Despite their season finishing on a bittersweet note, the Philadelphia Stars should be extremely proud of what they accomplished in 2022. This team was scrappy, yet very talented. The Stars dealt with loads of adversity throughout the year, but still earned a USFL Championship berth through it all.
With a 6-4 record, Philadelphia was one of the better teams in the USFL. However, it wasn’t always that way. This group had to figure out who they wanted to be as a football team, before seeing the success that they did.
Let’s take a look back on the Philadelphia Stars 2022 season, and what the future holds for the organization.
Bryan Scott’s Injury
Before we get to anything else, we can’t ignore the major injury Philadelphia suffered in the early goings of the year. Bryan Scott, Bart Andrus’ #1 pick, was injured in week three against New Jersey. Ultimately, this ruled him out for the rest of the season.
This was a very tough blow to deal with. Scott was easily a top three QB in the USFL. In fact, he was putting up MVP-esque numbers to start the year, leading the league in many passing categories.
His week two performance against Pittsburgh was phenomenal, and put the Stars in a position to succeed moving forward. Andrus’ game plan revolves around Scott’s abilities. The two were paired together in The Spring League’s 2020 season, dominating from start to finish.
Just your friendly reminder that @BryanScottQb was playing at an MVP level in the #USFL before suffering an injury.
When healthy, he's easily a top signal caller in the league. USFL, watch out. The Bryan Scott comeback SZN is on it's way.pic.twitter.com/GQrBhOUH8d
After Scott’s injury, things went downhill for the group. At the halfway point in the season, the Stars were 2-3 – and easily could have been 1-4 without Michigan shanking a 21 yard field goal. It wasn’t looking great, that is, until someone turned things up a notch.
Case Cookus’ Sensational Season
Case Cookus proved himself to be an absolute star, no pun intended, for Philadelphia. It’s very difficult to fill the shoes of someone like Bryan Scott. That being said, Cookus delivered in an outstanding way for Bart Andrus and the organization as a whole.
Case Cookus is battling out there for the @USFLStars 😤
Take another look at his TD that brings Philly within 5 points 🌟
Of course, it’s tough to see Philadelphia losing against Birmingham if Cookus doesn’t get hurt. He was their fearless leader all year long, and did put them in a position to win the inaugural Championship.
At the end of the day, this team likely misses the playoffs if Cookus didn’t perform so well down the stretch.
Matt Colburn: An Unsung Hero?
An underrated storyline throughout the 2022 season was Matt Colburn’s resurgence. He dealt with injuries for a large portion of the year, but finally got healthy midway through the season.
His return revolutionized Bart Andrus’ offense. Before week six, the team was running the ball around fifteen times per game. Once Colburn was inserted back into the lineup, that number almost doubled – and for good reason.
Colburn was one of the USFL’s most explosive backs, putting on a show for Philadelphia. His performances in the second half of the year were incredible, to say the least. In week six against Tampa Bay, Colburn posted three touchdowns – jumpstarting a four game win streak.
Unfortunately, he got injured in the semi-finals against New Jersey, and missed the Championship game. While Dexter Williams filled in impressively well, you have to wonder what things would have looked like if Matt was available for the final showdown.
Darnell Holland and Paul Terry both put up decent numbers for Philadelphia, but dealt with injuries of their own. Holland, in particular, just could not stay healthy. This was a shame, considering how talented Darnell can be on the field.
Ultimately, without Colburn’s efforts, things would have been much tougher for this team during important matchups.
Philadelphia & Their Elite Receivers
There is no doubt about it, Philadelphia featured some of the league’s best wide receivers. To start with, Maurice Alexander was an electrifying receiver/specialist, doing everything Andrus needed him to do – and more.
TOUCHDOWN OFF THE PUNT RETURN 🔥@_hardtime3 PUTS US BACK ON TOP 👏👏
Meanwhile, Jordan Suell developed into an excellent big man for Case Cookus. His frame, paired with strong hands, made him an elusive and dominant receiver. That Championship performance (2 TD, and a 2pt conversion) was unbelievable to watch.
Chris Rowland, Diondre Overton, and Devin Gray were each solid additions in their own regard. All three made important contributions to the Stars Championship run, with each playing a unique and effective role.
In addition, Bug Howard proved to be one of the USFL’s best tight ends. His ability to smoothly run routes, and create plays, is something that Philadelphia did not take for granted.
Stars Defensive Adjustments
As the season continued, it was obvious that both Philadelphia Stars units were improving on the daily. While the Stars defense had some chemistry issues to begin the season, they were fantastic down the stretch.
Our defense and special teams brought their A game Sunday 💯
Amani Dennis was another important piece, making the game sealing interception to send the Stars to the Championship. Freedom Akinmoladun, the former Cincinnati Bengal, put together some solid tape as well.
When all is said and one, Philadelphia put together an impressive unit that fluently came together at the end of the season. While it wasn’t an ideal finish, the Stars have a lot to build upon heading into 2023.
To be completely honest, this group was just one play away from a Championship title in 2022. When it comes to the overall roster, not much has to be changed. There will be some holes to fill, with several USFL to NFL signings – but, Philadelphia will likely be able to retain most of their current pieces.
Luis Aguilar turned out to be a reliable kicker/punter after being picked up in week five, and should hold a starting position in 2023.
A key factor to consider is the quarterback situation. Both Bryan Scott and Case Cookus are Championship caliber QB’s. Scott won a Championship in 2020 with Andrus. Cookus, on the other hand, took Andrus to a Championship in 2022.
With Scott healthy and ready to go, it does make sense for Andrus to stick with his guy. That being said, if Cookus doesn’t get any NFL opportunities, he absolutely deserves a starting position as well. Heading into the offseason, this will be a unique scenario to watch unfold. A trade could potentially be on the horizon, which would be very, very intriguing.
Bart Andrus is one of spring football’s most accomplished coaches. With his leadership, the Philadelphia Stars will always be a postseason threat, no matter who is at the helm.
That Championship defeat essentially left the Philadelphia Stars, and their fans, with a bunch of “What If’s”. What if Case Cookus doesn’t break his leg? What if KJ Costello doesn’t throw a pick six on his first attempt? Would the team have hoisted the inaugural Championship trophy?
Ultimately, we’ll never know. Once again, the team should be quite proud of what they were able to accomplish this season. While a lot of folks counted the Stars out (including myself at one point), they proved that they belong on the big stage.