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.
Played in Civic Stadium
in Portland, Oregon
|United States Football League (1983–1985)
|Team colors||Breaker 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 coach||1983–1985 Dick Coury (25-29)|
|League championships (0)|
|Conference championships (0)|
|Division championships (0)|
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.
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. 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.
1983 Boston Breakers scheduleEdit
|Week||Day||Date||Opponent||Game site||Attendance||Television||Final score||W/L||Record|
|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.
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|
|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|
|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|
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. 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.
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). 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. 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.
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|
|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
|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.
|New Orleans Breakers|
|1984||8||10||0||3rd EC Southern||--|
- Dick Coury (1983–1985)
- Baum, Bob (November 14, 1984). "Portland latest home of Breakers". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. p. 1D.
- "USFL unveils team cities, nicknames and logos for 2022 debut". Fox Sports. Retrieved 28 January 2022.
- "USFL 2022: Jeff Fisher, Larry Fedora named as final two coaches". Fox Sports. Retrieved 28 January 2022.
- Reeths, Paul (2017). The United States Football League, 1982-1986. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-1476667447.
- statscrew.com 1983 Boston Breakers Game-by-Game Results
- usflsite.com 1983 USFL Season
- profootballarchives.com 1983 Boston Breakers (USFL)
- Pearlman, Jeff (2018). Football For A Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0544454385.
- statscrew.com 1984 New Orleans Breakers Game-by-Game Results Retrieved December 28, 2018
- usflsite.com 1984 USFL Season Retrieved December 28, 2018
- profootballarchives.com 1984 New Orleans Breakers (USFL) Retrieved December 28, 2018
- statscrew.com 1985 Portland Breakers Game-by-Game Results
- usflsite.com 1985 USFL Season Retrieved December 28, 2018
- profootballarchives.com 1985 Portland Breakers (USFL) Retrieved December 28, 2018