United States Football League
Philadelphia Stars focused on taking next step to USFL title
United States Football League

Philadelphia Stars focused on taking next step to USFL title

Updated Mar. 17, 2023 9:56 a.m. ET

The Philadelphia Stars had a lead in the fourth quarter but couldn’t hold on in a loss to the Birmingham Stallions in the USFL title game.

The disheartening loss has been a driving source of motivation for head coach Bart Andrus during the offseason. The Stars lost starting quarterback Case Cookus to a broken ankle in the fourth quarter, which impacted the team’s ability to consistently move the football late in the game.

[Everything to know about Stars 2023 schedule]

"Part of it is keeping the quarterback healthy through the championship game," Andrus said. "That really did have an effect on the game, having him not able to finish. But then again, we need to shore things up a little bit on our defensive side. We had games on both sides that were up and down." 


Cookus is now fully healed, and Andrus is hopeful to get him back for a second season. The Northern Arizona product spent time on the Los Angeles Rams' practice squad this past season.

"Going into this year, we addressed the areas where we feel we needed to make strides personnel-wise," Andrus said. "We’ve looked at the scheme, to make sure we’re doing the right things schematically. So, that’s what the offseason is about — reflection and study. We’ve got to be self-critical of what we do, and how we did it."

The Stars will join the Michigan Panthers in the Detroit hub, playing their home games at Ford Field this season. 

"One of the things it creates is exposure," Andrus said about the expanded locations. "Statistically, for the viewership, it’s better for that. So, I think that’s going to be a positive. From a coaching standpoint, now you’re dealing with road games. There’s a reason in the NFL, even if they feel like the two teams are even, they’ll go between a one-point and three-point advantage to the home team. Travel is going to give us another thing to talk about and work on, but it’s what football is. I think it will be refreshing for the players to see other stadiums, see other places." 

The Stars open up their season on the road against the Memphis Showboats on April 15. Andrus said the success of the USFL last season has helped with the recruitment of new players, along with word of mouth from guys that spent time in the league in 2022.

"Just the fact that we made it through a season," Andrus said. "Everybody got paid, every week. That’s important stuff in these alternative football leagues because it hasn’t happened in a long time where a league actually starts and finishes. And this started and finished. We came through on every promise that was made, and that’s a testament to ownership and people above my pay grade running it. And they learned along the way, too.

"So, going into the second year, we’re able to put the accelerator down a little bit. I’m very encouraged with everything about this league. And I thought the level of play was very good. I’ve been in several of these kinds of leagues. My first experience in these alternative type of leagues was NFL Europe, after coaching in the NFL. So, that set the standard for play. We’re on that same level. It’s somewhere between Power 5 college and the NFL, as far as the level of play and the speed of the game. The speed of the game is a little faster than Power 5 college."

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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