The Sports Lounge presents… REMEMBER THEM: New Orleans Breakers
For those who remember the USFL, it was a league that tried to rival the NFL for the top spot in American football. Players coming out of college had the choice to enter the NFL Draft or the USFL Draft. They were both big-time football leagues. And having two big football leagues is something that fans today will likely never see again. But, until its eventually undoing, the USFL was a great league with great players. And, for the most part, steady franchises. But the team I’m focusing on today is not that at all.
In the inaugural 1983 season, the Boston Breakers played at Nickerson Field. They finished their season 11-7, barely missing the playoffs. What seemed like a great year was all but that. The team had issues with finding a sufficient stadium. Nickerson Field was so small that even a sell-out crowd lost the team money. They were not able to make a profit and could not find a new stadium to play in. The owner then decided to sell his interest in the team to a real estate developer in New Orleans. And thus, the New Orleans Breakers are born.
After moving to New Orleans, finding a suitable home was not an issue. The Breakers played at the then-known Louisiana Superdome, home of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints. Building upon an already good roster, led by veteran QB Johnnie Watson, the Breakers added veteran TE Dan Ross and rookie RB’s Buford Jordan and Marcus Dupree. The Breakers began 5-0 in their first season in New Orleans but finished the season going 3-10 including a 35-0 thrashing from the Philadelphia Stars. The Breakers finished 8-10 and did not make the playoffs. Watson was inconsistent throughout the year and retired after the 1984 season.
Despite the poor finish, the city supported the team well, averaging over 30,000 per game in attendance. The team was gearing up for the 1985 season in New Orleans but then the bombed was dropped. The USFL owners voted to play their season in the fall, head-to-head against the NFL, starting in the 1986 season. The owners in New Orleans realized that they could not compete against the New Orleans Saints. They began the search again of looking for a new home. They could have played the 1985 season in New Orleans again but it would have been known that it was their last there and support would have been low. So the owners moved the franchise to Portland for the 1985 season and ended another Louisiana franchise. The USFL itself would not last long either, never getting that 1986 season started.
The Breakers had to very good running backs in the franchises existence in New Orleans. Marcus Dupree was a college standout at Oklahoma until injuries ended his collegiate career short. He went on to play for the Breakers and then made it to the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams. ESPN made a great “30 for 30” film looking back at Dupree’s career entitled “The Best That Never Was”. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it. You can check it out at www.espn.com/30for30 .
The other RB was Buford Jordan. Jordan was born in Iota, LA and played football at McNeese State University. As a Cowboy, he was a 4-time All-Southland Conference player. He went on to play with the Breakers. In New Orleans, he rushed for 1,276 yards, 4th in the league, and 8 TD’s. After the USFL folded, Jordan was a member of the New Orleans Saints. In 2011, he was selected for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
The Boston-New Orleans-Portland Breakers. Three seasons, 3 cities, 1 team. I still have pictures of when my parents brought me to a Breakers game in the dome. I was too young to remember it, but from what my dad has said, they were big while they were here. Never as big as our beloved Saints, but they were the talk of New Orleans in the spring and summer months. Remember, this was before the NFL was what it is today. The NFL was not a year-round league. The draft, combines, and free agencies periods were not as talked about as they are today. And Louisiana, in my opinion, is a football state. Sure, we like our baseball and basketball to a degree. But with the Saints and SEC football, there’s not much of a doubt what sport rises above the others in the state. And the Breakers, for a brief period, were a part of the state’s love with the gridiron.