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The Portland Breakers were a professional American Football team that played in the United States Football League in the mid 1980s. The television program Coach paid tribute to the defunct team by naming a team in the show the Orlando Breakers.


Boston Breakers

The team started out in 1983 as the Bostonmarker Breakers, owned by Boston businessman George Matthews and former New England Patriots wide receiver Randy Vataha. They had originally hoped to play at Harvard Stadiummarker, but Harvard Universitymarker rejected them almost out of hand. Their next choice was Sullivan Stadiummarker, the home of the Patriots, but high rent and the stadium's location (30 miles southwest of Boston) made this unrealistic. They finally settled on Nickerson Fieldmarker on the campus of Boston Universitymarker, a rather antiquated facility that seated only 21,000.

Coach Dick Coury put together a faily competitive team led by 36 year old former World Football League QB Johnnie Walton and Canadian Football League Veteran HB Richard Crump. The Breakers finished 11-7, narrowly missing the playoffs. Walton, who had retired from pro football years earlier and had spent the previous 3 years coaching college football, was the league's 7th ranked passer. Coury was named coach of the year.

Ultimately the stadium issue forced the Breakers out of town. Despite fielding a fairly solid team, the Breakers rarely sold out. Nickerson Field was so small that the Breakers lost money even when they sold out; visiting teams got a portion of the gate proceeds. This was an untenable situation for a team aspiring to be part of a major sports league. Boston and Washington were the only USFL teams to draw less than 14,000 per game in 1983. The other 10 teams drew over 18,000 per game. When no suitable solution to the venue problem could be found in the Boston area, Matthews sold his interest to New Orleansmarker real estate developer Joe Canizaro.

New Orleans Breakers

Canizaro moved the team to New Orleans for the 1984 season as the New Orleans Breakers. The team played in the spacious Louisiana Superdomemarker, 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. In spite of adding NFL star TE Dan Ross and rookie HBs Buford Jordan and Marcus Dupree, the team struggled. Walton was inconsistent and ultimately retired after the season.

On the positive side, New Orleans supported the team well, averaging 30,557 per game, Jordan ran for 1276 yards (4th in the league), and Ross and WR Frank Lockett had strong years.

Portland Breakers

After the season, the league owners decided to go for broke and move to the fall starting in 1986. This put teams like New Orleans, Michigan, and Philadelphia in an awkward situation. Canizaro knew that the Breakers could not hope to compete with the Saints, and opted to move before the 1985 season rather than play a lame duck season in New Orleans.

Seeing a large open market with an adequate stadium (32,500 seat Civic Stadiummarker) in Portland, Oregonmarker, Canizaro moved the team there. The team drew an average of 19,919 per game in Portland.

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 QB 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 vet. Robinson ultimately proved to not be an adequate replacement for Walton, finishing with a 62.6 QB rating. HB Jordan did have another strong year with over 800 yards as did Lockett.

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, while the USFL's antitrust suit against the NFL was underway, Canizaro folded the franchise, citing over $17 million in losses over three years. (Canizaro was the only league owner who moved his team twice and both moves were tremendous distances.) The entire league suspended operations not long afterward after it was awarded only $3 in damages.

Unlike many other USFL teams, the Breakers never changed their name, logo or colors when they relocated.

Top "name" players

Among the top "name" players that the Breakers had were LB Marcus Marek, HB Marcus Dupree of OU, QB Johnnie Walton, K Tim Mazzetti, QB Matt Robinson, HB Buford Jordan, P Jeff Gossett, and TE Dan Ross.

Coaches and Executives

Coury was the team's coach for all three seasons. Defensive coordinator was the late Pokey Allen who would later take Portland State University to two national championship games. The Offensive coordinator during the 1983 season was College Football Hall of Famermarker and former NFL Most Valuable Player Roman Gabriel.Allen would hire former Breaker executive Steven "Dream" Weaver as his marketing director and whose publicity stunts raised his Portland State teams to a national acclaim. The team president for the Portland Breakers was the legendary 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 leaders


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 coaches

External links

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