Sean Landeta spent 22 years in the National Football League as a punter for five different teams. Entering the league in 1985, he saw the NFL grow from a somewhat niche sport into the monolith that it is today. However, the league isn’t where he got his start in professional football. Landeta actually began his career in the USFL.
The USFL existed for only three seasons and was seen at its inception as an alternative to the NFL due to the fact that it played its games in the spring. Due to financial problems the league was shut down in 1985 and no league has ever really seriously challenged the NFL since. Landeta is one of many players to have gotten his start in the league and he took some time to discuss it and why it failed with Damon Amendolara on CBS Sports Radio’s D.A. Show on Wednesday night.
“The first two years we did really well. Ratings were good. Attendance was good. After the second year people said ‘you know what, this is probably going to go’. But, the third year, it kind of unraveled,” said Landeta. “They talked about going to the fall and that just didn’t work. I’m sure there were talks about bringing a few USFL teams to the NFL because at that time Jacksonville, Baltimore, the state of Tennessee, they didn’t have football teams, which they do now. It’s such a shame because I think that league would still be going if they had stayed to their original plan of having salaries at a certain range and having football in the spring. It was a great league, a lot of great players, it just didn’t work.”
Interesting. So Landeta believes that had the USFL stayed in the spring they would have been able to continue playing?
“I think they would and if they stayed with their original structure because I remember they had something where they wanted to pay two players on every team big money,” said Landeta. “Donald Trump went out and paid Brian Sipe, who was making around $200,000 with Cleveland, $600,000 to come to the USFL. They did that, that was good for players in the NFL too, but they just overspent. All of those owners were very, very wealthy. Most of them were wealthier than NFL owners at the time. They made their money outside of football, not like the Rooneys, the Maras, and Halas who made their money with their team. It’s just a shame because I think it would have worked and football in the spring would have been a great thing because people love the game.”