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The history of the NFL and the franchises, as we know them today

nflhistoryIn 1922, the NFL was formed out of the American Professional Football Association (APFA), which was founded in 1920 – but believe it or not, some of our teams go back further than this and some have a pretty incredible history behind them. Below we go through the timeline of how and when it all happened.

The Chicago Cardinals were founded back in 1898 by Chris O’Brien and began using the name ‘Cardinals’ in 1901.  In 1920, the Cardinals became charter members of the APFA, joining the NFL in 1922.  In 1960, the team moved to St. Louis where they stayed for 28 years before moving to Phoenix. 6 years later, the team started calling themselves the Arizona Cardinals. 

The Green Bay Packers were founded by George Calhoun and Curly Lambeau in 1919. They joined the APFA in 1921 and the NFL in 1922.

The Chicago Bears were founded in 1920 by George Halas, who helped form the APFA, as the Decatur Staleys.  The team moved to Chicago in 1921, joining the NFL in 1922 where they were then known as the Bears.

The Philadelphia Eagles joined the NFL in 1924 known as the Frankford (PA) Yellow Jackets.  The Owners Bert Bell and Lud Wray moved the team to Philadelphia as the Eagles in 1933. 

Owned by Tim Mara, The New York Giants joined the NFL in 1925.

The Detroit Lions started out in the NFL as the Portsmouth (OH) Spartans in 1930.  Owner George Richards moved the team to Detroit in 1932 where they then became the Lions.

Founded by George Preston Marshall, The Washington Redskins joined the NFL in 1932 as the Boston Braves. In 1933, he changed their name to the Redskins and in 1937 he moved them to Washington, D.C.

Owned by Art Rooney, The Pittsburgh Steelers joined the league in 1933 known as the Pirates. In 1940 they changed their name to the Steelers. 

The Cleveland Rams started out in the American Football League (of the 1930’s) in 1936 and joined the NFL the following years.  They moved to Los Angeles in 1946 and moved again in 1995 to St. Louis. 

The San Francisco 49ers started out in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) in 1946, joining the NFL in 1950.

The Cleveland Browns were a charter member of the AAFC in 1946 under Paul Brown and later joined the NFL in 1950.  The team owner Arthur B. Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore in 1996, calling them the Ravens. A new Cleveland Browns franchise rejoined the NFL in 1999.

The Baltimore Colts started out as the Miami Seahawks of the AAFC when, in 1947, they moved to Baltimore as the Colts.  In 1950, they joined the NFL, but after two 1-11 seasons they disbanded.  In 1953, the Dallas Texans under Carroll Rosenbloom moved the team to Baltimore and again called them the Colts. They moved to Indianapolis in 1984 where they have since been known as the Indianapolis Colts.

The Dallas Cowboys joined the NFL in 1960 as an expansion team.

The Buffalo Bills became a charter member of the American Football League (AFL) in 1960 under founder Ralph C. Wilson, joining the NFL in 1970 when the two leagues merged.

The New England Patriots were a charter member of the AFL in 1960 as the Boston Patriots.  After joining the NFL in 1970, they moved to Foxboro, MA in 1971 where they were then known as the New England Patriots.

The New York Jets started out as the New York Titans, a charter member of the AFL, in 1960.  In 1963, they changed their name to the Jets, joining the NFL in 1970.

The Tennessee Titans started out as the Houston Oilers, a charter member of the AFL, in 1960. They joined the NFL in the merger of 1970 and in 1997 moved to Memphis, TN. In 1998 they moved again, this time to to Nashville, TN were they then called themselves the Titans.

The Denver Broncos joined the AFL as a charter member in 1960.  They later joined the NFL in the merger in 1970.

The Kansas City Chiefs started out as the Dallas Texans, a charter member of the AFL, in 1960, moving to Kansas City, MO as the Chiefs in 1963.  They later joined the NFL in 1970.

The Oakland Raiders joined the AFL as a charter member in 1960, joining the NFL in the merger in 1970.  In 1982, they moved to Los Angeles, only to move back to Oakland in 1995.

The San Diego Chargers started out as the Los Angeles Chargers, a charter member of the AFL in 1960, under the ownership of Barron Hilton.  They moved to San Diego in 1961, joining the NFL in 1970.

The Minnesota Vikings joined the NFL in 1961 as an expansion team.

The Atlanta Falcons joined the NFL in 1966 as an expansion team.

The Miami Dolphins joined the AFL in 1966 as an expansion team by founders Joseph Robbie and Danny Thomas.  They later joined the NFL in the merger of 1970.

The New Orleans Saints joined the NFL in 1967 as an expansion team.

The Cincinnati Bengals joined the AFL in 1968 as an expansion team under the direction of Paul Brown, joining the NFL in the merger of 1970.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers joined the NFL in 1976 as an expansion team.

The Seattle Seahawks also joined the NFL in 1976 as an expansion team under the ownership of John Nordstrom.

The Carolina Panthers joined the NFL as an expansion team in 1995 under owner Jerry Richardson.

The Jacksonville Jaguars also joined the NFL as an expansion team in 1995.

The Baltimore Ravens started out as the Cleveland Browns, when Owner Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore in 1996, calling them the Ravens. 

The Houston Texans joined the NFL as an expansion team in 2002 under owner Robert McNair.

Overall, some interesting moves for some teams in their journey to where they are now, and even today there are rumours of teams moving. I’d be curious to know the impact of this, such as what happens to the stadiums once they’ve moved. I guess time will tell…

Article written by:

Liz has covered the NFL for five seasons and currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for NFLGirlUK.com. Since launching the website in 2014, she has made regular appearances on the TalkSport2 ‘All American Sports Show’ with Nat Coombs and in 2016 was ranked No.37 (of 400+) in the “Super Bowl: Top 50 UK Influencers” by marketing software producers Analytica for “igniting conversations” between fans.

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  1. paul knigh5

    Well researched, and an interesting read

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