I've been working on this USFL project for a while and in my "research"--looking through NFL transactions lists, finding stories on guys–I've also encountered a lot of intriguing "what-if" deals and signings. I thought I'd play around with these and share them here.
All of these hacks are discreet: there is no linked narrative between them.
All of these hacks are juiced, though I give a bit of slack in the early weeks–I used Buck's data, but cranked receptions up in the first 4-5 weeks.
I didn't play around with sim stats too much, but I did modify defense and offense settings and "zeroed" out receivers on rushing tendencies; I tried to tweak with playbooks and color unis. I also tried to stick as close to possible to starting rosters, but in a few cases I shifted guys around based on their final outputs for that season (e.g., Dana Brinson had more receiving yards than Joe Caravello, even though he had started more games for the '87 Chargers). I also tried to adjust KR and PRs.
Quarters are 7 minutes long.
NFL '81: Dean of Pain, or Bruise Brothers 2000: Frugal conman Gene Klein finally sees the long-tail and doesn't trade Fred Dean, though they deal John Jefferson.
NFL '83: Charm City Offensive: Of all the Elway trades, the one that always got me was Dan Fouts and the Chargers 1st rounders to the Colts. All of San Diego's 1st round picks are in Baltimore except for Gary Anderson, who was USFL bound. Bill Ray Smith is an ILB; Gill Byrd is a corner. Chris Hinton protects Steve DeBerg's blindside in Denver. Elway is a scrambler in a 3 receiver setup in San Diego.
Joe Delaney also returns for the Chiefs after saving three children over the summer.
NFL '84: Goodnight Moon: Seattle matches Houston's offer and lands Warren Moon. Dave Kreig is QB2. Oliver Luck is the Oilers' QB1 with John Ransom QB2.
As this is the beginning of '84, Billy Sims is still a Lion and stacked; Curt Warner gives Moon some help, replacing Eric Lane. Miami turns a blind eye to Chuck Muncie's drug test and officially acquires him. He joins a backfield that includes David Overstreet, who survived a car wreck unscathed.
NFL ‘85: USeFL: Three USFL what-ifs: Miami manages to sign Anthony Carter instead of trading him to the Vikings; I set up the ‘85 Fish with a three receiver format, pairing the all-star with the Marks Brothers.
Ex-Breaker Buford Jordan is in Green Bay; the Pack selected him in the 3rd round of the NFL Supplemental draft of USFL and CFL players in '84. He sits ahead of Craig Ellis.
The last one is a longshot: James Lockette was a USFL all-star with the Generals in '85 and–according to contemporary reports–seemed to be the presumptive starter at right end before he suffered a knee injury. He sits on the right side of the line along with fellow ex-USFL alum Lee Williams, replacing Earl Wilson.
DA Bears Caveat: This one has hold-outs Al Harris (replacing the Fridge) and Todd Bell (replacing Dave Duerson) if you really want to get into the weeds. Contains all other edits; Bears are still strong but I dialed back their team sim data (they won the NFC Central everytime I ran sims, mostly finishing 10-6 or 11-5).
NFL '86: BO-a Constrictor: The great what-if trade of '86 with Bo Jackson to San Francisco for Wendell Tyler and Ronnie Lott. Joe Cribbs is also with the Bills, as his actual trade to the Niners occurred at the end of training camp (presumably to make up for the failure to land Bo).
As this is the beginning of the '86 season, Hugh Green of the Dolphins–who went down in week 2–is restored as a starter and Ottis Anderson is still with Big Red, and Tim Lewis is starting corner in Green Bay. Another minor USFL what-if involves New England signing Ricky Sanders as opposed to trading him; Derek Holloway takes his slot in Washington.
NFL '87: Perestrokin': The Browns, Colts, and Rams all swallow their prides and give into the demands of Chip Banks, Cornelius Bennett, and Eric Dickerson; the Raiders successfully trade for Doug Williams and Brian Bosworth's rights, giving up two picks in '88. The hand of providence leads Raymond Berry to understand Rich Gannon and his happy feet, setting him as QB1. Seahawks sign Jaws, whom they talked to in March '87.
These moves cascade through the first 17ish picks; I use Dr. Z and his '87 mock draft projections for SI as a baseline. The Browns take Rod Bernstine to backup Ozzie Newsome, San Diego takes Brent Fullwood, Green Bay selects Reggie Rogers, Jerome Brown goes to Detroit, Shawn Knight to Philly, DJ Dozier to Pittsburgh, Roger Vick to Minnesota, John Bosa to the Jets, Danny Noonan to Miami, John Clay to Dallas, and Mike Junkin to the Raiders; Big Red lands Rod Woodson, Harris Barton protects Bobby Hebert in New Orleans.
Bosa, Junkin, and Knight won't appear in this hack.
I have also purged the scabs, with the exception of Brian McClure, who remains the Bills backup and Rick Massie in Denver, who stuck on the roster for nine games; Reich didn't play at all in '87. Scabs are replaced by players who were on the final roster even though many recorded few stats at all.
NFL '89: The Art of the Modell: The Browns offer to Dallas for Herschel Walker inspired the Vikings deal; this hack restores the opening day Cowboys and Vikings rosters and places Hersch on the Browns; in a recent interview, Jimmy Johnson claimed he was offered a Cleveland player but wouldn't reveal a name, so I placed Eric Metcalf, which seems to make sense. I have also included another proposed trade: Darrell Green to the Broncos for picks and Orson Mobely; Mobely was one of three mentioned in a WaPo article from the time and seemed the likely candidate as he held out of Denver training camp.
In Darrin Nelson's slot, I brought back Husker and future World League champ Dana Brinson. His stats are a little inflates, but they still aren't very good.
NFL '90: Oh Danny Boy: The Marino trade to the Raiders with a stacked club. I couldn't find any info on the nature of the Shula-Davis talks, but it likely included first round draft picks, etc. Scott Seclues and Scott Mitchell are the Miami quarterbacks. Mitchell–praised by Shula for his size–is QB1.
Also included is a three-way deal the Oilers proposed that saw Alonzo Highsmith to the Cowboys, Jesse Solomon to the Giants, and Lawrence Taylor to the Oilers.
These two deals created a cascading effect through other rosters; I used Dr. Z's mock draft for the roster shifts. I gave Miami an extra '90 pick, which they used to select Renaldo Turnbull. Doc had the Saints taking Rodney Hampton, who comes to town. One Taylor-to-Houston scenario included two first rounders; instead of Hampton, the Giants take Eric Green (they would pick ahead of Pittsburgh) and the Steelers take Greg McMurtry. Cedric Jones is in WR3 with New England. Hampton is RB3–replacing Rueben Mays–and Lewis Tillman is RB4 on Broadway.
Alternate '90, A Cajun Cannon in the Hollywood Hills: I encountered another story about Bobby Hebert's contract fight with the Saints and according to his agent, the Raiders offered Marcus Allen and a draft pick. Allen is RB1; back in LA, Bo is RB1, Steve Smith RB2, Vance Mueller, RB4. Steve Walsh is the Saints' QB1 partly because I thought they'd probably still deal for him anyway. This hack also features many of the above trades with the exception of Ronaldo Turnbull.
As Don Majkowski's injury doesn't occur until week 10, the Majik is still here in both versions.