There is a very real argument to be had about the best team in the USFL in 2022. We all know Birmingham went on to win the Championship, but you could make a real case for the New Jersey Generals. The Generals tapped coaching ties that went back twenty years to build a cohesive staff. This atmosphere bred a team-first, win-for-each-other mentality in the locker room. One that was placed front and center with the rotation at the all-important quarterback position.
Heavily Influenced by Head Coaches
Steve Smith has been coaching since the 2001 season. Spending time in the Arena Football League, and its developmental league the AF2, NFL European League, XFL, and now the USFL. He has spent time coaching quarterbacks, and running backs, but hangs his hat on the offensive line. He has taken this experience and used it to mold his offensive philosophy in his time as a coordinator.
He was able to work hand in hand with head coach Mike Riley to develop a juggernaut of an offense in the 2022 season. Pulling from his influences at the NFL level with names like Bill Parcells, Romeo Crennel, Sean Payton, Jim Haslett, Todd Haley, Tony Sparano, and so many more over the years. The Generals showcased a run-heavy attack allowing their quarterbacks to lean on Darius Victor, and Trey Williams. This led to a very efficient offensive attack in both phases of the game.
The Generals would finish the season with two of their quarterbacks in the top 10 in passing yards. The most impressive statistic you can find from the season these two men had at quarterback is that they ended the season as #1 and #2 in completion rate both topping 71%. There was very little drop off if any at all when the Generals opted to rotate quarterbacks. This rotation of players was a theme throughout the offense.
At running back Trey Williams, and Darius Victor, with some help from Turpin, and Johnson, would combine to create easily the most intimidating running game in the USFL. The power of Victor and the surprising agility of Williams made for a very difficult offense to stop. Both men averaged 4.5 yards per carry or more and combined for 11 rushing touchdowns. Leading the Generals rushing attack to a league-leading 160.6 yards per game over a 10-game season.
The wide receiver position was no different. We saw KaVontae Turpin, Alonzo Moore, and Darius Shepherd each do their part as receivers ending the season in the top 20 of the reception yards leaderboard. This healthy competition forced players to be at their best, but it also provided an opportunity for the Generals to keep players fresh and explosive. This helped Perez, and Johnson combine for 1,972 yards passing, which was second in the league behind only Kyle Sloter.
Influence on Team Building
In the interview, you hear several times Coach Smith touches on how he and his fellow coaches leaned very heavily on previous experience with players. Having spent time in the XFL, and The Spring League, a lot of players had worked under, or around Coach Smith previously. This was a technique each and every team followed as much as they could. None found the success the Generals would in the regular season.
Stars like Kavontae Turpin, Luis Perez, DeAndre Johnson, Darius Victor, and Trey Williams were all names these coaches knew well. This allowed them to get a jump on their offensive play calling, knowing how to use these players even if they hadn’t directly coached them in the past. This knowledge influenced the way this roster was built in a positive manner. Now, going forward it’s simply picking up the pieces to complete the puzzle.
Legacy, Future of the League
Coach Smith took the opportunity to speak about his personal goals. When asked, he talked about how he would like to be a head coach in the USFL if given the choice. The ability to build a legacy and stand apart as the pioneers of the league is something Smith cherishes. He speaks about this opportunity as if it were his dream job.
He speaks on becoming a legend for the USFL and helping to build a foundation that will last long term. Smith goes far beyond talking about the next two to three years and talks about the next two to three decades. When a league like the USFL, has coaches like Steve Smith who not only believe in what they are building but are all in on the success of the league it helps showcase to fans what the long-term goal of the league is.
Will they rival the NFL by next season? Absolutely not, but that’s never been the goal, the goal is to build something long-lasting, more than just a football league, but a legacy that will go down in professional football history. Smith also has a message for us all as Spring Football Fans, if you want the USFL to survive, we have to be patient.
I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. We as football fans are headed into what will be the most exciting year of football we have had in over 30 years. We have not one, but two legitimate outdoor spring football leagues. Each using different approaches to reach the same goal; long-term stability as an alternative football league.
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