Interview with San Diego GM Todd Ricotta by Dorian Gray

Hello folks! This is the first in a series of interviews with our USAFL GMs, giving you a clear picture of what the people are like that sit in the big chairs on teams throughout this league.

First up, we have one of the true USAFL legends, one of the true innovators in our league. You may know him as the GM who plays free agency like a maestro plays a grand piano, but in the league offices, they just call him Todd. That's right, our first subject is no other than the GM of the San Diego Super Chargers, one Todd Ricotta.

The following are excerpts from our interview.

How did you get interested in football?

It all started when I was a wee lad growing up in Niagara Falls, NY in the 70's. Niagara Falls is not very far from Buffalo, and also not far from where the Bills have played since 1973, in Orchard Park (located just outside of Buffalo). My Dad got the family season tickets for the Bills in the late 70's and early 80's … the team was coached by Chuck Knox and played pretty well during that era. I've been a fan of the Bills, and followed the college and pro game pretty closely ever since.

How did you get into FBPro?

I remember going to a video game store in the mall near my parents house back in 1992 to see what new games had been released for the Sega Genesis system. Back then, going to the store was just about the only way to find out about new games. A game on the PC shelf caught my eye, called Front Page Sports Football. I read the game overview on the back of the package and don't think I ever made it to the Sega Genesis section. I remember the game had several 3.5" floppy installation disks and I had to request a patch disk by mail that came out after the game was released, but once I got it up and running I was hooked.

Dynamix/Sierra released updated versions of the game the next year in 1993, then had a string of releases in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999. The game supported online league play by 1995, and with my trusty Compuserve account I was able to track down a few communities with active FBPro leagues. Most of the leagues were PPP leagues, which involved you sending your Profiles, Plans and Plays in a .zip file to the home team coach, who loaded your PPPs and played your game on his computer. Seasons were played (1 game per week), drafts were conducted, etc.

Before long, college leagues sprouted up…as well as integrated college/pro leagues. It was pretty low-tech by today's standards, but what it certainly allowed for was the opportunity for people to take complete control over their franchise…GM and coaching aspects combined.

Dean Chambers, the new GM of the Dallas Cowboys, was actually a fellow GM in my very first league…the BGFL (Blood & Guts Football League) on Compuserve. It's great to reconnect with Dean after all of these years. Steve and Nolan Harrison were in leagues with me over the years, as well as some of our other GMs who have been with us in the USAFL at one point or another.

A few years later I fortunately wandered in to the USAFL community and since 1997 (wow…16 years) I've been an active GM at every point of the leagues existence (3 era's and counting…).

You were the architect of the PPPs that we use. That's a part of USAFL history not many of us know about. How did that all come about?

For the first 40 or so seasons the USAFL required GMs to choose from any of the team stock PPPs that shipped with whichever version of the game we were using (FBPRO '97 for a while, then FBPRO '98…which we still use). Since many of our GMs didn't own the game, it was hard for GMs to match their desired style of play, their vision for what type of team they want to build, and their roster strengths with a set of game plans that suited their interests.

I was in a league called the PNFL for a number of years in the late 90's and possibly early part of this decade that used the VPNFL (Vaguely Plausible National Football League) play design guidelines to provide a realistic game play and statistical experience for FBRPO leagues. The challenge for the USAFL in simply adopting the VPNFL PPPs was that part of the VPNFL system involved setting allowable ranges for player attributes, and then required commissioners to modify the incoming rookie classes accordingly to ensure player attributes remain within those ranges. We wanted to maintain our training camp system and allow the game to continue to naturally generate rookies as it had in the past, so Andrew Lewis asked me to take a shot at designing a custom set of schemes that GMs could choose for their team. The design and testing phase was pretty rigorous, and is well documented on our Web site…so I won't go in to those details here. But, I'm glad that since 2010 our GMs have had some visibility in to making an informed decision on what schemes they'd like to employ on offense and defense each season -- gone are the days of picking ATL OFF and PIT DEF and praying that you had the roster suited to optimize those game plans!

What was your greatest thrill(s) as a GM?

There are a few…the one that initially comes to mind is being the first GM to win the Sundby Cup running the SPREAD offense back in 2115 (Packers 39 - Texans 7). After 100+ seasons, the SPREAD finally got its due!

I have fond memories of winning the 2028 Sundby Cup (the first as GM of the Packers) by defeating Ben Breeden's 14-0 Denver Broncos squad.

I also think back to the 2102 offseason when I tried to hit the Vikings hard in Free Agency by placing offers on 3 of their players totaling 82.000 million! Lou didn't match any of the offers and I had 24 hours to shave off the majority of about 70.000+ million in cap space before the trade deadline the following night, and then the remainder by the roster cut deadline. I got there…but it was pretty hectic. Good times… :)

Why did you pick this team as your USAFL team?

I've been GM of several teams in the USAFL…the Bills, Packers, Bears and now the Chargers.

The league undertook a pretty significant realignment after the 2159 season. I was the GM of the Bears franchise at the time, but we were looking for a way to get the Lions (coming over from the NFC East), Vikings, Packers and Saints (Jason Hink's choice) in to the same division, so I partly made the move to the AFC to accommodate the realignment. But, I'm a San Diego Padres fan and thought it would be refreshing to take over the Chargers and return to the that's who I went with.

Who are some of your favorite players in the history of your team?

I'll give you one per franchise:

QB Sonny Vail (2015-2030)
* Drafted #2 overall in the 2015 draft
* The first of Era 3's many great super star QBs
* 2015 League ROY
* 3-time Sundby Cup Champion
* Retired with over 54,000 yards passing and 340 TDs

RB Keith Gunn (2022-2035)
* Drafted #2 overall in the 2022 draft
* 2027 League MVP
* 2-time Sundby Cup Champion
* The first RB to eclipse 20,000 career rushing yards
* Finished with nearly 27,000 all-purpose yards, 148 rushing TDs, 167 total TDs

LB Brett Kane (2126-2139)
* Drafted #13 overall in the 2126 draft
* Finished career with over 1,000 tackles, 146 sacks, 27 fumble
recoveries and 10 INTs

DL Anson Stallworth (2170-2183)
* Drafted #2 overall in the 2170 draft
* 2-time League MVP (2175, 2178)
* 3-time Sundby Cup Champion
* Finished career with 654 tackles, 223 sacks, 18 fumble recoveries, 3
safeties and 1 INT

Do you have any other interests you'd like to tell us about?

A long time ago (7th grade through my college years) I was a rock star…last summer I had the chance to re-live my past 22 years later…

That's me playing the bass (mostly on the left hand side of the screen) and Mark, our GM in Buffalo, playing the drums. :)

We hope that you have enjoyed the conversation with Todd. Stay tuned for other interviews as our interview series of USAFL GMs continues!