TOFN "5 Games" podcast: Stars QB Chuck Fusina recalls Philly's first USFL championship
It took two seasons for the best team in the USFL to claim its first title – and the Philadelphia Stars played a near-perfect game against the Arizona Wranglers for that championship in 1984.
The Stars controlled the ball more than 40 minutes with a blend of passing and running, rolling up 414 yards in a 23-3 victory. Chuck Fusina completed his first 10 passes to help Philadelphia jump out to a 13-0 first quarter lead and the Stars never looked back. Kelvin Bryant chipped in 115 rushing yards and a touchdown, and Fusina was named the game’s MVP.
But Fusina told the Talk of Fame Network in the fourth installment of his “5 games” podcast that he didn’t feel like the game’s MVP.
“If there was a mistake that night, it was the MVP honor should have been shared by those five or six guys on that offensive line because that’s where the game was won,” Fusina said. “They were just dominant.
“I had the best seat in the house and it was kind of fun just watching it. It was one of those games when you could just tell. Kelvin didn’t need big holes for him to get yards. But he had some holes where he just was smiling as he came back to the huddle. I think the offensive line was getting mad if we threw the ball because they felt we could just do what we want on the ground. Of course, they gave me great protection and made my job that day every easy.”
Philadelphia offensive linemen Irv Eatman, Bart Oates and Chuck Commiskey all went on to have successful careers in the NFL.
The Stars posted a league-best 15-3 record in the USFL’s inaugural season in 1983 but lost to the Michigan Panthers in the championship game, 24-22. Fusina said the Stars were on a mission in 1984 and were even better, posting a 16-2 regular season record, then rolled over Herschel Walker and the New Jersey Generals in the playoff semifinals and the Wranglers in the championship game.
Fusina won the USFL passing title that season over future Hall of Famers Jim Kelly and Steve Young and past NFL stars Greg Landry, Brian Sipe and Doug Williams. He completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,837 yards with 31 touchdowns and only nine interceptions – a quantum leap from his first USFL season when he completed 56 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His efficiency rating jumped from 78.07 in 1983 to 104.7 in 1984.
A big part of that improvement by the quarterback was the shift in offensive philosophy by the Stars. Philadelphia scored 100 more points in 1984 than in 1983.
“We worked together on coming up with a different type of offense,” Fusina said. “We became much more wide open. The league was keying on Kelvin. And why shouldn’t they? He was just a great player so we moved him around a lot. We spread it out and went to more three- and four wide receiver (sets). We had a great offensive line that could move around and put pockets in different areas.
“That made it a lot more fun and I think it made it a lot harder for defenses to defend us. And on a personal level, I think I was able to be a little more successful.”
Fusina also recalls in this podcasts the steady hand of Stars owner Myles Tanenbaum on the team, the poor crowds in other USFL cities and the post-season exhibition game Philadelphia played in London a week after winning the championship.
You can listen to the first four games of the Chuck Fusina “5 Games” podcasts – plus our other Talk of Fame Network “5 Games” podcasts featuring such Hall of Famers as Jerry Kramer, Charles Haley, Jam Ham, Mike Haynes, Willie Lanier – at VokalNow.com or by subscribing to our podcasts at iTunes. Click the links below.