Posted in History of Professional Football
Nov 01, 2015
It is highly unlikely that anywhere in the world you will find a sport as rich with memorable moments and events as football. Also, there are also not many teams out there that shaped the history of this incredible sport as the legendary Oakland Raiders did. These titans of the NFL bestowed upon us some of the greatest names this sport (or any sport in fact) has ever seen.
The history of professional football traces back to 1892 when William “Punch” Heffelfinger signed a $500 contract to play for the Allegheny Athletic Association. In 1920, the American Professional Football Association was formed. While many sports fans may not know this name they do know the name this league evolved into, which is the NFL or National Football League. The NFL is the "major league" of American football.
Originally football was a popular sport in industrial towns across the United States. As its popularity grew and more athletes signed contracts to become professional football players, professional football became a national phenomenon.
To go back and look a little bit at the history, when the NFL was first created, the big draw was Red Grange. Grange was a halfback from the University of Illinois who generated a great deal of interest when he joined the Chicago Bears in 1925. Anytime Grange was playing large crowds attended the games. The Red Grange era led to pro football attracting a large number of college players; these players already had a fan base, which led to more attendance at the pro games, making the NFL and Pro football economically viable.
In 1936 the NFL instituted a draft. Professional football slowly began to equal college football in popularity as many of the college players chose to continue to play professionally. The greatest teams at this time were the Chicago Bears, Chicago Cardinals, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and, of course, the New York Giants.
With the Depression of the 1930s and World War II going on. Football was greatly affected by a lack of players and money.
Dolphins v. Chargers in a 2008 NFL game.
Thanks to Mr. Usaji at flickr.com for the picture.
In 1946 a rival was established for the NFL. This was the AFC or the All-American Football Conference. The AFC had the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles Dons, the Baltimore Colts and the San Francisco 49ers. By far, the best team in this new league was the Cleveland Browns.
In 1950 the NFL and the AFC merged, bringing the Browns, 49ers and Colts in from the AFC to the NFL. Through the 50's and 60's professional football was a popular sport, and very prosperous, with famous players such as Jim Brown, Tom Landry and Frank Gifford. Television broadcasts also helped popularize pro football, beginning with CBS in 1956.
Seahawks vs Dallas in NFL playoff game.
Thanks to Astro Guy at flickr.com for the picture.
In 1960, the American Football League was formed by a Texas businessman to rival the NFL. The teams in the AFL included the Oakland Raiders, New York Jets, Houston Oilers and the Kansas City Chiefs. The NFL and AFL fought bitterly to gain and retain players, media and profits. Players such as Joe Namath, Jack Kemp and Lance Allworth gave the AFL a fighting chance against the NFL.
With a rivalry such as this a championship game between the two leagues was bound to come. In 1967 the first AFL- NFL championship was played between the Chiefs and the Packers. The Green Bay Packers won this game that was later renamed Super Bowl I.
The two leagues continued to fight against each other for the next several years until 1970 when they merged into two 13 team conferences. These two conferences were (and still are) known as the NFC and AFC. Also in 1970 ABC created Monday Night Football, which was an instant success and is now one of TV's longest running programs. The original hosts of Monday Night Football were Don Meredith, Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell.
Matt Moore, one of and NFL record four starting QB's to win a game for the injury-plagued Carolina Panthers in 2008. Thanks to James Willamor at flickr.com for the picture.
As the early 70's moved in, defensive units began having colorful names like the "Doomsday Defense" for the Cowboys; the "Steel Curtain" for the Steelers; the "Fearsome Foursome" for the Rams; and the Purple People Eaters" of the Vikings. Great defensive strategy dominated the NFL in the 70's.
Teams continued to battle through all the seasons of the 70s 80s and 90s, introducing many standout players, football celebrities and, of course, more money than anyone has ever been paid to play professional football.
In the 2000s the NFL has begun a new era. New franchises have won the Super Bowl including the St. Louis Rams and the Baltimore Ravens. Some of the new stars include Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Jovan Kearse, and Ray Lewis.
As we enter the 2009 NFL season, we know that the history of professional football will continue to be written every Sunday this fall. Can't wait!
The history of professional football is dominated by the debate over the best all-time pro football player, coach or team. We have links below to many sports fan opinions about the best in NFL history. You can submit your own opinions on those pages. You can bet on any of these at sports.bwin.com/en/american-football.
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