Denver Gold
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Denver Gold
Denver Gold
Founded1983
Folded1985
Based inDenver, CO, United States
Home fieldMile High Stadium
LeagueUSFL
ConferenceWestern
DivisionPacific Division
Team HistoryDenver Gold (1983-1985)
Team colorsBlack, Old Gold, White (1983, 1984)

              
Black, Gold, White (1985)

              
Head coaches1983 Red Miller (4-7)
1983 Charley Armey (interim) (0-1)
1983-4 Craig Morton (12-12)
1985 Mouse Davis (11-8)
Owner(s)1983-1984 Ron Blanding
1984-1985 Doug Spedding

The Denver Gold was a franchise in the United States Football League, an attempt to establish a second major professional football league in the United States, playing a springtime season, from 1983 to 1985. The Gold played their home games at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado.

History

Holding fast to the USFL's original blueprint

The team's original owner, Denver real estate mogul Ron Blanding, held fast to USFL founder David Dixon's original blueprint for the league. He kept tight controls on expenses (including player salaries) while heavily marketing the team in the Rockies. The Gold's original coach was Red Miller, who led the National Football League's Denver Broncos to their first-ever Super Bowl.

However, Miller bristled at Blanding's bargain-basement approach to running the team. The players used rented cars from Rent-a-Wreck, some of which were in rather poor condition. They had to rely on bare-bones meals, traveled to training camp in old school buses, and only had 100 uniforms for the 120 men they invited to camp. Blanding also balked at signing any of the Gold's first seven picks in the 1983 draft. It got to the point that an irate Miller once threatened to quit unless Blanding decided to "act like a fucking owner of a professional football team."[1]

1983 season

The Gold attempted to utilize some of the goodwill established by the more established Broncos by involving former Broncos players and coaches in the Gold organization for the Gold's inaugural 1983 season. Miller stocked his Gold roster with a number of his former Broncos players. He also tapped his former starting quarterback with the Broncos, Craig Morton, as his offensive coordinator. Morton became head coach of the Gold after Blanding fired Miller in the middle of the 1983 season. Despite one of the toughest defenses in the league, a weak offense kept the Gold out of the playoffs in 1983. Blanding, however, was more satisfied with the fact that he actually turned a profit. He was also happy that the Gold led the league in attendance, with almost 42,000 fans per game.

1983 schedule and results

Week Day Date Opponent Stadium Local ET W/L Score Record Attendance TV
Regular Season
1 Sunday March 6 Philadelphia Stars Mile High Stadium L 7-13 0-1 45,102 ABC
2 Sunday March 13 Boston Breakers Mile High Stadium L 7-21 0-2 41,926 --
3 Sunday March 20 at Chicago Blitz Soldier Field W 16-13 1-2 22,600 ABC
4 Monday March 28 Oakland Invaders Mile High Stadium W 22-12 2-2 38,720 ESPN
5 Monday April 4 at Michigan Panthers Pontiac Silverdome W 29-21 3-2 11,279 --
6 Saturday April 9 Tampa Bay Bandits Mile High Stadium L 16-22 OT 3-3 46,848 ESPN
7 Sunday April 17 at Birmingham Stallions Legion Field W 9-7 4-3 26,250 --
8 Saturday April 23 at Arizona Wranglers Sun Devil Stadium L 3-24 4-4 21,557 --
9 Sunday May 1 New Jersey Generals Mile High Stadium L 29-34 4-5 37,940 ABC
10 Sunday May 8 at Philadelphia Stars Veterans Stadium L 3-6 4-6 14,306 ABC
11 Sunday May 15 at Boston Breakers Nickerson Field L 9-17 4-7 4,173 --
12 Sunday May 22 Los Angeles Express Mile High Stadium L 10-14 4-8 32,963 ABC
13 Friday May 27 Birmingham Stallions Mile High Stadium W 21-19 5-8 38,829 ESPN
14 Friday June 3 Washington Federals Mile High Stadium W 24-12 6-8 40,671 --
15 Monday June 13 at Oakland Invaders Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum L 10-16 6-9 26,840 ESPN
16 Friday June 17 Arizona Wranglers Mile High Stadium W 32-6 7-9 42,621 --
17 Monday June 27 at Tampa Bay Bandits Tampa Stadium L 23-26 7-10 46,128 ESPN
18 Sunday July 3 at Los Angeles Express Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum L 14-21 7-11 11,471 --

Sources[2][3][4]

1984 season

1984 season recap

After finishing the 1983 season making a small profit, the Gold went into the 1984 campaign with a bare-bones payroll. They did not sign any significant free agents or college draft picks and traded away two of their three starting linebackers during training camp. First they dealt RLB Kyle Whittingham (84 tackles, 3 fumble recoveries and 2 interceptions) in a package deal to New Jersey and then traded popular All-USFL LB Putt Choate, who had 178 tackles the previous year to the expansion San Antonio Gunslingers.

By then, however, Blanding had sold the team. Unwilling to join the rest of the league in reckless spending, Blanding sold the Gold to auto dealer Doug Spedding for $10 million in April 1984. By some accounts, Blanding was the only USFL owner who got a net positive return on his investment. Spedding shared Blanding's frugal approach to running the team; if anything, he was even more cost-conscious than Blanding. Despite being rather eccentric (according to Morton, he was notorious for opening players' mail), years later many former Gold players praised Spedding for holding fast to the original USFL model.[1]

With one of the league's lowest payrolls going into the 1984 season, the Gold shot out of the gate to a surprising 7-1 record and were tied atop the USFL along with the powerful Philadelphia Stars and Birmingham Stallions after 8 weeks.

However, the turning point of the season was a 20-18 loss at the Louisiana Superdome to the New Orleans Breakers on April 22. With starting QB Craig Penrose not dressed, the Gold dropped what would be the first of five consecutive losses. Their early success was attributed to an opportunistic offense and a bend-but-don't break defense that seemed to overcome their personnel issues at linebacker.

Over the second half of the season, Morton would have a QB shuffle that saw him use four different starters in Penrose, Bob Gagliano, Fred Mortensen and rookie Ken Hobart at various points over the last 9 games. The Gold went 2-7 down the stretch and finished out of the playoffs.

The offense ranked a respectable 11th in passing and 14th in rushing among the 18 USFL teams in 1984. RB Harry Sydney was the main offensive weapon rushing for 961 yards and 10 touchdowns to lead the Gold. QB Craig Penrose tossed 12 TD's and was picked 14 times over 11 starts and 14 appearances.

The Gold offense was centered around a short passing game featuring running backs Sydney and Vincent White making 44 and 37 receptions respectively to finish 1-2 in team receiving. WR Leonard Harris was the most effective wideout for the Gold catching just 35 passes but had whopping 18.8 average per catch. Former New Jersey General TE Victor Hicks caught 31 passes to lead the tight ends.

The most stable and effective part of the Gold offense in 1984 was the offensive line. Tackles Steve Rogers and Ray Wagner along with guards George Yarno and Greg Feasel and centre Tom Davis did a solid job opening holes and creating pass protection most of the season.

The defensive unit struggled off and on throughout the season and actually shifted from a 3-4 set to a 4-3 defense late in the year to compensate for their lack of quality linebackers.

To address some of their needs, the Gold acquired DE Dennis Edwards (who had 6 sacks in 1983), from the Los Angeles Express and former Dallas Cowboy DE Bruce Thornton from the Chicago Blitz in mid-March. Thornton would contribute 6 sacks for the Gold in his limited playing time over the last 13 games.

In June, the Gold also acquired another former Dallas Cowboys alum in LB Bruce Huther from the 3-15 Pittsburgh Maulers. Huther was the starting middle linebacker over the last few games.

With the departure of Choate and Whittington in training camp, the Gold were not able to convert linebackers John Bungartz, Greg Gerken and Kelvin Newton into effective everyday starters. By the end of the season Bungartz and Gerken were relegated mostly to special teams and Newton was released before the season finale.

The unit did, however, have a relatively strong pass rush with DE Dave Stalls (12.5 sacks), DE Calvin Turner (10 sacks) and Thornton (6 sacks) having solid seasons.

The Gold secondary was the most stable part of the defensive unit with CB David Martin being named to the All-USFL team as a punt returner and a cornerback on The Sporting News All-USFL team in 1984. Martin led the USFL in punt returns with a 13.6 per return average on 22 run-backs, scoring 1 TD.

The secondary had four players record more the 100 tackles on the season in Martin, SS David Dumars, FS Steve Trimble and FS Tom Sullivan - an indication of the softness at the linebacker position.

In mid-season, the Gold special teams took a hit when punter Steve Gortz was injured in a game on April 14 in Pittsburgh. Instead of signing a replacement for Gortz, place kicker Brian Speelman took over the punting duties and served in a dual role for the remainder of the season.

Morton was widely seen as a players coach and it was reported that Spedding expected the Gold to make the playoffs in order for Morton to keep his job. However, unable to overcome the 2-7 slide, the team finished 9-9, one game out of the playoffs.

1984 schedule and results

Week Day Date Opponent Stadium Local ET W/L Score Record Attendance TV
Preseason
1 Bye
2 Saturday February 4 vs. Oakland Invaders Francisco Grande, Arizona W 12-6 1-0
3 Saturday February 11 vs. Arizona Wranglers Casa Grande, Arizona W 31-14 2-0
4 Saturday February 18 vs. Chicago Blitz Casa Grande, Arizona W 25-24 3-0
Regular Season
1 Sunday February 26 at Los Angeles Express Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum 1:00 4:00 W 27-10 1-0 32,082 ABC
2 Saturday March 3 at Oklahoma Outlaws Skelly Stadium 1:30 2:30 W 17-14 OT 2-0 24,917 KUSA
3 Sunday March 11 Michigan Panthers Mile High Stadium 12:30 2:30 L 0-28 2-1 41,623 ABC
4 Sunday March 18 Tampa Bay Bandits Mile High Stadium 12:30 2:30 W 36-30 3-1 19,173 ABC
5 Sunday March 25 at Memphis Showboats Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium 1:30 2:30 W 28-24 4-1 21,213 ABC
6 Sunday April 1 Arizona Wranglers Mile High Stadium 12:30 2:30 W 17-7 5-1 31,666 ABC
7 Monday April 9 Los Angeles Express Mile High Stadium 7:00 9:00 W 35-27 6-1 19,115 ESPN
8 Saturday April 14 at Pittsburgh Maulers Three Rivers Stadium 8:00 8:00 W 31-21 7-1 16,773 KDKA
9 Sunday April 22 at New Orleans Breakers Louisiana Superdome 1:30 2:30 L 18-20 7-2 22,139 ABC
10 Sunday April 29 Birmingham Stallions Mile High Stadium 12:30 2:30 L 14-31 7-3 35,262 ABC
11 Saturday May 5 at Oakland Invaders Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum 5:00 8:00 L 17-20 OT 7-4 19,331 --
12 Friday May 11 Chicago Blitz Mile High Stadium 7:00 9:00 L 17-29 7-5 45,299 --
13 Saturday May 19 at Arizona Wranglers Sun Devil Stadium 7:00 9:00 L 6-41 7-6 21,741 KUSA
14 Friday May 25 at San Antonio Gunslingers Alamo Stadium 7:30 8:30 W 27-20 8-6 20,077 KUSA
15 Sunday June 3 Houston Gamblers Mile High Stadium 12:30 2:30 L 20-36 8-7 50,057 ABC
16 Friday June 8 Philadelphia Stars Mile High Stadium 7:00 9:00 L 19-21 8-8 30,755 --
17 Saturday June 16 at New Jersey Generals Giants Stadium 1:30 1:30 L 7-27 8-9 28,915 WPIX
18 Friday June 22 Oakland Invaders Mile High Stadium 7:00 9:00 W 20-7 9-9 32,623 KICU

Sources[5][6][7]

1984 front office and coaching staff

1984 opening day roster

1984 end-of-season roster

1984 game summaries

Week 1: at Los Angeles Express

The Gold began their second season on the road against their Pacific Division foe, the Los Angeles Express at the fabled Los Angeles Coliseum which was undergoing a facelift in parts of the stadium in advance of the 1984 Summer Olympic Games scheduled for July 1984.

With under six minutes left in a 10-10 game, Gold QB Craig Penrose found WR Elmer Bailey in the end zone for a 6-yard scoring play to give Denver a late 17-10 lead. On the next series, Denver safety Darryl Hemphill picked off Express QB Tom Ramsey and returned it 42-yards for the major to quickly seal a 27-10 victory for the Gold.

The Express got on the board first when rookie K Tony Zendejas hit a 36-yard field goal 9:08 into the contest to give the host club a 3-0 lead after the first quarter.

Early in the second, Gold FB Bo Matthews plunged in from 1-yard out to give the Gold a 7-3 just 2:15 into the period. The Express, however, responded when starting QB Tom Ramsey threw a 12-yard scoring pass to WR Jo Jo Townsell in the back of the end zone to give Los Angeles a 10-7 lead with 4:04 left in the quarter.

However, the Gold quickly drove into Express territory on the last drive of the first half and setup K Brian Speelman for a 43-yard field goal with just 0:03 remaining in the half.

After a scoreless third quarter, the Gold blew the game wide open with under six minutes to go in the contest.

The Gold (1-0) travel to Tulsa to take on the Oklahoma Outlaws (1-0) next Saturday (Mar.3rd) while the Express (0-1) host the Birmingham Stallions (0-1) next Sunday (Mar. 4).

Scoring Summary:

Q1 - LAX - 5:52 - Tony Zendejas 42-yard FG (3-0 LAX)
Q2 - DEN - 14:45 - Bo Matthews 1-yard run (Speelman kick) (7-3 DEN)
Q2 - LAX - 4:04 - Jo Jo Townsell 12-yard TD pass from Tom Ramsey (Zendejas kick) (10-7 LAX)
Q2 - DEN - 0:53 - Brian Speelman 43-yard FG (10-10)
Q4 - DEN - 5:50 - Elmer Bailey 6-yard TD pass from Craig Penrose (Speelman kick) (17-10 DEN)
Q4 - DEN - 4:39 - Darryl Hemphill 42-yard interception return (Speelman kick) (24-10 DEN)
Q4 - DEN - 2:01 - Brian Speelman 46-yard FG (27-10 DEN)

Individual Statistics:

Rushing

DEN - Sydney 14-62, Matthews, Bo 10-13-1, Williams, K. 1-9, White 1-2
LAX - Nelson 10-49, Harrington 7-28, Ramsey 1-9, Allen 2-0, Ellis 1-0

Passing

DEN - Penrose 16-22-166-1-1, Sydney 0-1-0-0-0
LAX - Ramsey 24-33-147-1-3, Partridge 1-1-(-3)-0-0

Receiving DEN - Bailey 3-41-1, Harris 3-34, Sydney 3-27, Niziolek 2-15, Hicks 2-10, Williams 1-23, Murray 1-10, Matthews, Bo 1-6
LAX - Hersey 5-37, Ellis 5-22, Moore 3-28, Sherrod 3-12, Nelson 3-11, Townsell 2-20, Harrington 2-12, Allen 1-5, Boddie 1-(-3)

Week 2: at Oklahoma Outlaws

The Gold continued their two-game road trip to start the season in Tulsa, OK against the expansion Oklahoma Outlaws. Led by former Tampa Bay Buccaneers star QB Doug Williams, the Outlaws won their opener the previous week, 7-3 over the Pittsburgh Maulers.

After a scoreless first quarter, Oklahoma jumped out to a 7-0 lead when former Pittsburgh Steeler FB Sidney Thornton scored on a 7-yard scoring pass from QB Doug Williams with 0:28 left in the first half.

The Gold, however, struck quick again late in the third quarter when RB Vincent White scored on a one-yard plunge with 4:47 left in the third quarter. Just 2:25 later, RB Harry Sydney scored on a 13-yard scoring romp after the Gold recovered a botched snap by Outlaws' P Bob Boris.

In the fourth, the Outlaws tied the contest when Williams scored on a 1-yard keeper 1:24 into the quarter to tie the score at 14-14.

After the Outlaws turned over the ball on the opening kickoff in Overtime, Gold K Brian Speelman hit a-21-yard field goal just 0:31 into the extra period to lift the Gold to a 17-14 victory. The win lifted the Gold to a 2-0 record to start the 1984 USFL season and early possession of first place in the Pacific Division.

Scoring Summary:

Q2 - OKL - 0:28 - Sidney Thornton 7-yard TD pass from Doug Williams (Crum kick) (7-0 OKL)
Q3 - DEN - 4:47 - Vincent White 1-yard run (Speelman kick) (7-7)
Q3 - DEN - 2:22 - Harry Sydney 13-yard run (Speelman kick) (14-7 DEN)
Q4 - OKL - 13:36 - Doug Williams 1-yard run (Crum kick) (14-14)
OT - DEN - 0:31 - Brian Speelman 21-yard FG (17-10 DEN)

Individual Statistics:

Rushing

DEN - Sydney 14-57-1, White 9-19-1, Matthews, Bo 5-13, Murray 1-8
OKL - Thornton 14-49, D. Williams 4-22-1, James 8-14, Ragsdale 2-(1), Boris 2-(-29)

Passing

DEN - Penrose 14-23-164-0-1
OKL - Williams 24-45-259-1-0

Receiving

DEN - Hicks 3-74, Harris 3-28, White 3-21, Sydney 3-10, K Williams 1-19, Bailey 1-12
OKL - Thornton 6-34-1, Crane 5-48, Turner 4-55, James 4-20, Wheeler 2-57, Blair 1-29, Hughes 1-10, Ragsdale 1-6

1985 season

1985 season recap

In the hope of getting back into the playoffs, Spedding fired Morton and replaced him with Houston Gamblers offensive coordinator Mouse Davis for the 1985 season. Rumors had actually abounded that Davis was coming to Denver for much of the latter part of the 1984 season. Davis was the chief advocate of the Run & Shoot offense in the USFL and had implemented the system in Houston that helped make Jim Kelly a superstar.

Davis brought in former Chicago Blitz QB Vince Evans. Evans split time with Bob Gagliano, a 4th string QB under Morton. Neither QB was great running the offense, but good schemes by Davis and talent at the other spots shot the Gold up to 4th in the league in offense.

Unfortunately, just after Davis took over, the USFL announced that it would switch to a fall schedule for the 1986 season. Knowing that the Gold could not even begin to compete directly with the Broncos, Spedding was one of two owners (the other being Tampa Bay Bandits owner John F. Bassett) to vote to stay on a spring schedule. His guess proved right. While the Gold had been one of the USFL's attendance leaders, fans in the Denver area were not about to abandon the Broncos. Despite finally getting into the playoffs with an 11-7 record, the Gold's attendance crashed from over 20,000 to 14,400 fans per game.

As a result, despite finishing second in the Western Conference, they were forced to play on the road against the lower-seeded Memphis Showboats under pressure from ABC. The network, who had considerable influence over the USFL due to the structuring of the league's television contract, did not want the embarrassment of having a game played in a near-empty stadium. The Gold were shelled 48-7.

1985 schedule and results

Week Day Date Opponent Stadium Local ET W/L Score Record Attendance TV
Preseason
1 Saturday February 2 vs. Los Angeles Express Long Beach, California T 17-17 0-0-1
2 Saturday February 9 vs. Portland Breakers Pomona, California W 27-9 1-0-1
3 Saturday February 16 at San Antonio Gunslingers Alamo Stadium L 13-36 1-1-1
Regular Season
1 Sunday February 24 at Oakland Invaders Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum L 10-31 0-1 23,622 --
2 Sunday March 3 at Birmingham Stallions Legion Field W 40-23 1-1 27,400 --
3 Sunday March 10 Portland Breakers Mile High Stadium W 29-17 2-1 17,870 --
4 Monday March 18 at Houston Gamblers Houston Astrodome L 17-36 2-2 33,747 ESPN
5 Monday March 26 San Antonio Gunslingers Mile High Stadium W 16-2 3-2 13,901 ESPN
6 Sunday March 31 Orlando Renegades Mile High Stadium W 21-17 4-2 10,217 --
7 Monday April 8 Arizona Outlaws Mile High Stadium W 28-7 5-2 12,769 ESPN
8 Monday April 15 at Tampa Bay Bandits Tampa Stadium L 17-33 5-3 40,000 ESPN
-- Saturday April 20 Los Angeles Express Mile High Stadium Postponed; rescheduled for April 21.
9 Sunday April 21 Los Angeles Express Mile High Stadium W 51-0 6-3 13,165 --
-- Friday April 26 Memphis Showboats Mile High Stadium Postponed; rescheduled for April 27.
10 Saturday April 27 Memphis Showboats Mile High Stadium L 17-33 6-4 8,207 ESPN
11 Sunday May 5 at San Antonio Gunslingers Alamo Stadium W 35-9 7-4 9,753 --
12 Sunday May 12 at Arizona Outlaws Sun Devil Stadium W 42-28 8-4 5,731 --
13 Sunday May 19 New Jersey Generals Mile High Stadium W 28-24 9-4 29,129 ABC
14 Thursday May 23 Oakland Invaders Mile High Stadium L 16-31 9-5 12,372 ESPN
15 Thursday May 30 at Los Angeles Express Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum W 27-20 10-5 3,059 ESPN
16 Sunday June 9 Houston Gamblers Mile High Stadium W 16-13 11-5 12,553 ABC
17 Friday June 14 at Portland Breakers Civic Stadium L 17-23 11-6 18,953 ESPN
18 Sunday June 23 at Jacksonville Bulls Gator Bowl Stadium L 6-42 11-7 32,428 --
Playoffs
Quarterfinals Sunday June 30 at Memphis Showboats Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium L 7-48 -- 34,528 --

Sources[8][9][10]

1985 opening day roster

Demise of the franchise and the league

With the Gold's viability destroyed by the USFL's planned move to a fall schedule in 1986, Spedding announced in November that he planned to move the Gold to Portland, Oregon to take the place of the departed Portland Breakers. However, just three months later, Spedding sold the Gold's player contracts to the Jacksonville Bulls.[11] Although the move was billed as a merger, Spedding retained the Gold's intellectual properties. He seriously considered joining Bassett's proposed spring football league before Bassett's failing health prevented that league from launching.[12] Instead Spedding, Bassett, and the USFL as a whole were doomed by the ill-advised attempt to move the playing season to the fall in 1986 in direct competition with the more-established NFL.

The USFL's high-stakes anti-trust suit against the NFL ended in an award of only US$3.00 to the USFL. The jury cited the league's abandonment of Denver and several other major markets as one reason why it awarded the USFL only nominal damages. With no new funds to cover its high spending, the USFL cancelled its 1986 season and folded.

Single-season leaders

Rushing Yards: 1261 (1985), Bill Johnson

Receiving Yards: 1432 (1985), Leonard Harris

Passing Yards: 2695 (1985), Bob Gagliano

Season-by-season results

Season W L T Finish Playoff results
1983 7 11 0 3rd Pacific --
1984 9 9 0 3rd WC Pacific --
1985 11 7 0 7th WC Lost Quarterfinal (Memphis)
Totals 27 28 0 (including playoffs)

References

  1. ^ a b Pearlman, Jeff (2018). Football For A Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0544454385.
  2. ^ statscrew.com 1983 Denver Gold Game-by-Game Results Retrieved December 29, 2018
  3. ^ usflsite.com 1983 USFL Season Retrieved December 29, 2018
  4. ^ profootballarchives.com 1983 Denver Gold (USFL) Retrieved December 29, 2018
  5. ^ statscrew.com 1984 Denver Gold Game-by-Game Results Retrieved December 29, 2018
  6. ^ usflsite.com 1984 USFL Season Retrieved December 29, 2018
  7. ^ profootballarchives.com 1984 Denver Gold (USFL) Retrieved December 29, 2018
  8. ^ statscrew.com 1985 Denver Gold Game-by-Game Results Retrieved December 29, 2018
  9. ^ usflsite.com 1983 USFL Season Retrieved December 29, 2018
  10. ^ profootballarchives.com 1985 Denver Gold (USFL) Retrieved December 29, 2018
  11. ^ Reeths, Paul (2017). The United States Football League, 1982-1986. McFarland & Company. ISBN 1476667446.
  12. ^ "Bassett will pull Bandits out of USFL" - St. Pete Times: April 30, 1985

External links


  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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