The USFL And Its Return: What Can We Expect?

January 11, 2022

The United States Football League took its last snap in 1985 and is making its return in April of this year.

Taking a look at history, the USFL honestly has greatly impacted the way we watch football today with the NFL’s adoption of instant replay and the two point conversion. 

Along with the innovation, the USFL honestly had a strong overall product on the field.

The USFL signed three straight Heisman award winners (Hershel Walker (82), Mike Rozier (83) & Doug Flutie (84) ) and also showcased NFL hall of fame QB’s in Jim Kelly & Steve Young. 

After 37 years, what can we expect for the USFL’s return? 

What We Know:

The new USFL was founded by Brian Woods and is owned and run by Fox Sports. 

The entirety of the season will be played in Birmingham Alabama (Protective Stadium & Legion Field) and will start on April 16th and run into June. 

Each team will play a ten game schedule, with each team facing divisional opponents twice and non-divisional teams once. 

Who Are The Teams?

The league is bringing back eight former teams. 

North Division: Philadelphia Stars, New Jersey Generals, Michigan Panthers & Pittsburgh Maulers.

South Division: Birmingham Stallions, Houston Gamblers, Tampa Bay Bandits & New Orleans Breakers. 

Who Will Play In The USFL?

Now for the fun part. We get to project who we could watch in the USFL. 

Swinging Big: 

Johnny Manziel: The former Heisman award winner obviously had a tumultuous career in the NFL and failed in other leagues like the  CFL & AAF. 

However, he has connections to the USFL’s Houston Gamblers coach Kevin Sumlin.

Manziel will put fans in seats and will get another shot at playing football. 

Antonio Brown: After taking his uniform off and walking out on the Buccaneers in week 17, one has to question if Antonio Brown’s latest (of a long list) off field antics will finally be the one to keep him away from the NFL for good. 

If Brown’s days in the NFL is truly over, Brown and the USFL would make perfect sense for each other. 

Brown, who’s still talented gets to get paid and showcase his talents to NFL teams.

Additionally, the USFL gets an exciting talent and good product on the field. 

Bryce Young: The league has a history of prying former Heisman award winners away from college and the NFL. 

The Heisman award winner has another year of college before he can enter the NFL draft. Can USFL money trump Young’s NIL money he’s making in college? Probably not with the current state of the NIL in college football, but it’s a conversation they should at-least have.

Realistic, Splashy Names: 

Here’s what the USFL has stated about player eligibility:

“To be eligible to sign with the USFL, an individual must have graduated from high school in 2020 or an earlier year”.

Jordan Addison: A Biletnikoff award winner this past season (100-1,593-17), Addison also has another year of college ball before he can be drafted in the NFL. 

Although I don’t think the USFL can pry Young away from Alabama and his NIL deals, I view Addison as an obtainable prospect. 

Why? His QB, Kenny Pickett is leaving for the NFL draft and his NIL opportunities most likely isn’t as sufficient as the Alabama Quarterback’s is.

Arik Gilbert: Gilbert was a five star recruit (5th overall) in the 2020 recruiting class.

He originally committed to LSU after their national championship and tallied 35 receptions for 368 yards and two touchdowns his Freshman year. 

However, the talented TE then transferred to Florida before then flipping his commitment to play closer to home at Georgia. He has yet to play a snap for the Bulldogs for “personal reasons.” 

The USFL could be an opportunity for Gilbert to have a fresh start to showcase his talents.

Todd Gurley: Gurley was the 10th overall pick in 2015 and had an extremely successful start to his NFL career. 

He was the NFL offensive rookie of the year in 2015 & offensive player of the year in 2017.

Additionally, he was a two time NFL rushing touchdowns leader (‘17 & ‘18). He was also a three time pro bowler. 

Gurley’s knee issues has caused the once best running back in the NFL to not take a single carry in the NFL this past season despite working out with multiple teams. 

At 27 years old, Gurley may view the USFL as an opportunity to prove he still has plenty left in his tank. 

The QB Position:

Every startup spring football league seems to have the same cluster of failed NFL Quarterback’s. 

If I see Josh Johnson in this league I’m going to flip. He’s been in every single league you can think of. 

In my opinion, the USFL can garner more attention from fans by going against the grain and giving new guys a chance, instead of the same bland crop of guys the XFL and Spring League has tried to put out. 

Additionally, I think the USFL will obviously be an avenue for under-looked prospects to go to the NFL.

However, I think the USFL should embrace their franchise QB’s staying in the league and having continuity for the health of the league moving forward. You can have quality play at the position and still not lose guys to the NFL. 

Stetson Bennett: Bennett is fresh off of a college football championship appearance. Although his future as an NFL QB is bleak at best, his play for Georgia this past season I think has earned him the right to be a franchise QB in the USFL. 

Bailey Zappe: Zappe broke college football’s passing yards (5,967) and touchdowns (62) record for Western Kentucky this past season. 

The record breaker received an invite to the scouting combine but the odds are he likely won’t get drafted, and if he does it’ll be late. 

Zappe should look at the USFL as an opportunity to get on the field faster (will likely never get play time in the league) and prove his worth as a quality Quarterback. 

Levi Lewis: Lewis is Louisiana’s all time leader in passing touchdowns with 74.

His size and dual threat ability reminds me of the NFL’s Kyler Murray or the XFL’s Phillip Walker. He can be the undersized, dual threat athlete for the USFL. 

If he attempts to go into the NFL if he even gets the opportunity at all, he will be asked to change positions. The USFL gives him an opportunity to continue to play the Quarterback position. 

Will The USFL Last? Will Spring Football Ever Stick Around?

Leagues such as the USFL once before and the XFL (twice) has failed in the spring football sector. 

Do you think the USFL will make it this time around? What do they need to do to to ensure they survive? 

Adding key players such as Bennett, Zappe, Lewis, Gurley, Gilbert and Addison would be steps in the right direction in my opinion.