History of the NFL from the year you were born - Chicago Tribune
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History of the NFL from the year you were born

1920: NFL inaugural season | On August 20, the American Professional Football Conference (also known as the American Professional Football Association) was formed and began play in October. This league would become the forebearer of the modern-day National Football League. (Unknown/Wikimedia Commons)

History of the NFL from the year you were born

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As the NFL remembers its first 101 years, Stacker looked at the most memorable pigskin moments over that span. Using information and data from authoritative football record-keepers like NFL.com and Pro Football Reference, we count down the history of the NFL from the year you were born. Visit thestacker.com for similar lists and stories.
(Seth Berkman, Stacker.com)
History of the NFL from the year you were born
History of the NFL from the year you were born | As the NFL remembers its first 101 years, Stacker looked at the most memorable pigskin moments over that span. Using information and data from authoritative football record-keepers like NFL.com and Pro Football Reference, we count down the history of the NFL from the year you were born. (George Rose/Getty Images)
History of the NFL from the year you were born | As the NFL remembers its first 101 years, Stacker looked at the most memorable pigskin moments over that span. Using information and data from authoritative football record-keepers like NFL.com and Pro Football Reference, we count down the history of the NFL from the year you were born. (George Rose/Getty Images)
1920: NFL inaugural season
1920: NFL inaugural season | On August 20, the American Professional Football Conference (also known as the American Professional Football Association) was formed and began play in October. This league would become the forebearer of the modern-day National Football League. (Unknown/Wikimedia Commons)
1920: NFL inaugural season | On August 20, the American Professional Football Conference (also known as the American Professional Football Association) was formed and began play in October. This league would become the forebearer of the modern-day National Football League. (Unknown/Wikimedia Commons)
1921: Green Bay Packers’ arrival
1921: Green Bay Packers’ arrival | Coached by Curly Lambeau (who would later have a stadium named after him), the Green Bay Packers were born. John Clair of the Acme Packing Company was awarded the team, which lasted much longer than other expansion franchises that year, like the Minneapolis Marines and Louisville Brecks. (Unknown/Wikimedia Commons)
1921: Green Bay Packers’ arrival | Coached by Curly Lambeau (who would later have a stadium named after him), the Green Bay Packers were born. John Clair of the Acme Packing Company was awarded the team, which lasted much longer than other expansion franchises that year, like the Minneapolis Marines and Louisville Brecks. (Unknown/Wikimedia Commons)
1922: APFA name change
1922: APFA name change | On June 24, the American Professional Football Association changed its name to the National Football League. The league’s clubs met at the Hollenden Hotel in Cleveland and also voted to prohibit the use of college players. (Unknown/Wikimedia Commons)
1922: APFA name change | On June 24, the American Professional Football Association changed its name to the National Football League. The league’s clubs met at the Hollenden Hotel in Cleveland and also voted to prohibit the use of college players. (Unknown/Wikimedia Commons)
1923: Canton repeat
1923: Canton repeat | For the second straight year, the Canton Bulldogs went undefeated. Posting an 11-0-1 record, the Bulldogs won their second — and last — league championship. (Unknown/Wikimedia Commons)
1923: Canton repeat | For the second straight year, the Canton Bulldogs went undefeated. Posting an 11-0-1 record, the Bulldogs won their second — and last — league championship. (Unknown/Wikimedia Commons)
1924: Cleveland takeover
1924: Cleveland takeover | The Canton Bulldogs were purchased by a franchise in Cleveland, whose owner, Samuel Deutsch, effectively made the Canton team inactive and moved the club’s players to northern Ohio. The new Cleveland Bulldogs won the NFL title. (Unknown/Wikimedia Commons)
1924: Cleveland takeover | The Canton Bulldogs were purchased by a franchise in Cleveland, whose owner, Samuel Deutsch, effectively made the Canton team inactive and moved the club’s players to northern Ohio. The new Cleveland Bulldogs won the NFL title. (Unknown/Wikimedia Commons)
1925: Red rookie sensation
1925: Red rookie sensation | Harold “Red” Grange entered the NFL as a rookie with the Chicago Bears. On November 26, Grange, fresh out of the University of Illinois, gained 36 yards in front of an estimated 36,000 fans at Wrigley Field. Grange would become one of the NFL’s first stars, entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. (Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons)
1925: Red rookie sensation | Harold “Red” Grange entered the NFL as a rookie with the Chicago Bears. On November 26, Grange, fresh out of the University of Illinois, gained 36 yards in front of an estimated 36,000 fans at Wrigley Field. Grange would become one of the NFL’s first stars, entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. (Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons)
1926: Staving off an upstart
1926: Staving off an upstart | In an effort to gain more money for his client Red Grange, C. C. Pyle formed a new league — the American Football League — to scare the NFL. This would be the creation of one of several leagues to take the AFL name. Grange played one season in the new league before returning to the NFL. (Unknown/Wikimedia Commons)
1926: Staving off an upstart | In an effort to gain more money for his client Red Grange, C. C. Pyle formed a new league — the American Football League — to scare the NFL. This would be the creation of one of several leagues to take the AFL name. Grange played one season in the new league before returning to the NFL. (Unknown/Wikimedia Commons)
1927: Dropping extra weight
1927: Dropping extra weight | The NFL shrank from 22 to 12 teams. With the league now concentrated on the East Coast, major markets like New York began to play a larger role in the growth of American football. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
1927: Dropping extra weight | The NFL shrank from 22 to 12 teams. With the league now concentrated on the East Coast, major markets like New York began to play a larger role in the growth of American football. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
1928: Red retires (for now)
1928: Red retires (for now) | After suffering a severe knee injury in 1927, Grange retired in 1928. Although he wouldn’t be the same runner again, Grange eventually returned to the gridiron, starring as a defensive back. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
1928: Red retires (for now) | After suffering a severe knee injury in 1927, Grange retired in 1928. Although he wouldn’t be the same runner again, Grange eventually returned to the gridiron, starring as a defensive back. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
1929: Sunday Night Lights
1929: Sunday Night Lights | In November, the NFL held its first game under lights. The Providence Steam Rollers brought in floodlights to Kinsley Park Stadium — their temporary home — but lost to the Chicago Cardinals, 16-0. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
1929: Sunday Night Lights | In November, the NFL held its first game under lights. The Providence Steam Rollers brought in floodlights to Kinsley Park Stadium — their temporary home — but lost to the Chicago Cardinals, 16-0. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
1930: George Halas retires
1930: George Halas retires | Before George Halas coached seven championship teams, he was a football player. In fact, Halas coached through most of his playing career — which ended after the 1928 season — and even played professional baseball with the New York Yankees. In 22 at-bats, Halas collected two hits. (Wikimedia Commons)
1930: George Halas retires | Before George Halas coached seven championship teams, he was a football player. In fact, Halas coached through most of his playing career — which ended after the 1928 season — and even played professional baseball with the New York Yankees. In 22 at-bats, Halas collected two hits. (Wikimedia Commons)
1931: Green Bay three-peat
1931: Green Bay three-peat | The Packers became the first team to win three consecutive titles. Posting a 12-2 record, Johnny Blood led the way with 14 touchdowns. (Unknown/Wikimedia Commons)
1931: Green Bay three-peat | The Packers became the first team to win three consecutive titles. Posting a 12-2 record, Johnny Blood led the way with 14 touchdowns. (Unknown/Wikimedia Commons)
1932: First indoor game
1932: First indoor game | Because of the bitter Chicago winter, the NFL played its first indoor game. The championship battle was held at Chicago Stadium, whose dimensions only allowed for an 80-yard field. The host Bears were successful, winning 9-0, although an important touchdown thrown from Bronko Nagurski allegedly violated rules that forward passes had to be thrown from five yards behind the line of scrimmage. (Unknown/Wikimedia Commons)
1932: First indoor game | Because of the bitter Chicago winter, the NFL played its first indoor game. The championship battle was held at Chicago Stadium, whose dimensions only allowed for an 80-yard field. The host Bears were successful, winning 9-0, although an important touchdown thrown from Bronko Nagurski allegedly violated rules that forward passes had to be thrown from five yards behind the line of scrimmage. (Unknown/Wikimedia Commons)
1933: The forward pass becomes modernized
1933: The forward pass becomes modernized | Because of Bronko Nagurski’s controversial pass, the NFL legalized forward passes from anywhere behind the line of scrimmage. Although the play was still rarely used at the time, it would eventually revolutionize the way football was played. (Unknown/Wikimedia Commons)
1933: The forward pass becomes modernized | Because of Bronko Nagurski’s controversial pass, the NFL legalized forward passes from anywhere behind the line of scrimmage. Although the play was still rarely used at the time, it would eventually revolutionize the way football was played. (Unknown/Wikimedia Commons)
1934: The ‘Sneakers Game’
1934: The ‘Sneakers Game’ | Because of icy conditions in New York’s Polo Grounds, the New York Giants switched to basketball shoes in their championship game against the Chicago Bears. The Giants then scored 27 straight points, winning 30-13. (Unknown/Wikimedia Commons)
1934: The ‘Sneakers Game’ | Because of icy conditions in New York’s Polo Grounds, the New York Giants switched to basketball shoes in their championship game against the Chicago Bears. The Giants then scored 27 straight points, winning 30-13. (Unknown/Wikimedia Commons)
1935: The draft is born
1935: The draft is born | Future NFL Commissioner Bert Bell introduced the idea of an annual draft on May 19. The following February, teams would select amateur players at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia. Clubs with the worst records from the prior season would choose first, and the league champion selected last. Decades later, the draft became a massively televised event and a highlight of the sports calendar.
1935: The draft is born | Future NFL Commissioner Bert Bell introduced the idea of an annual draft on May 19. The following February, teams would select amateur players at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia. Clubs with the worst records from the prior season would choose first, and the league champion selected last. Decades later, the draft became a massively televised event and a highlight of the sports calendar.
1936: Equal scheduling begins
1936: Equal scheduling begins | In the NFL’s first 16 seasons, schedules were not as meticulously crafted as they are today. But in 1936, each team began playing the same amount of games. The Packers, with a regular-season-best 10–1–1 record, won the NFL championship. (Fordham University/Getty Images)
1936: Equal scheduling begins | In the NFL’s first 16 seasons, schedules were not as meticulously crafted as they are today. But in 1936, each team began playing the same amount of games. The Packers, with a regular-season-best 10–1–1 record, won the NFL championship. (Fordham University/Getty Images)
1937: Sammy Baugh begins a storied career
1937: Sammy Baugh begins a storied career | Sammy Baugh made his NFL debut for the Washington Redskins, earning First Team All-Pro honors with a league-leading 1,127 yards passing. Baugh, on his way to a Hall of Fame career, helped lead Washington to a title. (Harris & Ewing/Wikimedia Commons)
1937: Sammy Baugh begins a storied career | Sammy Baugh made his NFL debut for the Washington Redskins, earning First Team All-Pro honors with a league-leading 1,127 yards passing. Baugh, on his way to a Hall of Fame career, helped lead Washington to a title. (Harris & Ewing/Wikimedia Commons)
1938: First All-Star Game
1938: First All-Star Game | Los Angeles Times sports editor Bill Henry was part of a group that introduced the concept of an NFL All-Star Game. In the format, the NFL champion would take on a team of All-Pros from around the league. The maiden game was played at Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field. (New York Daily News Archive/Getty Images)
1938: First All-Star Game | Los Angeles Times sports editor Bill Henry was part of a group that introduced the concept of an NFL All-Star Game. In the format, the NFL champion would take on a team of All-Pros from around the league. The maiden game was played at Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field. (New York Daily News Archive/Getty Images)
1939: Football on TV
1939: Football on TV | NBC broadcasted a Brooklyn Dodgers vs. Philadelphia Eagles matchup from Ebbets Field. Clouds meant that cameras did not have sufficient light to film, and the picture sent out was often too dark for audiences. About 1,000 fans tuned in. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
1939: Football on TV | NBC broadcasted a Brooklyn Dodgers vs. Philadelphia Eagles matchup from Ebbets Field. Clouds meant that cameras did not have sufficient light to film, and the picture sent out was often too dark for audiences. About 1,000 fans tuned in. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
1940: A Bears mauling
1940: A Bears mauling | Using the newly invented “T-formation,” the Bears romped Washington in the NFL title game, 73-0. George Halas, coach of Chicago, sent a man in motion with the quarterback still under center, and the movement created a free-flowing offense Washington was not prepared for. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
1940: A Bears mauling | Using the newly invented “T-formation,” the Bears romped Washington in the NFL title game, 73-0. George Halas, coach of Chicago, sent a man in motion with the quarterback still under center, and the movement created a free-flowing offense Washington was not prepared for. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
1941: Elmer Layden becomes first Commissioner
1941: Elmer Layden becomes first Commissioner | Elmer Layden first made a name for himself as a member of Notre Dame’s legendary “Four Horsemen” backfield during the 1924 college football season. After a stellar collegiate career, Layden made more history when he was named the NFL’s first commissioner. Layden was given authority to settle all disputes between players and clubs and helped mend fragmentation that splintered professional football in its early years. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
1941: Elmer Layden becomes first Commissioner | Elmer Layden first made a name for himself as a member of Notre Dame’s legendary “Four Horsemen” backfield during the 1924 college football season. After a stellar collegiate career, Layden made more history when he was named the NFL’s first commissioner. Layden was given authority to settle all disputes between players and clubs and helped mend fragmentation that splintered professional football in its early years. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
1942: World War II impacts the NFL
1942: World War II impacts the NFL | As Americans dug in for the war effort, the NFL was not immune to losing employees to service. Some teams even eventually suspended operations, while coaches also signed up to serve their country — George Halas left his coaching position with the Bears to join the U.S. Naval Reserve. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
1942: World War II impacts the NFL | As Americans dug in for the war effort, the NFL was not immune to losing employees to service. Some teams even eventually suspended operations, while coaches also signed up to serve their country — George Halas left his coaching position with the Bears to join the U.S. Naval Reserve. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
1943: The formation of the ’Steagles‘
1943: The formation of the ’Steagles‘ | Because of the loss of players helping fight World War II, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers could not field full teams. So these two Pennsylvania rivals formed one squad, aptly named the “Steagles.” The team, which overcame early quarrels, went 5–4–1 but only lasted one season. (Temple University Libraries/Wikimedia Commons)
1943: The formation of the ’Steagles‘ | Because of the loss of players helping fight World War II, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers could not field full teams. So these two Pennsylvania rivals formed one squad, aptly named the “Steagles.” The team, which overcame early quarrels, went 5–4–1 but only lasted one season. (Temple University Libraries/Wikimedia Commons)
1944: The Boston Yanks?
1944: The Boston Yanks? | Ted Collins started a new Boston-area franchise and, after getting shut out of Yankee Stadium years earlier, decided to call his team the unfathomable name of the Yanks. Many baseball fans in Boston and New York might consider the Boston Yanks name sacrilege — particularly since they played their home games in Fenway Park, the home of Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox. The following year, the Yanks combined forces with a team from Brooklyn. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
1944: The Boston Yanks? | Ted Collins started a new Boston-area franchise and, after getting shut out of Yankee Stadium years earlier, decided to call his team the unfathomable name of the Yanks. Many baseball fans in Boston and New York might consider the Boston Yanks name sacrilege — particularly since they played their home games in Fenway Park, the home of Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox. The following year, the Yanks combined forces with a team from Brooklyn. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
1945: Mourning the loss of 21 alumni
1945: Mourning the loss of 21 alumni | As World War II drew to a close, many NFL players returned to the gridiron. However, 21 NFL alumni (current and former players, coaches, and executives) died serving their country in the war. Among the fallen was All-Pro tackle Al Blozis. (Revmoran/Wikimedia Commons)
1945: Mourning the loss of 21 alumni | As World War II drew to a close, many NFL players returned to the gridiron. However, 21 NFL alumni (current and former players, coaches, and executives) died serving their country in the war. Among the fallen was All-Pro tackle Al Blozis. (Revmoran/Wikimedia Commons)
1946: Kenny Washington and Woody Strode make history
1946: Kenny Washington and Woody Strode make history | Before the 1946 season, the Los Angeles Rams signed Kenny Washington and Woody Strode, who became the first African American players in the modern NFL era. Washington played three seasons, scoring nine touchdowns, while Strode played one season, catching four passes. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
1946: Kenny Washington and Woody Strode make history | Before the 1946 season, the Los Angeles Rams signed Kenny Washington and Woody Strode, who became the first African American players in the modern NFL era. Washington played three seasons, scoring nine touchdowns, while Strode played one season, catching four passes. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
1947: A win for Bidwell
1947: A win for Bidwell | On April 19, Charles Bidwell, owner of the Chicago Cardinals, died. Eight months later, his team won the NFL championship, its first ever. Twenty years later, Bidwell was enshrined in the Hall of Fame. (Vic Stein/Getty Images)
1947: A win for Bidwell | On April 19, Charles Bidwell, owner of the Chicago Cardinals, died. Eight months later, his team won the NFL championship, its first ever. Twenty years later, Bidwell was enshrined in the Hall of Fame. (Vic Stein/Getty Images)
1948: A helmet gets a new look
1948: A helmet gets a new look | Fred Gehrke was more than a football player. An art major, Gehrke was quite the sketcher, and one day created a new look for his team’s helmets — he suggested adding horns to the Los Angeles Rams headwear, a look that would become iconic. The Rams, thanks to Gehrke’s work, became the first team to wear a decal on its helmets. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
1948: A helmet gets a new look | Fred Gehrke was more than a football player. An art major, Gehrke was quite the sketcher, and one day created a new look for his team’s helmets — he suggested adding horns to the Los Angeles Rams headwear, a look that would become iconic. The Rams, thanks to Gehrke’s work, became the first team to wear a decal on its helmets. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
1949: One thousand times two
1949: One thousand times two | For the first time in NFL history, two rushers ran for at least 1,000 yards. Steve Van Buren picked up 1,146 yards for the Philadelphia Eagles, while Tony Canadeo of the Green Bay Packers registered 1,052 yards. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
1949: One thousand times two | For the first time in NFL history, two rushers ran for at least 1,000 yards. Steve Van Buren picked up 1,146 yards for the Philadelphia Eagles, while Tony Canadeo of the Green Bay Packers registered 1,052 yards. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
1950: The introduction of the Pro Bowl
1950: The introduction of the Pro Bowl | Because of World War II, the NFL ceased holding all-star games. But beginning with the 1950 season, the format was reintroduced with Los Angeles as the host site. (Doug Benc/Getty Images)
1950: The introduction of the Pro Bowl | Because of World War II, the NFL ceased holding all-star games. But beginning with the 1950 season, the format was reintroduced with Los Angeles as the host site. (Doug Benc/Getty Images)
1951: Nationwide TV coverage
1951: Nationwide TV coverage | The DuMont Network broadcasted the NFL Championship Game nationwide on December 23. The Network paid $75,000 to air the contest, culminating in a 24-17 victory for the Rams over the Browns. (Vic Stein/Getty Images)
1951: Nationwide TV coverage | The DuMont Network broadcasted the NFL Championship Game nationwide on December 23. The Network paid $75,000 to air the contest, culminating in a 24-17 victory for the Rams over the Browns. (Vic Stein/Getty Images)
1952: End of the single-wing
1952: End of the single-wing | During the NFL’s early years, the single-wing formation was all the rage. But by 1952, the formation had all but been abandoned, with the Steelers the last team to regularly employ it. Finally, the Steelers changed to the more modern T-formation, whereby three offensive players line up behind the quarterback. (Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
1952: End of the single-wing | During the NFL’s early years, the single-wing formation was all the rage. But by 1952, the formation had all but been abandoned, with the Steelers the last team to regularly employ it. Finally, the Steelers changed to the more modern T-formation, whereby three offensive players line up behind the quarterback. (Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
1953: Jim Thorpe dies
1953: Jim Thorpe dies | Jim Thorpe, a Native American who was one of the country’s earliest sports heroes, died on March 28. Thorpe starred at the 1912 Summer Olympics, played baseball in the majors, and made the Hall of Fame as a football dynamo. In 1951, a Hollywood film about his exploits, “Jim Thorpe — All-American,” was released. (PhotoQuest/Getty Images)
1953: Jim Thorpe dies | Jim Thorpe, a Native American who was one of the country’s earliest sports heroes, died on March 28. Thorpe starred at the 1912 Summer Olympics, played baseball in the majors, and made the Hall of Fame as a football dynamo. In 1951, a Hollywood film about his exploits, “Jim Thorpe — All-American,” was released. (PhotoQuest/Getty Images)
1954: Joe Perry sets a record
1954: Joe Perry sets a record | While the NFL had seen two players rush for 1,000 yards in a season, never had one running back achieved 1,000 yards in consecutive years. That changed when Joe Perry of the San Francisco 49ers accumulated 1,049 yards in 1954, adding onto the 1,018 he tallied the season before. In both years, Perry was named an All-Pro and selected to the Pro Bowl. (Mark Kauffman/Getty Images)
1954: Joe Perry sets a record | While the NFL had seen two players rush for 1,000 yards in a season, never had one running back achieved 1,000 yards in consecutive years. That changed when Joe Perry of the San Francisco 49ers accumulated 1,049 yards in 1954, adding onto the 1,018 he tallied the season before. In both years, Perry was named an All-Pro and selected to the Pro Bowl. (Mark Kauffman/Getty Images)
1955: Welcome to sudden death
1955: Welcome to sudden death | “Sudden-death” overtime rules were introduced in a preseason game between the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams. The rule was instituted by the game’s promoter, Harry Glickman; if the game went to overtime, the first team to score would be deemed the winner. “I didn’t think there was a chance in a million it would be used,” Glickman said of the rule after the game. (Agence France Presse/Getty Images)
1955: Welcome to sudden death | “Sudden-death” overtime rules were introduced in a preseason game between the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams. The rule was instituted by the game’s promoter, Harry Glickman; if the game went to overtime, the first team to score would be deemed the winner. “I didn’t think there was a chance in a million it would be used,” Glickman said of the rule after the game. (Agence France Presse/Getty Images)
1956: The NFL Players Association is formed
1956: The NFL Players Association is formed | Creighton Miller, a general manager of the Cleveland Browns and a former college player and attorney, agreed to help Browns players organize a players association. Miller contacted players around the league to join his effort, and the first meeting of the NFL Players Association took place at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. Since then, the NFLPA has negotiated the rights of players and even stood strong on their beliefs during work stoppages. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
1956: The NFL Players Association is formed | Creighton Miller, a general manager of the Cleveland Browns and a former college player and attorney, agreed to help Browns players organize a players association. Miller contacted players around the league to join his effort, and the first meeting of the NFL Players Association took place at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. Since then, the NFLPA has negotiated the rights of players and even stood strong on their beliefs during work stoppages. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
1957: The Jim Brown era begins
1957: The Jim Brown era begins | Making his debut in 1957, Jim Brown almost immediately dashed into the record books. During his second pro season, Brown set an NFL record with 1,527 rushing yards. The future Hall of Famer led the league in rushing in eight of his nine seasons but also became noted in life for his civil rights work and as an actor. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
1957: The Jim Brown era begins | Making his debut in 1957, Jim Brown almost immediately dashed into the record books. During his second pro season, Brown set an NFL record with 1,527 rushing yards. The future Hall of Famer led the league in rushing in eight of his nine seasons but also became noted in life for his civil rights work and as an actor. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
1958: The Colts and Giants stage a classic
1958: The Colts and Giants stage a classic | Not only was the 1958 Championship tilt between the Colts and Giants the first official game to reach a sudden-death overtime, but many football fans and historians consider it “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” The contest had the extra drama of overtime but was also broadcast to a national audience. A last-second field goal sent the game to overtime, where Alan Ameche scored the game-winning touchdown in a 23-17 Colts victory. (New York Daily News Archive/Getty Images)
1958: The Colts and Giants stage a classic | Not only was the 1958 Championship tilt between the Colts and Giants the first official game to reach a sudden-death overtime, but many football fans and historians consider it “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” The contest had the extra drama of overtime but was also broadcast to a national audience. A last-second field goal sent the game to overtime, where Alan Ameche scored the game-winning touchdown in a 23-17 Colts victory. (New York Daily News Archive/Getty Images)
1959: Vince Lombardi hired by Green Bay
1959: Vince Lombardi hired by Green Bay | Vince Lombardi, a New York native and assistant coach with the Giants, was hired by the Green Bay Packers to become their head coach on January 28. Lombardi, noted for his glasses and toothy smile, was a two-time Coach of the Year and Super Bowl champion; today, the Super Bowl trophy is named in his honor. (Marvin E. Newman/Getty Images)
1959: Vince Lombardi hired by Green Bay | Vince Lombardi, a New York native and assistant coach with the Giants, was hired by the Green Bay Packers to become their head coach on January 28. Lombardi, noted for his glasses and toothy smile, was a two-time Coach of the Year and Super Bowl champion; today, the Super Bowl trophy is named in his honor. (Marvin E. Newman/Getty Images)
1960: The launch of the AFL
1960: The launch of the AFL | American businessmen such as Lamar Hunt, Bud Adams, and others were unsuccessful in convincing the NFL to expand, so they launched the American Football League. Play began in 1960, with the Houston Oilers as the first champion. Although the AFL folded in 1970, it revolutionized the NFL by introducing a more uptempo style of play and led to a merger that expanded the NFL’s footprint nationwide.
1960: The launch of the AFL | American businessmen such as Lamar Hunt, Bud Adams, and others were unsuccessful in convincing the NFL to expand, so they launched the American Football League. Play began in 1960, with the Houston Oilers as the first champion. Although the AFL folded in 1970, it revolutionized the NFL by introducing a more uptempo style of play and led to a merger that expanded the NFL’s footprint nationwide.
1961: The Hall of Fame gets a home
1961: The Hall of Fame gets a home | On April 27, Canton, Ohio, was named the site for the future Pro Football Hall of Fame building. The location made sense, as the NFL formed in Canton in 1920. Each summer, the annual preseason Hall of Fame Game and enshrinement ceremony unofficially kicks off the NFL season. (David Maxwell/Getty Images)
1961: The Hall of Fame gets a home | On April 27, Canton, Ohio, was named the site for the future Pro Football Hall of Fame building. The location made sense, as the NFL formed in Canton in 1920. Each summer, the annual preseason Hall of Fame Game and enshrinement ceremony unofficially kicks off the NFL season. (David Maxwell/Getty Images)
1962: The NFL wins a major court case
1962: The NFL wins a major court case | The upstart AFL took the NFL to court, claiming the older league held a monopoly over the sport. But a U.S. District Court in Baltimore ruled against the AFL’s antitrust case. Relations between the two leagues would remain contentious throughout the decade. (John Loengard/Getty Images)
1962: The NFL wins a major court case | The upstart AFL took the NFL to court, claiming the older league held a monopoly over the sport. But a U.S. District Court in Baltimore ruled against the AFL’s antitrust case. Relations between the two leagues would remain contentious throughout the decade. (John Loengard/Getty Images)
1963: Gambling suspensions levied
1963: Gambling suspensions levied | Paul Hornung, a future Hall of Famer and Most Valuable Player of the 1961 season, was suspended by the NFL for gambling on football games. Six members of the Detroit Lions were also suspended or fined. Hornung was reinstated one year later and won multiple NFL championships. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
1963: Gambling suspensions levied | Paul Hornung, a future Hall of Famer and Most Valuable Player of the 1961 season, was suspended by the NFL for gambling on football games. Six members of the Detroit Lions were also suspended or fined. Hornung was reinstated one year later and won multiple NFL championships. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
1964: NFL Films created
1964: NFL Films created | Ed Sabol was a small-time filmmaker who occasionally shot NFL games. In 1964, the NFL purchased his studio and NFL Films was created. For nearly 50 years, Sabol’s work and that of his son, Steve, were instrumental in documenting the history of the league with never-before-seen mic’d up footage. (Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)
1964: NFL Films created | Ed Sabol was a small-time filmmaker who occasionally shot NFL games. In 1964, the NFL purchased his studio and NFL Films was created. For nearly 50 years, Sabol’s work and that of his son, Steve, were instrumental in documenting the history of the league with never-before-seen mic’d up footage. (Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)
1965: The addition of southern flavor
1965: The addition of southern flavor | The cities of Atlanta and Miami were awarded expansion franchises, moving professional football into parts of the nation long dominated by the college game. The Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins would begin play in 1966, and both teams’ stadiums would play huge roles in the future of hosting Super Bowls. (George Rose/Getty Images)
1965: The addition of southern flavor | The cities of Atlanta and Miami were awarded expansion franchises, moving professional football into parts of the nation long dominated by the college game. The Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins would begin play in 1966, and both teams’ stadiums would play huge roles in the future of hosting Super Bowls. (George Rose/Getty Images)
1966: The AFL-NFL relationship grows
1966: The AFL-NFL relationship grows | What began with a few secret meetings eventually blossomed into one of the most important moments in professional sports history. In 1966, heads from the AFL and NFL agreed to merge leagues and host a World Championship Game beginning in 1967. (Art Rickerby/Getty Images)
1966: The AFL-NFL relationship grows | What began with a few secret meetings eventually blossomed into one of the most important moments in professional sports history. In 1966, heads from the AFL and NFL agreed to merge leagues and host a World Championship Game beginning in 1967. (Art Rickerby/Getty Images)
1967: Super Bowl I
1967: Super Bowl I | After the Kansas City Chiefs won the AFL championship and the Green Bay Packers took home the NFL title, the two clubs met in the first Super Bowl. Played in Los Angeles on January 15, the Packers dominated the Chiefs, 35-10. Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr was named the game’s MVP, and he and his teammates took home $15,000 each for their victory. (Focus On Sport/Getty Images)
1967: Super Bowl I | After the Kansas City Chiefs won the AFL championship and the Green Bay Packers took home the NFL title, the two clubs met in the first Super Bowl. Played in Los Angeles on January 15, the Packers dominated the Chiefs, 35-10. Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr was named the game’s MVP, and he and his teammates took home $15,000 each for their victory. (Focus On Sport/Getty Images)
1968: The ’Heidi Bowl’
1968: The ’Heidi Bowl’ | Today, satellite TV and streaming packages negate the worry of NFL fans ever missing a second of action. But in 1968, football on television still had its bumps, made evident by the November 17 game between the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets. With the Jets ahead but the game running long, NBC decided to switch off the football broadcast to air the film “Heidi.” Millions missed out on watching a stunning Oakland comeback, and scores of fans bombarded the network with complaints. (B Bennett/Getty Images)
1968: The ’Heidi Bowl’ | Today, satellite TV and streaming packages negate the worry of NFL fans ever missing a second of action. But in 1968, football on television still had its bumps, made evident by the November 17 game between the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets. With the Jets ahead but the game running long, NBC decided to switch off the football broadcast to air the film “Heidi.” Millions missed out on watching a stunning Oakland comeback, and scores of fans bombarded the network with complaints. (B Bennett/Getty Images)
1969: The AFL earns legitimacy
1969: The AFL earns legitimacy | The Jets avenged their loss in the “Heidi Bowl” by defeating the Raiders in the playoffs. After winning the AFL championship, New York would take on the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Despite entering as 19-point underdogs, Jets quarterback Joe Namath guaranteed his team would win — and win they did, 16-7. The victory was the AFL’s first in the Super Bowl and legitimized the league amongst its NFL brethren. (New York Daily News Archive/Getty Images)
1969: The AFL earns legitimacy | The Jets avenged their loss in the “Heidi Bowl” by defeating the Raiders in the playoffs. After winning the AFL championship, New York would take on the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Despite entering as 19-point underdogs, Jets quarterback Joe Namath guaranteed his team would win — and win they did, 16-7. The victory was the AFL’s first in the Super Bowl and legitimized the league amongst its NFL brethren. (New York Daily News Archive/Getty Images)
1970: Monday Night Football debuts
1970: Monday Night Football debuts | ABC acquired rights to broadcast NFL games on Monday nights, events that became among the most viewed on television. The defending champion Jets took on the Cleveland Browns in the first matchup, and for the next five decades, Monday nights became synonymous with football. Calling the action were legendary voices like Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell. (ABC Photo Archives/Getty Images)
1970: Monday Night Football debuts | ABC acquired rights to broadcast NFL games on Monday nights, events that became among the most viewed on television. The defending champion Jets took on the Cleveland Browns in the first matchup, and for the next five decades, Monday nights became synonymous with football. Calling the action were legendary voices like Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell. (ABC Photo Archives/Getty Images)
1971: Super Bowl V nailbiter
1971: Super Bowl V nailbiter | Jim O’Brien successfully converted a field-goal attempt with five seconds remaining in Super Bowl V, clinching a title for the Baltimore Colts. The Colts’ 16-13 win over the Dallas Cowboys made up for their surprising defeat in Super Bowl III, but it was the last time that the franchise reached an NFL title game while located in Baltimore. In a rarity, Chuck Howley, a Dallas linebacker, was named the game’s MVP despite coming out on the losing side. (Focus On Sport/Getty Images)
1971: Super Bowl V nailbiter | Jim O’Brien successfully converted a field-goal attempt with five seconds remaining in Super Bowl V, clinching a title for the Baltimore Colts. The Colts’ 16-13 win over the Dallas Cowboys made up for their surprising defeat in Super Bowl III, but it was the last time that the franchise reached an NFL title game while located in Baltimore. In a rarity, Chuck Howley, a Dallas linebacker, was named the game’s MVP despite coming out on the losing side. (Focus On Sport/Getty Images)
1972: The ’Immaculate Reception’
1972: The ’Immaculate Reception’ | Franco Harris’ “Immaculate Reception” is often considered one of the most iconic plays in NFL history. In a tightly contested playoff game between the Steelers and Raiders, Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw a pass that deflected off an Oakland player and into the hands of Harris just before the ball hit the ground. Harris scampered in for the go-ahead touchdown and the Steelers advanced to the AFC Championship Game. (Heinz Kluetmeier/Getty Images)
1972: The ’Immaculate Reception’ | Franco Harris’ “Immaculate Reception” is often considered one of the most iconic plays in NFL history. In a tightly contested playoff game between the Steelers and Raiders, Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw a pass that deflected off an Oakland player and into the hands of Harris just before the ball hit the ground. Harris scampered in for the go-ahead touchdown and the Steelers advanced to the AFC Championship Game. (Heinz Kluetmeier/Getty Images)
1973: Miami’s perfect run
1973: Miami’s perfect run | By winning Super Bowl VII, the Miami Dolphins became the first — and only — team to win the Super Bowl with a perfect record. Going 14-0 in the regular season, the Dolphins won 11 contests by more than one touchdown, then cruised through three playoff games for their unmatched 17-0 mark. (Focus On Sport/Getty Images)
1973: Miami’s perfect run | By winning Super Bowl VII, the Miami Dolphins became the first — and only — team to win the Super Bowl with a perfect record. Going 14-0 in the regular season, the Dolphins won 11 contests by more than one touchdown, then cruised through three playoff games for their unmatched 17-0 mark. (Focus On Sport/Getty Images)
1974: Goalposts pushed back
1974: Goalposts pushed back | In a drastic change, the NFL decided to move the goalposts from the front of the end zone to the back lines. This added approximately 10 extra yards to field-goal and extra-point attempts, but also removed an unnecessary physical impediment to plays near the goal line. The move resulted in 208 fewer made field goals from the year before. (Tom Kurtz/Getty Images)
1974: Goalposts pushed back | In a drastic change, the NFL decided to move the goalposts from the front of the end zone to the back lines. This added approximately 10 extra yards to field-goal and extra-point attempts, but also removed an unnecessary physical impediment to plays near the goal line. The move resulted in 208 fewer made field goals from the year before. (Tom Kurtz/Getty Images)
1975: Refs get mic’d up
1975: Refs get mic’d up | With television playing a growing role in football’s popularity, the details of referees’ decisions became more important. Beginning in 1975, refs on the field began wearing wireless mics so fans at home and in the stands could clearly hear penalties being dished out. (George Rose/Getty Images)
1975: Refs get mic’d up | With television playing a growing role in football’s popularity, the details of referees’ decisions became more important. Beginning in 1975, refs on the field began wearing wireless mics so fans at home and in the stands could clearly hear penalties being dished out. (George Rose/Getty Images)
1976: NFL’s worldwide footprint grows
1976: NFL’s worldwide footprint grows | On August 16, the first NFL game held outside of North America took place in Tokyo’s Korakuen Stadium. The St. Louis Cardinals topped the San Diego Chargers, 20-10, in front of 38,000 fans. Some players suffered from food poisoning and the standard jet lag, but the preseason game was a success and the first of many trips to countries outside of North America for the NFL. (Getty Images)
1976: NFL’s worldwide footprint grows | On August 16, the first NFL game held outside of North America took place in Tokyo’s Korakuen Stadium. The St. Louis Cardinals topped the San Diego Chargers, 20-10, in front of 38,000 fans. Some players suffered from food poisoning and the standard jet lag, but the preseason game was a success and the first of many trips to countries outside of North America for the NFL. (Getty Images)
1977: Walter Payton sets single-game record
1977: Walter Payton sets single-game record | Walter Payton, while battling the flu, rushed 40 times for 275 yards against the Minnesota Vikings on November 20, setting a single-game NFL record. Payton, a future Hall of Famer and Super Bowl champion, would hold the record until 2000 when it was broken by Corey Dillon. (Mike Powell/Getty Images)
1977: Walter Payton sets single-game record | Walter Payton, while battling the flu, rushed 40 times for 275 yards against the Minnesota Vikings on November 20, setting a single-game NFL record. Payton, a future Hall of Famer and Super Bowl champion, would hold the record until 2000 when it was broken by Corey Dillon. (Mike Powell/Getty Images)
1978: Schedule expands to 16 games
1978: Schedule expands to 16 games | The NFL changed the regular-season schedule from 14 to 16 games. This standard has remained intact since 1978, but there are current rumblings of moving to an 18-game schedule, while reducing the number of preseason games. (Focus On Sport/Getty Images)
1978: Schedule expands to 16 games | The NFL changed the regular-season schedule from 14 to 16 games. This standard has remained intact since 1978, but there are current rumblings of moving to an 18-game schedule, while reducing the number of preseason games. (Focus On Sport/Getty Images)
1979: Steelers’ decade of dominance
1979: Steelers’ decade of dominance | The Steelers wrapped up the 1970s with another Super Bowl championship. The 35-31 win over the Dallas Cowboys was Pittsburgh’s third of the decade—their success would carry over to 1980 when they won an unprecedented fourth Super Bowl. (George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
1979: Steelers’ decade of dominance | The Steelers wrapped up the 1970s with another Super Bowl championship. The 35-31 win over the Dallas Cowboys was Pittsburgh’s third of the decade—their success would carry over to 1980 when they won an unprecedented fourth Super Bowl. (George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
1980: The Raiders sue the league
1980: The Raiders sue the league | The Raiders, in an attempt to move from Oakland to Los Angeles, were blocked by the NFL. As a result, the0 Raiders and the Los Angeles Coliseum, their proposed new home, filed an antitrust suit. The Raiders eventually won their case and began play in Los Angeles in 1982. The event would not be the first time the Raiders moved or sued the league. (Getty Images)
1980: The Raiders sue the league | The Raiders, in an attempt to move from Oakland to Los Angeles, were blocked by the NFL. As a result, the0 Raiders and the Los Angeles Coliseum, their proposed new home, filed an antitrust suit. The Raiders eventually won their case and began play in Los Angeles in 1982. The event would not be the first time the Raiders moved or sued the league. (Getty Images)
1981: The 49ers begin a dynasty
1981: The 49ers begin a dynasty | After opening the season 1-2, the 49ers won 12 of their last 13 games, and took the NFC West by six games. San Francisco eventually swept their way through the playoffs to win their first of four Super Bowls in the 1980s. Quarterback Joe Montana was named to his first of eight Pro Bowls after throwing for 3,565 yards. (George Rose/Getty Images)
1981: The 49ers begin a dynasty | After opening the season 1-2, the 49ers won 12 of their last 13 games, and took the NFC West by six games. San Francisco eventually swept their way through the playoffs to win their first of four Super Bowls in the 1980s. Quarterback Joe Montana was named to his first of eight Pro Bowls after throwing for 3,565 yards. (George Rose/Getty Images)
1982: Strike stops play
1982: Strike stops play | A 57-day players’ strike led to a shortened nine-game season. Seeking more lucrative salaries, the players received higher minimum pay and increased benefits. (George Rose/Getty Images)
1982: Strike stops play | A 57-day players’ strike led to a shortened nine-game season. Seeking more lucrative salaries, the players received higher minimum pay and increased benefits. (George Rose/Getty Images)
1983: Temporary playoff expansion
1983: Temporary playoff expansion | Because of the strike, the NFL implemented a special 16-team postseason tournament. When the dust settled, Washington topped Miami, 27-17, in Super Bowl XVII. John Riggins earned MVP honors. (Getty Images)
1983: Temporary playoff expansion | Because of the strike, the NFL implemented a special 16-team postseason tournament. When the dust settled, Washington topped Miami, 27-17, in Super Bowl XVII. John Riggins earned MVP honors. (Getty Images)
1984: The Colts leave Baltimore
1984: The Colts leave Baltimore | After about a month of negotiations, the Colts left Baltimore for Indianapolis. A fleet of moving vans quietly cleaned out the team’s facility in suburban Maryland and headed west, leaving behind 31 years of history. The Colts were also considering Phoenix as a destination. (Tony Duffy/Getty Images)
1984: The Colts leave Baltimore | After about a month of negotiations, the Colts left Baltimore for Indianapolis. A fleet of moving vans quietly cleaned out the team’s facility in suburban Maryland and headed west, leaving behind 31 years of history. The Colts were also considering Phoenix as a destination. (Tony Duffy/Getty Images)
1985: The Super Bowl Shuffle
1985: The Super Bowl Shuffle | Behind a dominating defense, the 1985 Chicago Bears danced over their competition. En route to an eventual Super Bowl title, the Bears filmed a music video for “The Super Bowl Shuffle.” Replete with cheesy moves and even cheesier lyrics, the video is an homage to the Bears’ bravado, which culminated with a 46-10 shellacking of the New England Patriots. (Mike Powell/Getty Images)
1985: The Super Bowl Shuffle | Behind a dominating defense, the 1985 Chicago Bears danced over their competition. En route to an eventual Super Bowl title, the Bears filmed a music video for “The Super Bowl Shuffle.” Replete with cheesy moves and even cheesier lyrics, the video is an homage to the Bears’ bravado, which culminated with a 46-10 shellacking of the New England Patriots. (Mike Powell/Getty Images)
1986: Instant replay infancy
1986: Instant replay infancy | Limited usage of instant replay was approved by NFL owners for the 1986 season. Officials were the only ones authorized to initiate a review, and the cameras often missed certain angles. By 1992, the system was canceled, but it returned with better parameters in 1999. (Tony Duffy/Getty Images)
1986: Instant replay infancy | Limited usage of instant replay was approved by NFL owners for the 1986 season. Officials were the only ones authorized to initiate a review, and the cameras often missed certain angles. By 1992, the system was canceled, but it returned with better parameters in 1999. (Tony Duffy/Getty Images)
1987: Another labor battle
1987: Another labor battle | A 24-day players’ strike once again interrupted NFL operations. One game was taken off the schedule before teams began using replacement players. A few non-replacements crossed the picket lines, but the three weeks without a majority of NFL regulars often drew sparse crowds. The players eventually gave in but continued to work hard and ultimately won a free-agent system with a salary cap. (Mike Powell/Getty Images)
1987: Another labor battle | A 24-day players’ strike once again interrupted NFL operations. One game was taken off the schedule before teams began using replacement players. A few non-replacements crossed the picket lines, but the three weeks without a majority of NFL regulars often drew sparse crowds. The players eventually gave in but continued to work hard and ultimately won a free-agent system with a salary cap. (Mike Powell/Getty Images)
1988: Johnny Grier makes history
1988: Johnny Grier makes history | On September 4, Johnny Grier made his officiating debut and became the NFL’s first African American referee. He would later officiate Super Bowl XXII, which saw Washington quarterback Doug Williams become the first African American quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl. (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
1988: Johnny Grier makes history | On September 4, Johnny Grier made his officiating debut and became the NFL’s first African American referee. He would later officiate Super Bowl XXII, which saw Washington quarterback Doug Williams become the first African American quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl. (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
1989: A Super Bowl classic
1989: A Super Bowl classic | Super Bowl XXIII was a rematch between the 49ers and Bengals, who played a tight game in Super Bowl XVI, won by San Francisco, 26-21. Cincinnati led Super Bowl XXIII with just over three minutes remaining, before Joe Montana led the 49ers on a game-winning drive, hitting John Taylor in the end zone with 34 seconds left. (Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
1989: A Super Bowl classic | Super Bowl XXIII was a rematch between the 49ers and Bengals, who played a tight game in Super Bowl XVI, won by San Francisco, 26-21. Cincinnati led Super Bowl XXIII with just over three minutes remaining, before Joe Montana led the 49ers on a game-winning drive, hitting John Taylor in the end zone with 34 seconds left. (Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
1990: Hello, bye weeks
1990: Hello, bye weeks | For football fans, it’s the one week per year that many dread — the bye week. Beginning in 1990, each team was given one week off between playing 16 regular-season games. One of the reasons behind the move was that football on television had become so lucrative, so expanding the season could further fill the league’s coffers. (Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
1990: Hello, bye weeks | For football fans, it’s the one week per year that many dread — the bye week. Beginning in 1990, each team was given one week off between playing 16 regular-season games. One of the reasons behind the move was that football on television had become so lucrative, so expanding the season could further fill the league’s coffers. (Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
1991: Giants win a classic
1991: Giants win a classic | Super Bowl XXV began with Whitney Houston’s rousing rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” (the game was played in the midst of the Gulf War) and ended with one of the most tense moments in Super Bowl history. Trailing 20-19, the Buffalo Bills attempted a 47-yard field goal, but Scott Norwood’s kick sailed wide right. With the miss, the New York Giants won their second Super Bowl. (Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
1991: Giants win a classic | Super Bowl XXV began with Whitney Houston’s rousing rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” (the game was played in the midst of the Gulf War) and ended with one of the most tense moments in Super Bowl history. Trailing 20-19, the Buffalo Bills attempted a 47-yard field goal, but Scott Norwood’s kick sailed wide right. With the miss, the New York Giants won their second Super Bowl. (Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
1992: Instant replay dissolved
1992: Instant replay dissolved | By a vote of 17-11, NFL owners stopped the use of instant replay. The system was first used in 1986, but because of inconsistencies, instant replay did not provide the desired effect. However, after many controversial missed calls, the system would return in 1999. (Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)
1992: Instant replay dissolved | By a vote of 17-11, NFL owners stopped the use of instant replay. The system was first used in 1986, but because of inconsistencies, instant replay did not provide the desired effect. However, after many controversial missed calls, the system would return in 1999. (Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)
1993: Carolina and Jacksonville enter the NFL
1993: Carolina and Jacksonville enter the NFL | The NFL welcomed two new franchises: the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars. Both teams would begin play in 1995, pushing the league to 30 teams. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
1993: Carolina and Jacksonville enter the NFL | The NFL welcomed two new franchises: the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars. Both teams would begin play in 1995, pushing the league to 30 teams. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
1994: The Bills go 0-for-4
1994: The Bills go 0-for-4 | For the fourth straight year, the Buffalo Bills reached the Super Bowl. And for the fourth straight year, the Buffalo Bills lost a Super Bowl. Despite touting a stout offense featuring Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, and Andre Reed, these Bills live on in infamy as bridesmaids. (George Rose/Getty Images)
1994: The Bills go 0-for-4 | For the fourth straight year, the Buffalo Bills reached the Super Bowl. And for the fourth straight year, the Buffalo Bills lost a Super Bowl. Despite touting a stout offense featuring Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, and Andre Reed, these Bills live on in infamy as bridesmaids. (George Rose/Getty Images)
1995: Leaving Los Angeles
1995: Leaving Los Angeles | On July 22, the Los Angeles Raiders moved back to Oakland, where they previously played from 1960 to 1981. The City of Angels would not see professional football again until 2017 when the San Diego Chargers and St. Louis Rams relocated to Los Angeles (the Raiders were in discussions to come back but ultimately chose Las Vegas as their new home for 2020). (George Rose/Getty Images)
1995: Leaving Los Angeles | On July 22, the Los Angeles Raiders moved back to Oakland, where they previously played from 1960 to 1981. The City of Angels would not see professional football again until 2017 when the San Diego Chargers and St. Louis Rams relocated to Los Angeles (the Raiders were in discussions to come back but ultimately chose Las Vegas as their new home for 2020). (George Rose/Getty Images)
1996: Baltimore welcomes back football
1996: Baltimore welcomes back football | In the NFL’s continuous game of musical chairs, the city of Baltimore welcomed back professional football. The Browns left Cleveland and were renamed the Ravens, who over the years became recognized by their defensive intensity. Since their inception, the Ravens have won two Super Bowls. (Pensinger/Getty Images)
1996: Baltimore welcomes back football | In the NFL’s continuous game of musical chairs, the city of Baltimore welcomed back professional football. The Browns left Cleveland and were renamed the Ravens, who over the years became recognized by their defensive intensity. Since their inception, the Ravens have won two Super Bowls. (Pensinger/Getty Images)
1997: Tennessee strikes oil
1997: Tennessee strikes oil | The Oilers completed their move from Houston to Memphis and became the Tennessee Oilers. In two years, after having moved to Nashville, they would change to the Titans and make their first — and only — Super Bowl. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
1997: Tennessee strikes oil | The Oilers completed their move from Houston to Memphis and became the Tennessee Oilers. In two years, after having moved to Nashville, they would change to the Titans and make their first — and only — Super Bowl. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
1998: John Elway finally wins the big one
1998: John Elway finally wins the big one | John Elway lost three Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos before reaching the big game again in 1998. Taking on Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers, Elway would not be denied a fourth time. Tied 24-24, the Broncos, led by Elway, drove down the field late in the fourth quarter and scored to pull ahead for good with just under two minutes remaining. (Timothy A. Clary/Getty Images)
1998: John Elway finally wins the big one | John Elway lost three Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos before reaching the big game again in 1998. Taking on Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers, Elway would not be denied a fourth time. Tied 24-24, the Broncos, led by Elway, drove down the field late in the fourth quarter and scored to pull ahead for good with just under two minutes remaining. (Timothy A. Clary/Getty Images)
1999: Cleveland gets the Browns back
1999: Cleveland gets the Browns back | After watching their beloved team taken away and reincarnated as the Ravens in Baltimore, Clevelanders started anew in 1999, as the Browns began operations again in the NFL. The team retained their previous history, logos, and colors — it was like they (almost) never left. (Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images)
1999: Cleveland gets the Browns back | After watching their beloved team taken away and reincarnated as the Ravens in Baltimore, Clevelanders started anew in 1999, as the Browns began operations again in the NFL. The team retained their previous history, logos, and colors — it was like they (almost) never left. (Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images)
2000: The Greatest Show on Turf
2000: The Greatest Show on Turf | The St. Louis Rams took the NFL by storm with a high-powered offense nicknamed “The Greatest Show on Turf.” Kurt Warner, a former Arena League quarterback, led the attack, aided by the brilliance of Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, and Torry Holt. In Super Bowl XXXIV, it was the Rams defense, though, that made the game’s crucial play, stopping the Tennessee Titans offense one yard short of a game-tying touchdown. (Tom Hauck/Getty Images)
2000: The Greatest Show on Turf | The St. Louis Rams took the NFL by storm with a high-powered offense nicknamed “The Greatest Show on Turf.” Kurt Warner, a former Arena League quarterback, led the attack, aided by the brilliance of Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, and Torry Holt. In Super Bowl XXXIV, it was the Rams defense, though, that made the game’s crucial play, stopping the Tennessee Titans offense one yard short of a game-tying touchdown. (Tom Hauck/Getty Images)
2001: September 11 halts the season
2001: September 11 halts the season | The Week 2 games of the 2011 season were postponed due to the attacks on September 11. Members of the New York Giants and Jets volunteered in the tragedy’s wake, and the Jets played in one of the first major sporting events back in the New York area on Monday Night Football, on October 1, against the 49ers. (Al Bello/Getty Images)
2001: September 11 halts the season | The Week 2 games of the 2011 season were postponed due to the attacks on September 11. Members of the New York Giants and Jets volunteered in the tragedy’s wake, and the Jets played in one of the first major sporting events back in the New York area on Monday Night Football, on October 1, against the 49ers. (Al Bello/Getty Images)
2002: The Texans are born
2002: The Texans are born | The Houston Texans, the NFL’s 32nd franchise, began play in the former home of the Oilers. It wouldn’t be until 2011 that the team made the playoffs, but Houston has won five division titles this decade. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
2002: The Texans are born | The Houston Texans, the NFL’s 32nd franchise, began play in the former home of the Oilers. It wouldn’t be until 2011 that the team made the playoffs, but Houston has won five division titles this decade. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
2003: Tampa Bay wins first Super Bowl
2003: Tampa Bay wins first Super Bowl | The Buccaneers were long a franchise associated with losing. But in 2003, under John Gruden and led by a defense that featured Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp, the Bucs captured their first Super Bowl title. Because Gruden formerly coached the Raiders, the AFC champion that season, the game was often called the “Gruden Bowl.” (Al Bello/Getty Images)
2003: Tampa Bay wins first Super Bowl | The Buccaneers were long a franchise associated with losing. But in 2003, under John Gruden and led by a defense that featured Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp, the Bucs captured their first Super Bowl title. Because Gruden formerly coached the Raiders, the AFC champion that season, the game was often called the “Gruden Bowl.” (Al Bello/Getty Images)
2004: Maurice Clarett challenges the rulebook
2004: Maurice Clarett challenges the rulebook | At Ohio State, running back Maurice Clarett was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and had many NFL scouts salivating. But a dismissal from school put his future in jeopardy, and in 2004 Clarett challenged an NFL rule that stated college players must be three years removed from graduating high school to enter the Draft. Clarett lost his case but was eventually selected in the 2005 Draft; however, he never played in the league. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
2004: Maurice Clarett challenges the rulebook | At Ohio State, running back Maurice Clarett was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and had many NFL scouts salivating. But a dismissal from school put his future in jeopardy, and in 2004 Clarett challenged an NFL rule that stated college players must be three years removed from graduating high school to enter the Draft. Clarett lost his case but was eventually selected in the 2005 Draft; however, he never played in the league. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
2005: Hurricane Katrina displaces the Saints
2005: Hurricane Katrina displaces the Saints | The destruction that Hurricane Katrina caused on the Gulf Coast also forced the NFL’s Saints to temporarily move from New Orleans. The Saints’ home stadium, the Louisiana Superdome, was converted into a shelter for displaced residents, while the team played games in San Antonio. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
2005: Hurricane Katrina displaces the Saints | The destruction that Hurricane Katrina caused on the Gulf Coast also forced the NFL’s Saints to temporarily move from New Orleans. The Saints’ home stadium, the Louisiana Superdome, was converted into a shelter for displaced residents, while the team played games in San Antonio. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
2006: The ‘No Fun League’
2006: The ‘No Fun League’ | Players like Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens became noted for flamboyant touchdown celebrations, sometimes using props on the field (or even procuring ones off the field) to celebrate a score. But in 2006, the NFL created stricter rules against celebrations, stating props would be disallowed, as would performing an act while on the ground. As a result, some began calling the NFL the “No Fun League.” (Tom Berg/Getty Images)
2006: The ‘No Fun League’ | Players like Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens became noted for flamboyant touchdown celebrations, sometimes using props on the field (or even procuring ones off the field) to celebrate a score. But in 2006, the NFL created stricter rules against celebrations, stating props would be disallowed, as would performing an act while on the ground. As a result, some began calling the NFL the “No Fun League.” (Tom Berg/Getty Images)
2007: The Patriots run through the regular season
2007: The Patriots run through the regular season | For the first time in NFL history, a team won all 16 of their regular-season games. The New England Patriots looked to be unstoppable, thanks to the brilliance of Tom Brady and Randy Moss. Their closest regular-season game came in Week 17, a 38-35 win against the stingy New York Giants. A little over a month later, the Giants would get revenge, upsetting New England in Super Bowl XLII. (Elsa/Getty Images)
2007: The Patriots run through the regular season | For the first time in NFL history, a team won all 16 of their regular-season games. The New England Patriots looked to be unstoppable, thanks to the brilliance of Tom Brady and Randy Moss. Their closest regular-season game came in Week 17, a 38-35 win against the stingy New York Giants. A little over a month later, the Giants would get revenge, upsetting New England in Super Bowl XLII. (Elsa/Getty Images)
2008: The Lions flop through the regular season
2008: The Lions flop through the regular season | While the Patriots displayed excellence during the 2007 regular season, the Detroit Lions displayed the antithesis of excellence in 2008. The Lions lost all 16 of their games, becoming the first NFL team to go 0-16 (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 0-14 in 1976). (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
2008: The Lions flop through the regular season | While the Patriots displayed excellence during the 2007 regular season, the Detroit Lions displayed the antithesis of excellence in 2008. The Lions lost all 16 of their games, becoming the first NFL team to go 0-16 (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 0-14 in 1976). (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
2009: The Saints’ and Colts’ collision course
2009: The Saints’ and Colts’ collision course | The New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts began the 2009 season a combined 27-0. This led many to predict a Super Bowl showdown for February 2010, which took place in Miami at Super Bowl XLIV. The Saints, behind Drew Brees, topped Peyton Manning and the Colts, in one of the most anticipated matchups in recent memory. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
2009: The Saints’ and Colts’ collision course | The New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts began the 2009 season a combined 27-0. This led many to predict a Super Bowl showdown for February 2010, which took place in Miami at Super Bowl XLIV. The Saints, behind Drew Brees, topped Peyton Manning and the Colts, in one of the most anticipated matchups in recent memory. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
2010: Making Week 17 more meaningful
2010: Making Week 17 more meaningful | Beginning in 2010, Week 17 of the NFL season would only feature divisional matchups to add drama to playoff races, a scheme that has also been used in Major League Baseball. (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
2010: Making Week 17 more meaningful | Beginning in 2010, Week 17 of the NFL season would only feature divisional matchups to add drama to playoff races, a scheme that has also been used in Major League Baseball. (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
2011: The year of the quarterback
2011: The year of the quarterback | Three quarterbacks (Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Matthew Stafford) each threw for over 5,000 yards. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers posted a 122.5 quarterback rating, the highest in any single season. This year was clearly one for the quarterbacks, as the NFL solidified itself as a pass-happy league. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)
2011: The year of the quarterback | Three quarterbacks (Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Matthew Stafford) each threw for over 5,000 yards. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers posted a 122.5 quarterback rating, the highest in any single season. This year was clearly one for the quarterbacks, as the NFL solidified itself as a pass-happy league. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)
2012: New overtime rules
2012: New overtime rules | Sudden-death overtime became no more. Now, if a game was tied after four quarters, each team would get a chance to score, unless the team who received the kickoff scored a touchdown on its first drive. If both teams connected on field goals on their first drive, the team that scored next was the winner. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
2012: New overtime rules | Sudden-death overtime became no more. Now, if a game was tied after four quarters, each team would get a chance to score, unless the team who received the kickoff scored a touchdown on its first drive. If both teams connected on field goals on their first drive, the team that scored next was the winner. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
2013: Super Bowl blackout
2013: Super Bowl blackout | Early in the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII, the Superdome lost partial power and play was suspended. The blackout led to a 34-minute delay; when play resumed, the San Francisco 49ers stormed back from a 28-6 deficit but ultimately fell, 34-31, to the Baltimore Ravens. John and Jim Harbaugh became the first brothers to coach against each other in a Super Bowl. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
2013: Super Bowl blackout | Early in the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII, the Superdome lost partial power and play was suspended. The blackout led to a 34-minute delay; when play resumed, the San Francisco 49ers stormed back from a 28-6 deficit but ultimately fell, 34-31, to the Baltimore Ravens. John and Jim Harbaugh became the first brothers to coach against each other in a Super Bowl. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
2014: A cold-weather Super Bowl
2014: A cold-weather Super Bowl | For the first time in NFL history, the Super Bowl was played outdoors in a cold-weather climate. Hosted in MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Super Bowl XLVIII didn’t encounter any snow — just a blizzard of offense from the Seattle Seahawks, who took down the Denver Broncos, 43-8, to win their first championship. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
2014: A cold-weather Super Bowl | For the first time in NFL history, the Super Bowl was played outdoors in a cold-weather climate. Hosted in MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Super Bowl XLVIII didn’t encounter any snow — just a blizzard of offense from the Seattle Seahawks, who took down the Denver Broncos, 43-8, to win their first championship. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
2015: Pete Carroll’s controversial call
2015: Pete Carroll’s controversial call | Trailing 28-24, Seattle was on New England’s 1-yard line. Instead of running the ball, though, with bruising back Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called a pass play, which was intercepted by Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler. New England ran out the clock to further cement the Belichick-Brady dynasty, and Carroll’s unorthodox play call went down in history. (Harry How/Getty Images)
2015: Pete Carroll’s controversial call | Trailing 28-24, Seattle was on New England’s 1-yard line. Instead of running the ball, though, with bruising back Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called a pass play, which was intercepted by Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler. New England ran out the clock to further cement the Belichick-Brady dynasty, and Carroll’s unorthodox play call went down in history. (Harry How/Getty Images)
2016: Peyton Manning rides off into the sunset
2016: Peyton Manning rides off into the sunset | Two years after losing in the Super Bowl, Peyton Manning quarterbacked the Broncos back to the title game. Denver won the 50th Super Bowl largely thanks to defense, though, and linebacker Von Miller was named the game’s MVP. Manning finished his career with two Super Bowl rings, five MVP awards, and 14 Pro Bowl appearances. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
2016: Peyton Manning rides off into the sunset | Two years after losing in the Super Bowl, Peyton Manning quarterbacked the Broncos back to the title game. Denver won the 50th Super Bowl largely thanks to defense, though, and linebacker Von Miller was named the game’s MVP. Manning finished his career with two Super Bowl rings, five MVP awards, and 14 Pro Bowl appearances. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
2017: A Falcons flop
2017: A Falcons flop | The Atlanta Falcons appeared to be in control en route to their first Super Bowl title, with a 28-3 lead on the Patriots. But New England, behind Tom Brady, methodically staged a comeback in Super Bowl LI and won, 34-28, in overtime. This Super Bowl was the first to reach an overtime period. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
2017: A Falcons flop | The Atlanta Falcons appeared to be in control en route to their first Super Bowl title, with a 28-3 lead on the Patriots. But New England, behind Tom Brady, methodically staged a comeback in Super Bowl LI and won, 34-28, in overtime. This Super Bowl was the first to reach an overtime period. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
2018: A new stance on the national anthem
2018: A new stance on the national anthem | After Colin Kaepernick and other players began kneeling during the national anthem, the league’s owners created a new policy. The rule said players must stand while on the sideline but do not have to leave the locker room for the anthem. Despite the mandate, football players are still willing to use their platform to voice their criticism and opinions on a variety of social issues. (Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
2018: A new stance on the national anthem | After Colin Kaepernick and other players began kneeling during the national anthem, the league’s owners created a new policy. The rule said players must stand while on the sideline but do not have to leave the locker room for the anthem. Despite the mandate, football players are still willing to use their platform to voice their criticism and opinions on a variety of social issues. (Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
2019: Replaying pass interference
2019: Replaying pass interference | After the Rams eliminated the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs after a controversial non-call that appeared to be pass interference, the league discussed a possible change. Previously, coaches could not ask for a replay on a pass interference or no-call, but that rule eventually changed. Fans of the Saints are likely not satisfied. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
2019: Replaying pass interference | After the Rams eliminated the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs after a controversial non-call that appeared to be pass interference, the league discussed a possible change. Previously, coaches could not ask for a replay on a pass interference or no-call, but that rule eventually changed. Fans of the Saints are likely not satisfied. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
2020: COVID-19 shakes up the game
2020: COVID-19 shakes up the game | In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic touched all aspects of life, and the NFL was no exception. The draft was held virtually and preseason games were canceled. Players could decide not to play without affecting their contracts (66 chose to do so). And the roars of crowds packed into stadiums were replaced with cardboard cutouts in seats and fake cheers, bringing an eerie atmosphere to the games for viewers watching from home. Still, the season proceeded normally enough, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeating the Kansas City Chiefs at a Super Bowl that was technically the least-attended Super Bowl in the history of the NFL, with 22,000 fans spaced throughout the stadium. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
2020: COVID-19 shakes up the game | In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic touched all aspects of life, and the NFL was no exception. The draft was held virtually and preseason games were canceled. Players could decide not to play without affecting their contracts (66 chose to do so). And the roars of crowds packed into stadiums were replaced with cardboard cutouts in seats and fake cheers, bringing an eerie atmosphere to the games for viewers watching from home. Still, the season proceeded normally enough, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeating the Kansas City Chiefs at a Super Bowl that was technically the least-attended Super Bowl in the history of the NFL, with 22,000 fans spaced throughout the stadium. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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