Important Dates and Facts of NFL History
College football, which gained traction in the 1870’s and 1880’s, is really what first popularized the sport of football in America (thus, this history of the NFL is best served by a quick look at the first days of football in America- the college game).
The first intercollegiate game is considered the November 6, 1869 match-up between Rutgers and Princeton. The game in those days was basically an imported version of the ‘football’ and rugby that was played in Britian. Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Notre Dame, and Michigan were among the early standout football teams. (The NCAA was founded in 1906 and rule changes we’re made that gave the game more of its modern look).
It wasn't until the 1890’s and the first two decades of the 20th century, that small semi-professional athletic clubs began playing organized football. Most of the action centered around teams in Ohio, most notably a town called Canton.
By 1920, organizational meetings we’re held by several of the teams of the day and the American Football Association (AFA), which is also known as the American Professional Football Association (APFA) was formed. Some of the early teams included the Canton Bulldogs, Akron Pros, Muncie Flyers, Decatur Staleys (later to become the Chicago Bears), and Racine Cardinals.
On June 24th, 1922 this newly formed league changed its name to the National Football League (NFL). The league consisted of 18 teams.
In 1925, the Chicago Bears signed Harold “Red” Grange to a $100,000 contract and the former University of Illinois star almost single-handedly carried the NFL to a new level. Grange’s first game is one of the most memorable in the history of the league as 36,000 fans pack Wrigley Field to see Grange’s Chicago Bears battle the Chicago Cardinals to a 0-0 tie. Over the next two months the Bears toured the country, playing in front of over 70,000 fans at the Polo Grounds in New York City and the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles.
In 1927, the NFL began to change some of its rules to differ from the college game. Also, that same year, both the NFL and NCAA moved the goal posts back to the end line. However, the posts we’re moved back to the goal line in 1933 and remained there until 1974.
In 1933, the NFL set up an East and West Division and the first NFL Championship game was played by the winners of each division. The Chicago Bears beat the New York Giants 23-21.
In 1934 another memorable game occurred that ironically also ended in a tie. The Chicago Bears played the College All-Stars if front of 79,432 people at Soldier Field in Chicago.
In 1935, the first annual draft of college players was held.
In 1939, NFL attendance surpassed 1 million for the first time and the first televised NFL game was seen on NBC.
In 1940, the Bears beat the Redskins 73-0 in the NFL Championship game. The game remains the most decisive in NFL history.
In 1943, the wearing of helmets became mandatory.
The rival All-America Conference (AAC), also known as the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) was formed in 1946. In 1950, the league merged into the NFL.
In 1959, meeting were held to form a new alternative league, the American Football League (AFL). The new league began play the following year with 8 teams.
Canton, Ohio, the place where the NFL was born, was chosen as the site of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1961. It was dedicated in 1963.
In 1966, meetings we’re held discussing a merger of the AFL and the NFL. The two leagues agreed on a merger that would be complete by 1970. They also agreed to play a title game between the AFL champion and NFL champion beginning in January 1967.
On January 15th 1967, in Los Angeles the first "Super
Bowl", or AFL-NFL World Championship game, was held between the Green Bay Packers (NFL) and the Kansas City Chiefs (AFL). Green Bay won the first Super Bowl 35-10.
In 1970, Vince Lombardi died and the Super Bowl trophy was renamed the Vince Lombardi trophy.
In 1972, the Miami Dolphins became the only team in NFL history to finish the entire season (including the post-season) undefeated with no ties. The Dolphins went 17-0, beating the Redskins 14-7 to win Super Bowl VII.
With the two leagues now merged into a new super league and with sweeping rule changes in the early and mid-1970’s, professional football truly became one of the nation’s favorite sports. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys emerged as two of the best teams in the league.
In 1982, Joe Montana ushered in a new era of sorts for the NFL as he led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl XVI title. The 49ers would go on to win Super Bowl 19, 23, and 24 in the next 10 years.
Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, and the rest of the Dallas Cowboys dominated the NFL in the early 1990’s.
In 1995, NFL expansion introduced 2 new teams to the NFL- the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars.
In early 2008, Eli Manning and the New York Giants win Super Bowl XLII (42) by upsetting the 12 point favorite New England Patriots. The Pats came into the game undefeated and on the verge of the first undefeated NFL season since 1972.
In 2008, the Detroit Lions became the first team in NFL history to finish a season 0-16. The previous winless regular season was when Tampa Bay, as an expansion team in 1976, finished 0-14.
Ahead of the 2010 season, the NFL revised the playoff overtime format allowing for both teams to have 1 possession, with one exception: if the first team scores a TD the game is over. Since 1994, teams winning the coin toss and getting the ball first win 59.8% of the time. 1994 marks the year when the kickoff was moved back to the 30 yard line which increased the likelihood of getting a quick field goal on the first possession to win the game. Therefore, this solution is kind of a hybrid. It takes away the easy win with a FG but retains the sudden death element because the team winning the coin toss can still win right away on their first possession, if they score a TD. More.