1985 Bears Coverage: USFL demise hurts Bears

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Every day of the 2015 Chicago Bears season, Chicago Sun-Times Sports will revisit its coverage 30 years ago during the 1985 Bears’ run to a Super Bowl title.

USFL demise hurts Bears

Brian Hewitt

Originally published Sept. 8, 1985

The Bears still insist they made the correct decision. But they soon may regret trading all three of their picks in the 1984 supplemental draft to the Cleveland Browns for ninth through 12th round picks in the regular draft that same year.

The three-round, 1984 supplemental draft, conducted one month after the regular draft, was the one where most NFL teams went after the USFL’s top players for the first time. Many of those players are joining the NFL as the USFL’s future grows darker by the day.

“We felt we needed players now rather than for the future,” says Bear general manager Jerry Vainisi. But the only Bear still on the roster from the four picks acquired from Cleveland is reserve defensive back Shaun Gayle.

Other teams in the Bears’ division have used their supplemental choices to close the gap between them and the defending division champion Bears.

An update:

TAMPA BAY – Drafted immensely talented quarterback Steve Young, whom the Bucs expect eventually to sign.

MINNESOTA – Drafted and signed cornerback Allanda Smith, and defensive end Robert Smith. Allanda Smith is on injured reserve, but Robert Smith will strengthen the Vikings’ pass rush.

GREEN BAY – Drafted and recently signed running back Buford Jordan who probably will become their leading rusher this year. The Packers also selected safety Chuck Clanton, the USFL’s 1985 defensive player of the year. They are still talking to Clanton’s agent.

DETROIT – Drafted linebacker George Jamison whom they still hope to sign.

Cleveland used the first-round supplemental pick it received from the Bears to draft Kevin Mack, now the Browns’ starting fullback.

Even if the Bears hadn’t selected Mack, Brigham Young tight end Gordon Hudson and Indiana wide receiver Duane Gunn both were still available when the Browns grabbed Mack. Both later succumbed to injuries. But at the time of the supplemental draft they both would have filled needs the Bears had last year and this year.

Meanwhile, the Bucs, Vikings and Packers have even pursued USFL players they didn’t draft. Minnesota stole all-USFL wide receiver Anthony Carter from the Dolphins for journeyman linebacker Robin Sendlein and a second-round pick. Tampa Bay sent an undisclosed draft pick to the Saints for all-USFL safety David Greenwood, now a starter.

Green Bay swapped a future No. 1 and an undisclosed 1987 choice to San Diego for ex-USFL cornerback Mossy Cade. And the Packers signed free agent nose tackle Charles Martin. Martin played in the USFL this year and now starts in Green Bay.

Both Carter and Greenwood since have signed.

“You can go after USFL players if you’re willing to spend draft choices,” says Vainisi. “But you still have to sign them.”

Did the Bears ever consider trading holdout linebacker Al Harris to the linebacker-poor Dolphins in exchange for the gifted Carter? “Carter was never offered to us,” says Vainisi.

TELL THE TRUTH: At a recent “Welcome Home” luncheon for the Redskins, players were asked to stand up and recite their names and positions.

“Joe Thiesmann, owner,” said the quarterback.

“Riggins, John, knucklehead,” said the fullback.

SPY TIME: Former Bear coach Abe Gibron found himself in the middle of a controversy this week when he incurred the wrath of Cincinnati coach Sam Wyche.

The rotund Gibron, who has recovered nicely from major surgery this year, was going about his business as advance scout for the Seattle Seahawks last weekend when he aroused the suspicion of several Bengal employees.

The Seahawks open their regular season today in Cincinnati and Gibron was scouting the Bengals’ final pre-season game from the Indianapolis pressbox. As is the practice of most advance scouts, Gibron was dictating notes into a recording device during the game.

The trouble arose when Bengals’ officials detected Gibron de-coding the Bengals’ offensive and defensive hand signals. They reported his actions to coach Sam Wyche.

“That shocks me,” said Wyche. “They sent a man to tape our signals. And they were pretty obvious about it. I’d be happy to send them the Seahawks diagrams and stick figures if they’re going to be that obvious about it.”

Asked if Gibron was doing anything illegal, Wyche replied, “No arrests were made.”

“They must be paranoid,” mused Seattle coach Chuck Knox when apprised of Wyche’s reaction. “If I was going to send a spy somewhere, I don’t think it would be Abe Gibron. He’s not exactly the kind of guy you can tuck away in a corner.”

One Seattle front office official was amused particularly at the irony of the incident considering Cincinnati general manager Paul Brown’s reputation as the NFL’s “grandfather of skullduggery.”

According to the Seattle source, when Brown coached at Massilon (Ohio) High he often wired the opposing locker room for sound.

SNAP DECISION: Bear general manager Jerry Vainisi swears the Bears didn’t make up their mind to keep rookie kicker Kevin Butler and cut veteran Bob Thomas until 9 p.m. last Sunday, the eve of the final

cutdown date.

And, in case there’s any doubt in Thomas’ mind, Vainisi plans to tell him the next time he talks to him.

Vainisi also admits the Bears would have been better off deciding between Butler and Thomas earlier. Then, their chances of trading one of the two would have been better because fewer teams would have settled on their kickers.

TOUGH TO TAKE: Thomas was understandably sad when the Bears waived him. But former Green Bay punter Bucky Scribner was downright bitter when Green Bay cut him Tuesday in favor of Joe Prokop, a former who never has punted in an NFL regular season game.

Scribner was UPI’s all-NFC pun ter last year with a 42.3 average. The only NFC kickers with better averages were Minnesota’s Greg Coleman and New Orleans’ Brian Hansen, both “dome” kickers.

“Forrest couldn’t have screwed me more,” said Scribner who averaged 37.9 in the pre-season. “I think it’s an incredible gamble.”

Packer coach Forrest Gregg said he likes Prokop’s size and leg strength. But Scribner insists Gregg made a serious mistake. “You’re really pulling for the team,” he said. “But deep down you want Forrest’s plan to fall through a little.

“For punting up here in the Green Bay weather last year my stats were unbelievable. This is absolutely crazy.”

Historical footnote: The last time the Packers switched punters between the last pre-season game and the first regular game was in 1975, Bart Starr’s first year as head coach. Starr deposed Spike Jones and brought in Steve Broussard.

The Lions blocked three Broussard punts in the first game, a 30-16 Detroit victory. Two of the blocks resulted in immediate touchdowns. The other set up a Lion score. By the time Starr replaced Broussard with David Beverly the Packers were 0-4.

CRYSTAL BALL: Assorted and fearless 1985 NFL predictions:

BEST TEAM: San Francisco.

WORST TEAM: Philadelphia

BEST PLAYER: Roy Green, wide receiver/quarterback, St. Louis.

WORST PLAYER: An Eagle offensive lineman of your choice.

MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: Bernie Kosar, quarterback, Cleveland.

MOST SURPRISING TEAM: Minnesota Vikings.


MOST SURPRISING PLAYER: Phillip Epps, wide receiver, Green Bay.

SECOND MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: Eric Dickerson, running back, Los Angeles.

COACH-OF-THE-YEAR: Bud Grant, Minnesota.

FIRST COACH FIRED: Kay Stephenson, Buffalo.


BEST ROOKIE: Eddie Brown, wide receiver, Cincinnati.

BEST ROOKIE IN NFC CENTRAL: Lomas Brown, offensive tackle, Detroit.

COMEBACK OF THE YEAR: Curt Warner, running back, Seattle.

FIRST COACH FINED: Mike Ditka, Bears.

LAST GM CALLED: Harry Gamble, Philadelphia.

BEST USFL ADDITION: Trumaine Johnson, wide receiver, San Diego.


Prohibitive Favorites: New York Giants over Philadelphia.

Close Calls: BEARS over Tampa Bay. Miami over Houston. San Francisco over Minnesota. Atlanta over Detroit. Seattle over Cincinnati. Kansas City over New Orleans. New England over Green Bay. Pittsburgh over Indianapolis. Los Angeles Raiders over New York Jets. San Diego over Buffalo.

Upset Specials: Cleveland over St. Louis. Denver over Los Angeles Rams. Dallas over Washington.

Last Year’s Record: 139-73-1 (.655).

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