W/L Record
Regular Season
1 Sunday March 6, 1983 at Tampa Bay Bandits Tampa Stadium 42,437 17–21 L 0–1
2 Sunday March 13, 1983 at Denver Gold Mile High Stadium 41,926 21–7 W 1–1
3 Sunday March 20, 1983 Washington Federals Nickerson Field 18,430 19–16 W 2–1
4 Sunday March 27, 1983 at New Jersey Generals Giants Stadium 41,218 31–21 W 3–1
5 Saturday April 2, 1983 Birmingham Stallions Nickerson Field 10,976 ABC 27–16 W 4–1
6 Sunday April 10, 1983 Oakland Invaders Nickerson Field 7,984 ABC 7–26 L 4–2
7 Sunday April 17, 1983 at Arizona Wranglers Sun Devil Stadium 20,911 44–23 W 5–2
8 Sunday April 24, 1983 at Philadelphia Stars Veterans Stadium 10,257 ABC 16–23 L 5–3
9 Sunday May 1, 1983 Michigan Panthers Nickerson Field 10,971 24–28 L 5–4
10 Saturday May 7, 1983 at Los Angeles Express Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum 16,307 ESPN 20–23 L 5–5
11 Sunday May 15, 1983 Denver Gold Nickerson Field 4,173 17–9 W 6–5
12 Sunday May 22, 1983 at Washington Federals RFK Stadium 7,303 21–14 W 7–5
13 Sunday May 29, 1983 Philadelphia Stars Nickerson Field 15,668 ABC 21–17 W 8–5
14 Monday June 6, 1983 Chicago Blitz Nickerson Field 15,087 ESPN 21–15 W 9–5
15 Sunday June 12, 1983 at Birmingham Stallions Legion Field 20,500 ESPN 19–31 L 9–6
16 Sunday June 19, 1983 Tampa Bay Bandits Nickerson Field 15,530 ESPN 24–17 W 10–6
17 Saturday June 25, 1983 at Oakland Invaders Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum 30,396 ESPN 16–17 L 10–7
18 Sunday July 3, 1983 New Jersey Generals Nickerson Field 15,798 34–10 W 11–7


New Orleans BreakersEdit

In New Orleans, the team played in the Louisiana Superdome, also home to the NFL's New Orleans Saints. They started out the season 5-0, and all signs pointed to them running away with the Southern Division. However, they only won three more games to finish 8-10. This included a 35-0 thrashing by the Philadelphia Stars and losses in their last six games, a skid fittingly capped off with an embarrassment by the Washington Federals in the season finale. In spite of adding NFL star tight end Dan Ross and rookie halfbacks Buford Jordan and Marcus Dupree (whose signing was technically against USFL rules as he was underage), the team struggled. Walton was inconsistent and ultimately retired after the season, while Dupree would experience constant problems with his knees throughout his time with the Breakers.

Years later, defensive lineman Jeff Gaylord recalled that the Breakers' slide came because many of his teammates were sucked into New Orleans' drug culture. According to Gaylord, cocaine use ran rampant in the locker room, and its lure was too strong for many of his teammates who had grown up poor.[8]

On the positive side, New Orleans supported the team well, averaging 30,557 per game. Many of them came to see Dupree, who grew up in neighboring Mississippi. Jordan ran for 1,276 yards (fourth in the league), and Ross and wide receiver Frank Lockett had strong years.

After the season, league owners decided to go for broke and move to a fall schedule starting in 1986. This put teams like New Orleans, Michigan, and Philadelphia in an awkward situation. Canizaro believed he could not hope to compete directly with the Saints, even though the Saints were mired in decades-long mediocrity and then-owner John Mecom Jr. was looking to sell or move the team. Rather than play a lame-duck 1985 season in New Orleans, Canizaro opted to move the team for the second time in as many years.

1984 New Orleans Breakers scheduleEdit

Week Day Date Opponent Game site Attendance Television Final score W/L Record
1 Bye
2 Bye
3 Saturday February 11, 1984 at Birmingham Stallions Legion Field 12,000 10–30 L 0–1
4 Saturday February 18, 1984 vs. Memphis Showboats Cajun Field 20–0 W 1–1
Regular Season
1 Sunday February 26, 1984 at San Antonio Gunslingers Alamo Stadium 18,233 13–10 W 1–0
2 Sunday March 4, 1984 at Oakland Invaders Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum 41,200 13–0 W 2–0
3 Sunday March 12, 1984 Memphis Showboats Louisiana Superdome 45,269 37–14 W 3–0
4 Monday March 19, 1984 at Jacksonville Bulls Gator Bowl Stadium 48,303 ESPN 38–9 W 4–0
5 Sunday March 25, 1984 Chicago Blitz Louisiana Superdome 43,692 ABC 41–35 OT W 5–0
6 Monday April 2, 1984 at Birmingham Stallions Legion Field 28,100 ESPN 17–31 L 5–1
7 Sunday April 8, 1984 Pittsburgh Maulers Louisiana Superdome 39,315 ABC 27–24 W 6–1
8 Monday April 16, 1984 Tampa Bay Bandits Louisiana Superdome 35,634 ESPN 13–35 L 6–2
9 Sunday April 22, 1984 Denver Gold Louisiana Superdome 22,139 ABC 20–18 W 7–2
10 Friday April 27, 1984 at Philadelphia Stars Veterans Stadium 34,011 0–35 L 7–3
11 Monday May 7, 1984 Arizona Wranglers Louisiana Superdome 22,937 ESPN 13–28 L 7–4
12 Sunday May 13, 1984 Michigan Panthers Louisiana Superdome 21,053 ABC 10–3 W 8–4
13 Sunday May 20, 1984 at Tampa Bay Bandits Tampa Stadium 42,592 ABC 20–31 L 8–5
14 Sunday May 27, 1984 Birmingham Stallions Louisiana Superdome 23,748 ABC 14–31 L 8–6
15 Friday June 1, 1984 at Memphis Showboats Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium 31,198 17–20 L 8–7
Friday June 8, 1984 at New Jersey Generals Giants Stadium Postponed; rescheduled for June 10.
16 Sunday June 10, 1984 at New Jersey Generals Giants Stadium 23,114 ABC 21–31 L 8–8
17 Friday June 15, 1984 Jacksonville Bulls Louisiana Superdome 21,233 17–20 OT L 8–9
18 Sunday June 24, 1984 at Washington Federals RFK Stadium 6,386 17–20 L 8–10


Portland BreakersEdit

Searching for a home, Canizaro considered moving to Sacramento and Columbus, and even weighed merging with the Birmingham Stallions. However, he was particularly intrigued when he visited Portland. It was a fairly large market with a reasonably adequate facility by USFL standards, Civic Stadium (which seated 32,000 people at the time). The move to Portland was announced on November 13, 1984.[1] It marked a return home of sorts for Coury, who had led the World Football League's Portland Storm in 1974. Initially, Portland seemed to welcome the Breakers with open arms. The Breakers sold 6,000 of its highest-priced tickets within twelve hours.[4]

On the field the team struggled, as the strain of playing in three cities in three years finally caught up with them. The team opted to go with former Jacksonville starter Matt Robinson as Walton's replacement, rather than seeking a more proven USFL quarterback without a home, like Craig Penrose, Alan Risher, or Mike Hohensee, or trading for someone like Oakland's Fred Besana, or even signing an NFL veteran. Robinson ultimately proved to be a less-than-adequate replacement for Walton, finishing with a 62.6 QB rating. Halfback Jordan had another strong year with over 800 yards gained, as did Lockett. However, their season effectively ended when Dupree suffered a season-ending knee injury in the season opener. While they managed to upend four playoff teams, they never recovered from a six-game losing streak and finished 6-12.

The Breakers were one of nine teams slated to play in the USFL's first fall season, and were slated to be one of only two teams west of the Mississippi River. However, they had only drawn 19,919 per game, not enough to break even. This was partly because Civic Stadium was in an area of downtown with little parking (a stop on the MAX Light Rail line would not open for another decade).[4] With such meager attendance, meeting payroll became an adventure. At one point midway through the season, the players were only paid every other week. With four games to go, the checks stopped coming altogether.[8] They were forced to waive their entire roster after missing their final payroll. Coury later recalled that he and his staff never got paid the full salaries stipulated in their contracts.[4]

After talks to merge with other teams failed, Canizaro folded the franchise while the USFL's antitrust suit against the NFL was underway, citing over $17 million in losses over three years. It had been obvious even before Canizaro folded the franchise that the Breakers would never play another down.

Canizaro was the only league owner who moved his team twice and both moves were long distance. There was some discussion of transplanting the Denver Gold organization to Portland, but this idea was abandoned as the Gold (whose owners opposed moving to the fall) instead merged with the Jacksonville Bulls. The entire league suspended operations not long after, when it was awarded only three dollars in damages.

The Breakers had the distinction of being the only team to play for the entire duration of the USFL for three cities, each season in a different city without relocating mid-season. Unlike many USFL teams, the Breakers never changed its name, logo, or colors when it relocated.

1985 Portland Breakers scheduleEdit

Week Day Date Opponent Game site Attendance Television Final score W/L Record
1 Bye
2 Saturday February 9, 1985 vs. Denver Gold Pomona, California 9–27 L 0–1
3 Saturday February 16, 1985 vs. Los Angeles Express John Shepard Stadium,
Los Angeles Pierce College,
Los Angeles, California
5,500 17–38 L 0–2
Regular Season
1 Sunday February 24, 1985 at Arizona Outlaws Sun Devil Stadium 20,351 7–9 L 0–1
2 Saturday March 2, 1985 Los Angeles Express Civic Stadium 25,232 ESPN 14–10 W 1–1
3 Sunday March 10, 1985 at Denver Gold Mile High Stadium 17,870 17–29 L 1–2
4 Saturday March 16, 1985 Orlando Renegades Civic Stadium 25,885 23–17 W 2–2
5 Sunday March 24, 1985 at Houston Gamblers Houston Astrodome 22,031 20–27 L 2–3
6 Monday April 1, 1985 San Antonio Gunslingers Civic Stadium 19,882 ESPN 0–33 L 2–4
7 Saturday April 6, 1985 Oakland Invaders Civic Stadium 23,388 30–17 W 3–4
8 Sunday April 14, 1985 at New Jersey Generals Giants Stadium 38,245 ABC 7–34 L 3–5
9 Sunday April 21, 1985 at Baltimore Stars Byrd Stadium 14,832 17–26 L 3–6
10 Saturday April 27, 1985 at Los Angeles Express Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum 8,410 12–17 L 3–7
11 Monday May 6, 1985 Houston Gamblers Civic Stadium 18,457 ESPN 7–45 L 3–8
12 Saturday May 11, 1985 at Birmingham Stallions Legion Field 28,500 ESPN 0–14 L 3–9
13 Sunday May 19, 1985 Arizona Outlaws Civic Stadium 15,275 21–30 L 3–10
14 Saturday May 25, 1985 Memphis Showboats Civic Stadium 16,682 ESPN 17–14 W 4–10
15 Sunday June 2, 1985 at Oakland Invaders Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum 12,740 20–38 L 4–11
16 Saturday June 8, 1985 Tampa Bay Bandits Civic Stadium 15,521 27–24 W 5–11
17 Friday June 14, 1985 Denver Gold Civic Stadium 18,953 ESPN 23–17 W 6–11
18 Sunday June 23, 1985 at San Antonio Gunslingers Alamo Stadium 19,603 13–21 L 6–12


Top "name" playersEdit

Among the top "name" Breakers players were: linebacker Marcus Marek; halfbacks Marcus Dupree and Buford Jordan; quarterbacks Johnnie Walton and Matt Robinson; kicker Tim Mazzetti; punter Jeff Gossett; offensive tackle Broderick Thompson; and tight end Dan Ross.

Coaches and executivesEdit

Coury was the team's coach for all three seasons. He was no stranger to Portland, having coached the Storm of the World Football League in 1974. Defensive coordinator was the late Pokey Allen who would later take Portland State University to two national championship games. Division I journeyman Bob Shaw who was hired after leaving Lou Holtz's staff at the University of Arkansas and served in both New Orleans and Portland. The offensive coordinator during the 1983 season was College Football Hall of Fame and former NFL Most Valuable Player Roman Gabriel. After the 1984 season, Jim Fassel was hired as offensive coordinator, but after five months on the job, he left to become head coach at the University of Utah. In 1985, the offensive coordinator was Pete Kettela, a former head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos. Allen would hire former Breaker executive Steven "Dream" Weaver as his marketing director and whose publicity stunts raised his Portland State teams to national acclaim. The team president for the Portland Breakers was John Ralston, who was also a founder of the USFL. Other executives included Jack Galmiche, John Brunelle, and Brian Feldman. Feldman was the only executive who worked in all three cities.

Single-season leadersEdit


Season records
Season W L T Finish Playoff results
Boston Breakers
1983 11 7 0 2nd Atlantic --
New Orleans Breakers
1984 8 10 0 3rd EC Southern --
Portland Breakers
1985 6 12 0 5th WC --
Totals 25 29 0

Head coachesEdit


  1. ^ a b Baum, Bob (November 14, 1984). "Portland latest home of Breakers". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. p. 1D.
  2. ^ "USFL unveils team cities, nicknames and logos for 2022 debut". Fox Sports. Retrieved 28 January 2022.
  3. ^ "USFL 2022: Jeff Fisher, Larry Fedora named as final two coaches". Fox Sports. Retrieved 28 January 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d e Reeths, Paul (2017). The United States Football League, 1982-1986. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-1476667447.
  5. ^ statscrew.com 1983 Boston Breakers Game-by-Game Results
  6. ^ usflsite.com 1983 USFL Season
  7. ^ profootballarchives.com 1983 Boston Breakers (USFL)
  8. ^ a b Pearlman, Jeff (2018). Football For A Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0544454385.
  9. ^ statscrew.com 1984 New Orleans Breakers Game-by-Game Results Retrieved December 28, 2018
  10. ^ usflsite.com 1984 USFL Season Retrieved December 28, 2018
  11. ^ profootballarchives.com 1984 New Orleans Breakers (USFL) Retrieved December 28, 2018
  12. ^ statscrew.com 1985 Portland Breakers Game-by-Game Results
  13. ^ usflsite.com 1985 USFL Season Retrieved December 28, 2018
  14. ^ profootballarchives.com 1985 Portland Breakers (USFL) Retrieved December 28, 2018

External linksEdit