Timeline of American Football

[ 1900s | 1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s ]

Nov 13, 1875 Harvard and Yale play the first football game, using modified rugby rules
1876 Intercollegiate Football Assocation - Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Princeton
1878 Walter Camp, generally regarded as the father of football, joins the football amature rules committee
1880 the number of players on each side is reduced from 15 to 11. the snap is introduced, replacing the rugby scrum. the field size is reduced from 140 yards by 70 yards to 110 yards by 53 yards.
1882 Downs are introduced, originally 3 downs to gain 5 yards. to keep track of the distance to the next down, lines are painted on the field every 5 yards. Ned Pierce (Princeton's rules committee representative) says "this will make the field look like a gridiron" to which Walter Camp replies "precisely!"
1883 A new scoring system is introduced - touchdowns are 2 points, field goals are 5 points, and a safety is worth 1 point
1884 The scoring system is adjusted - touchdowns are now 4 points, with a conversation worth 2 points. a safety is increased to 2 points.
Nov 13, 1892 William "Pudge" Heffelfinger is paid $500 by the Allegeny Athletic Assocation to play for them in a game against the Pittsburgh Athletic Club. It is believed to be the first time a player was paid to play football.
1894 The infamous Flying Wedge and similiar formations are banned, largely for safety reasons. changes are also made regarding legal blocking and tackling, including making tackling below the waist legal.
1897 Pop Warner, then coach of the Carilse Indians, outfits his entire team with headgear. the Indians are the first team to all wear helmets, which were previously largely regarded as wimpy.
1898 the Morgan Athletic Club is formed. the team would go on to change its name and location numerous times and two decades later had become the Racine Cardinals.
1902 A football 'World Series' is played in a smaller than regulation indoor field at Madison Square Garden. though it occurs again in 1903, it is largely a failure.
1906 the forward pass becomes legal for the first time, although it is of limited effectiveness originally because of the shape of the ball at the time. the legal area in which passing is allowed leads to the painting of hash marks on the field for the first time. also, the distance required for a first down increases to 10 yards and the neutral zone is implemented to prevent pre-snap contact.
1910 The number of downs is increased to 4.
1919 Curly Lambeau convinces the owner of the Indian Packing Company to help finance a new football team in Green Bay. The Green Bay Packers are born.
Aug 20, 1920 The American Professional Football Conference is formed with five teams - the Rochestor Jeffersons, the Dayton Triangles, the Columbus Panhandles, the Akron Indians, and the Canton Bulldogs. The later had dominated midwestern football for most of the last decade, largely thanks to Jim Thorpe.
Sept 17, 1920 The APFC holds another meeting. The Rancine (soon renamed Chicago) Cardinals, Decataur Staleys, Massillon Tigers, and 4 other new teams join in what is renamed the American Professional Football Assocation. Jim Thorpe is named league president. Four more teams would join before the end of the year.
Oct 3, 1920 In the first game between two APFA teams, the Rock Island Independants maul the Muncie Flyers 45-0. The game is so one sided the Dectaur Staleys cancel their planned game with Muncie the following week, prompting the financial backers to pull out and the Flyers to fold.
1920 The first known football trade occurs when Akron sells the contract of Bob Nash to Buffalo for $300 and 5% of the previous day's Buffalo-Akron gate reciepts.
1920 Feeling that Chicago can't support both teams, the Cardinals and Tigers face off in a special game with the loser shutting down operations. The Cardinals win.
1921 The Decatur Staleys move to Chicago.
April 1921 The Akron Pros are awarded the first APFA championship trophy because they are the only undefeated team for the 1920 season. Joe Carr, executive of the Columbus Panhandles, replaces Thorpe as APFA president.
1921 The 1921 APFA season starts with 21 teams, including 11 of the 14 teams from the previous season. Not all of them finish the season.
1921 The Chicago Staleys are awarded the APFA championship. The Buffalo All-Americans dispute the title, but APFA president Joe Carr ends up ruling in favor of Chicago.
1922 Now sharing Wrigley Field with baseballs' Cubs, George Halas renames the Staleys. they become the Chicago Bears.
June 24, 1922 The APFA changes its name to the National Football League. The league has 18 teams, including the Green Bay Packers who had been briefly barred from the league for, during the previous season, using players with college egibility remaining.
1922 With the Pcakers struggling financially, a group of Green Bay businessmen arrange a loan for the team. A non-profit organization begins operating the team and sells stock and season tickets. Relieved of ownership responsibilities, team founder Curly Lambeau is able to focus on coaching and managing.
1923 Canton Bulldogs tailback Lou Smythe becomes the only player to lead the NFL in both rushing and passing touchdowns in the same season.
1923 The Canton Bulldogs are awarded their second consecutive NFL championship. During those two seasons, Canton had gone 21-0-3 and outscored their opponents 430 to 34.
1924 Unable to turn a profit due to the small size of Canton's Lakeside Park, the Bulldogs move to Cleveland and merge with the Cleveland Indians.
Jan 1925 Another championship dispute occurs because of several December games. Games after November 30th are ruled not to count toward standings and the Cleveland Bulldogs are awarded the championship.
1925 NFL president Joe Carr convinces businessman Tim Mara to start a New York NFL team. After signing an agreement to play at the Polo Grounds, he names his team the Giants after the baseball team which also played there.
1925 College football star Harold "Red" Grange signs with the Chicago Bears and immediately to draw large interest to the struggling NFL including drawing 73,000 fans to see an exhibition game between the Bears and Giants which almost singlehandedly saves the New York team.
1926 The NFL institutes a rule banning teams from signing college players until their class has graduated after complaints from numerous colleges.
1926 Red Grange and C.C. Pyle found the American Football League (the first of many) after George Halas refuses to give Grange partial ownership of the Bears. The AFL features 9 teams, including the Rock Island Independants who switched leagues. The NFL has 22.
1926 Guy Chamerlain wins his 4th NFL championship in 5 years (two with the Canton Bulldogs and a third after the team moved to Cleveland) when the Frankford Yellowjackets beat the Chicago Cardinals thanks to a blocked extra point kick.
1926 The AFL starts hot, but ends up collapsing by the end of the season.
1926-1927 The Duluth Eskimos play their 14 game NFL season then embark on a 16 game exhibition tour, earning the team the nickname "Iron Men of the North".
1927 To avoid oversaturation and shore up the league after the AFL's failure, the NFL contracts to 12 teams.
1929 After they refuse all trade offers, Giants owner Tim Mara buys the entire Detroit Wolverines franchise just to get their star back Benny Friedman.
1929 Ernie Nevers of the Chicago Cardinals sets an NFL scoring record which still stands today by scoring 6 touchdowns and kicking 4 extra points in one game.
Dec 14, 1930 Knute Rockne coaches a Notre Dame all-star team, including the Four Horsemen, against the NFL's New York Giants. Notre Dame gets shockingly crushed 22-0, giving sudden major legitimacy to the pro game over the previously superior college game.
1931 The Green Bay Packers become the first team to win three consecutive NFL championships.
1932 The NFL keeps complete statistics for the first time, but contracts down to 8 teams due to the Great Depression. the league is helped by George Preston Marshall's founding of the Boston Braves (later renamed the Redskins). It is Marshall who pushes for more structure for the NFL, including Eastern and Western divisions with the divisional winners meeting to deciede the NFL championship.
Dec 18, 1932 The first ever indoor NFL game occurs when the NFL's first ever championship game is moved indoors to Chicago Stadium because of a blizzard. Because of the conditions, hashmarks are used for the first time.
1932 After heavy controvery over the winning touchdown pass of the 1932 championship game, the NFL makes the forward pass legal anywhere behind the line of scrimmage (removing the previously restriction of being 5+ yards behind the line). Hashmarks are also made a permenant feature of the game and the uprights are moved from the endline to the goalline.
1933 The Philadelphia Eagles are founded by two former members of the Frankford Yellowjackets. The Pittsburgh Pirates (the future Steelers) are founded by Art Rooney as well.
1934 G.A. Richards buys the Portsmouth Spatarns, moves the team to Detriot and renames them the Lions.
Nov 1934 The tradition of Detriot playing at home ever Thanksgiving begins. The Bears beat the Lions 19-16.
1934 Chicago's Beattie Feathers becomes the NFL's first ever 1000 yard rusher with 1004 yards on only 101 carries (a 9.9 yards per carry average).
1934 The Sneakers Game. Down 13-3 in the NFL Championship game at home to the undefeated Chicago Bears, the New York Giants switch to sneakers in the 3rd quarter to better deal with the icy field. It apparently helps alot as the Giants win 30-13.
1936 The NFL holds its first college draft, featuring 9 teams each picking 9 players from a list of 90. Philadelphia makes Jay Berwanger, a back from the University of Chicago who won the first Heisman Trophy, the first overall selection. He never signs with the Eagles, nor the Bears (after his rights were traded to Chicago) and never plays a down of pro football.
1936 A second AFL is founded, featuring 6 teams - Cleveland, New York, Pittsburgh, Rochester, Brookyln, and Boston. The Boston Shamrocks win the championship.
1936 Green Bay's Arnie Herber is the first ever 1000 yard passer with 1239 yards on 77 completions of 173 attempts in 12 games.
1937 Dwindling attendance infurates George Marshall, who moves the Boston Redskins to Washington DC.
1937 The AFL plays its second season, with Los Angeles and Cincinatti replacing Brooklyn and Cleveland (who both folded). The L.A. Bulldogs are the first pro football team to play home games on the west coast and win the championship, but the league folds completely after the season.
1938 Roughing the Passer becomes a penalty.
1938 The first Pro Bowl is played in Los Angeles. The champion New York Giants defeat a NFL All Star Team 13-10.
1939 Byron "Whizzer" White, an All-American halfback from the University of Colorado, is taken in the first round by Pittsburgh. Though he would play three excellent years in the NFL, his more noteable accomplishment was to be a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford where he completed a law degree, setting the stage for his days as a US Supreme Court Justice.
May 30, 1939 NFL president Joe Carr dies. Carl Strock, the NFL's secretary/treasurer since its inception, is named his temporary replacement
1939 Riddell develops the first plastic helmet. It doesn't become popular for nearly a decade.
Oct 22, 1939 The Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Eagles play in the first ever televised pro football game, broadcast to the thousand or so sets in the New York area.
1940 The Chicago Bears humilate the Washington Redskins 73-0 in the Championship Game. It is both the largest margin of victory and most points by one team ever in an NFL game.
1941 Art Rooney sells the Pittsburgh Pirates to Alexis Thompson then buys half of the Philadelphia Eagles. But soon after, Rooney and Bert Bell (the other Eagles owner) swap cities with Thompson. Players from both teams are redistributed via a dispersal draft and the Pirates are renamed the Steelers.
1941 Elmer Layden, famous for his Notre Dame coaching, becomes the first NFL comissioner. Carl Strock resigns and the posistion of league president is abolished.
1941 The first NFL Divisional Playoff game occurs when the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears both finish the season 10-1 and split their two regular season games. It doesn't phase the Bears who, after scoring 396 points in their 11 games, wallop the Packers 33-14 and easily win the NFL Championship over the New York Giants 37-9.
1942 Green Bay's Don Hutson is the first ever 1000 yard reciever with 1211 yards on 74 receptions. Thanks in no small part to Hutson's recieving skills, Green Bay's Cecil Isbell also becomes the first 2000 yard and the first to throw 20+ touchdowns in a season as well with 2021 yards and 24 touchdowns on 146 completions.
1942 The Chicago Bears go 11-0 in the regular season, but the Washington Redskins upset them 14-6 in the NFL Championship Game.
1943 Helmets become mandatory for all players. Free substitution of players also becomes legal, marking the beginning of the end of the two way player.
1943 Because of World War II, the Cleveland Rams suspend operations for a year. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia merge franchises for the season, with the resulting team being nicknamed the "Steagles"
1943 Chicago's Sid Luckman becomes the first player to pass for over 400 yards in a game, going 21 of 32 for 433 yards against the New York Giants. He also sets a single game record with 7 touchdowns, a feat which has since been equaled but never exceeded.
1943 Sammy Baugh of the Washington Redskins leads the league in passing yards, passing touchdowns, interceptions made, and punting. He is the first player to lead the league in an offensive, defensive, and special teams category in the same season.
1944 Because of World War II, Pittsburgh and the Chicago Cardinals merge franchises for the season. It doesn't help as the "Carpets" who go 0-10 and are outscored 328-108.
1944 The Boston Yanks join the NFL.
June 4, 1944 A meeting of frustrated hopeful NFL owners in St. Louis leads to the formation of the All-American Football Conference (AAFC).
1944 The Cleveland Rams beat the Washington Redskins 15-14 to win the NFL Championship in "The Artic Bowl", as the temperature hovered around zero degrees Farenheit. Ironicly, the teams had met 4 months earlier in Cleveland for a preseason game in sweltering 100 degree heat. The Rams win is helped by a freak safety that occurs when a Sammy Baugh pass hits the crossbar.
1945 The Cleveland Rams move to Los Angeles.
April 1945 NFL Commisioner Elmer Layden rejects a final offer by the AAFC teams to merge with the NFL.
1945 Los Angeles end Bob Waterfield catches 10 passes for a record 303 yards against Detriot.
Jan 1946 Elmer Layden resigns as comissioner and is replaced with Bert Bell from the Philadelphia Eagles
1946 The AAFC begins play with teams in Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York, San Fransisco, Miami, and Brooklyn.
1946 "Bullet" Bill Dudley of the Pittsburgh Steelers becomes the second and last player to lead the league in an offensive, defensive, and special teams category in the same season: rushing yards, interceptions made, and punt return average.
1946-1949 The Cleveland Browns dominate the AAFC, going 52-4-2 (including postseason games) and winning all 4 AAFC Championships. Their dominance dooms the league.
1947 The NFL league offices move from Chicago to Philadelphia. Rules for sudden death overtime in playoff games are added.
1948 The Los Angeles Rams become the first team with helmet insignias by painting yellow rams horns on the sides of their helmets. The Rams logo is credited to halfback Fred Gehrke.
1949 The AAFC merges with the NFL, which takes on three of the teams: the Cleveland Browns, the San Fransisco 49ers, and the Baltimore Colts.
1949 The Boston Yanks become the New York Bulldogs and join the Giants in playing at the Polo Grounds.
1950 The New York Bulldogs become the Yanks again after switching to Yankee Stadium.
1950 The NFL plays internationally for the first time when the New York Giants and the CFL's Ottawa Roughriders play an exhibition game in Toronto.
1950 QB Jim Hardy of the Chicago Cardinals sets an NFL record by throwing 8 interceptions in one game.
Oct 1, 1950 N.Y. Giants' coach Steve Owen unveils the Umbrella defense, giving birth to what would rapidly become the modern 4-3 defense and shutting out Paul Brown's Cleveland Browns for the first time ever. By the end of the decade, every NFL team would be using the 4-3 as their standard defensive formation.
1950-1955 The Browns prove their AAFC dominance was no fluke by appearing in 5 consecutive NFL Championship Games and winning 3 of them.
1951 Interior lineman become inelligable as recievers.
1951 Norm Van Brocklin of the L.A. Rams throws for a record 554 yards.
1952 The Baltimore Colts and New York Yanks fold.
1952 The Dallas Texans are founded, but bad play and horrid attendance lead the team to fold after the season.
1952 The Pittsburgh Steelers are the last team to switch from the single wing to the T-formation.
1952 Dick "Night Train" Lane of the L.A. Rams intercepts a record 14 passes during the season.
1953 Carroll Rosenbloom starts a new Baltimore Colts franchise after selling 15,000 season tickets in advance to convince the NFL that Baltimore could support a football team.
1953 The NFL wins a legal battle over the rights to black out TV broadcasts of home games which don't sell out.
1954 Vince Lombardi, then the offensive coordinator for the Giants, introduces the power sweep.
Jan 1956 Otto Graham passes for 2 TDs and runs for 2 more in a 38-14 win by the Browns over the Rams. Graham retires for good after the game, having played 10 seasons in the AAFC and NFL and made it to the championship game every year (winning 7).
1957 Lions coach Buddy Parker resigns in the preseason, fed up with the team's 12 squabling owners. The Steelers proceed to hire him as their head coach before the regular season starts.
1958 The Baltimore Colts defeat the New York Giants 23-17 in the first NFL Championship Game to go into overtime. The game is considered by some to be the best ever.
1959 Lamar Hunt and Bud Adams found yet another American Football League after the NFL refuses to grant them franchises. The group originally includes a Minnesota franchise, but the owners leave when the NFL offers them a franchise. WWII ace Joe Foss is the league's first comissioner.
1959 Vince Lombardi becomes coach of the Green Bay Packers. They proceed to reel off 9 consecutive winning seasons in Lombardi's 9 years with the team, including 5 NFL Championships and 2 Super Bowls.
Oct 1959 NFL Comissioner Bert Bell dies of a heart attack suffered while watching an Eagles-Steelers game. Pete Rozelle is named his successor.
1959-1960 Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon signs an undated contract with the NFL's Los Angeles Rams. He later changes his mind and signs with the AFL's Houston Oilers immediately after the Sugar Bowl for more money. The NFL takes the matter to court, which deciedes in favor of Houston.
1960 The newest AFL begins play with teams in Dallas, Denver, Oakland, Buffalo, Houston, Los Angeles, New York and Boston. The league is greatly helped by a 5 year $9 million TV deal with ABC.
1960 The Dallas Cowboys join the NFL with Tom Landry at head coach and Tex Schramm as general manager. Their first season ends with a miserable 0-11-1 record.
1960 The AFL and NFL reach a verbal agreement not to steal each others players.
Dec 1960 Chuck Bednarik of the Philadelphia Eagles, the last great two-way NFL player, plays on every play of the NFL Championship Game. He tackles Jim Taylor on the final play of the game only 9 yards short of what would have been a gaming winning touchdown for the Green Bay Packers.
1961 The AFL's Los Angeles Chargers move to San Diego.
1961 The Minnesota Vikings join the NFL.
1961 49ers coach Red Hickey debuts the Shotgun formation in the NFL.
1961 After some legal hurdles, the NFL signs its first league-wide TV contract: a 2 year deal with CBS for $4.65 million a year.
May 1962 A federal court judge in Baltimore rules against an anti-trust suit the AFL had filed against the NFL.
1963 Lamar Hunt's Dallas Texans move to Kansas City and are renamed the Chiefs.
1963 Sonny Werblin takes over the AFL's New York Titans and renames them the Jets.
1963 Two famous coaching changes take place in the NFL: after 17 years, Paul Brown is fired as head coach of the Browns and the then unknown Don Shula replaces Weeb Ewbank as head coach of the Colts.
Apr 17, 1963 Green Bay's Paul Hornung and Detriot's Alex Karras are suspended for betting on NFL games. Both players sit out the season before being reinstated in 1964.
1963 The L.A. Rams assemble possibly the greatest defensive line in NFL history, trading for Roosevelt Grier. Grier joins Lamar Lundy, Merlin Olsen, and Deacon Jones to form the 'Fearsome Foursome'.
Sept 7, 1963 The Pro Football Hall of Fame opens in Canton, Ohio. There are 17 inaugural inductees.
Nov 1963 In a controversial decision, NFL Commisioner Pete Rozelle deciedes to play games as scheduled on November 24th, despite the country reeling in shock from the assassination of President Kenneday on the 22nd. CBS refuses to broadcast any of the games. The AFL postpones its games.
1963 NFL Commisioner Pete Rozelle is the first non-athlete to be named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated magazine.
1964 The AFL is enough of a success to get a new 5 year $36 million TV deal with ABC. However, the NFL is even more successful with a 2 year $28.2 million deal.
Oct 25, 1964 Minnesota's Jim Marshall earns his "Wrong Way" nickname by accidently returning a recovered San Fransisco fumble 66 yards in the wrong direction. Thinking he has scored a TD, he throws the ball out of the endzone in celebration, resulting in a safety.
1964 Charley Hennigan, of the AFL's Oilers, is the first player with triple digit catches in one season with 101.
1965 Pete Gogolak of the AFL's San Diego Chargers becomes the first soccer-style pro football kicker.
Dec 12, 1965 During his outstanding rookie season (which included a then record 22 touchdowns), Chicago Bears rookie Gale Sayers scores a record tying 6 touchdowns (4 rushing, 1 recieving, 1 punt return) and amasses 336 all-purpose yards in a 61-20 rout of the San Fransisco 49ers.
Dec 26, 1965 With both of their quarterbacks injured, Baltimore starts halfback Tom Matte at quarterback in the Western Conferance Championship game. The Packers beat the Colts 13-10, including a disputed field goal to put the game into overtime.
1966 The Miami Dolphins join the AFL while the Atlanta Falcons are added to the NFL.
1966 Al Davis, coach/manager of the Oakland Raiders, replaces Joe Foss as AFL comissioner. He soon drops the agreement about not stealing players under contract with the other league.
June 8, 1966 Afraid of a bidding war which would financially devastate both leagues, the AFL and NFL agree to merge in 1970 and play an AFL-NFL Championship Game in the meantime.
1967 The New Orleans Saints are added to the NFL.
1967 The Green Bay Packers win the first ever AFL-NFL Championship Game (later dubbed the Super Bowl by Lamar Hunt) over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Mar 14, 1967 The AFL and NFL hold their first joint draft, with the Baltimore Colts taking Bubba Smith first overall.
1967 The Ice Bowl. Green Bay beats Dallas in the playoffs in a frigid weather. It gives the Packers their third consecutive championship, tying their own record set in 1931.
1967 Chicago's George Halas retires, having been with the team since their inception.
1967 The AFL adds a new franchise, the Cincinnati Bengals. Former Cleveland Browns coach Paul Brown is general manager and part-owner.
Nov 17, 1968 The Heidi Game. NBC cuts to the scheduled airing of the movie "Heidi" before a Raiders-Jets game finished. New York leads 32-29 with a minute remaining at the time of the switch, but Oakland makes a surprise comeback to win 43-32. This leads to stations carrying a game to its conclusion regardless of how much other scheduled programming gets canceled.
Jan 1969 Joe Namath gurantees a victory for his Jets in Super Bowl III then delievers as the New York Jets upset the Baltimore Colts 16-7 for the AFL's first championship win over the NFL.
1969 The AFL and NFL merge completely. Baltimore, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh switch to the AFC to balance the number of teams in each conference.
1969 CBS buys the rights to televise NFC games while NBC gets the AFC. ABC debuts Monday Night Football.
Nov 8, 1970 New Orlean's Tom Dempsey kicks a record 63 yard field goal.
Jan 1971 Baltimore beats Dallas 16-13 in Super Bowl V on a field goal with only a few seconds left. The game is a sloppy affair with 11 turnovers and 14 penalties. For the first and only time, a member of the losing team is named MVP.
Dec 25, 1971 The Longest Game. An AFC playoff game between Miami and Kansas goes into double overtime, clocking in at 82 minutes and 40 seconds of play.
1972 The Miami Dolphins become the first and only team in NFL history to go undefeated and untied in both the regular season and postseason - a perfect record of 17-0. Along the way, coach Don Shula becomes the first coach to win 100 games in his first 10 years.
Dec 23, 1972

The Immaculate Reception. In the AFC Playoffs, Pittsburgh's Terry Bradshaw tries to pass to Frenchy Fuqua who is covered by Oakland's Jack Tatum. The pass somehow ends up deflected to Franco Harris who makes a shoestring grab and go the distance for a last moment winning touchdown. It is Pittsburgh's first post-season victory in their 39 years of existance.

1973 Congress rules the NFL must lift hometown TV blackouts if the game sells out at least 72 hours in advance. Up to that point, only road games had been televised.
1973 Buffalo's O.J. Simpson is the first pro to run for over 2000 yards in a season (he has 2,003).
1974 The NFL adds sudden death overtime quarter to regular season games. Ironicly, the first game regular season overtime game still results in a tie. But it works overall, cutting tie games from 7 to 1 from the previous season. The goalposts were also moved back to the endlines rather than the goal lines.
1974 The World Football League begins play. It lasts only a season and a half before collapsing.
1974 A brief preseason players strike occurs, but its settled before the regular season starts.
1975 George Blanda retires at age 48, having played quarterback and kicker in the NFL and AFL for 25 years.
1975 The Dallas Cowboys make the playoffs for the first of what would become a record 9 consecutive years.
Dec 1975 The term 'Hail Mary Pass' is coined by Cowboys QB Roger Staubach to describe a desperation heave that defeats the Vikings in the NFC Championship.
1976 The Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Bucaneers join the NFL. They combine for some horrible football: Seattle finishes 2-12, Tampa goes 0-14, and an "Expansion Bowl" game between the two teams features 35 penalties.
1976 Paul Brown retires, having coached for 41 years in high school, college, military, and pro football. He remains the general manager, vice president, and owner of the Bengals.
Nov 1976 Detriot beats Buffalo 27-14 in the Lions annual Thanksgiving game, 273 rushing yards by O.J. Simpson.
1977 The Minnesota Vikings are the losing team in the Super Bowl for the 4th time, having gone 0-4 in Super Bowls in a 7 year span.
1977 The Tampa Bay Bucaneers finally win their first ever regular season game, but not until after losing their first 26 (over nearly 2 seasons).
Jan 1978 The Dallas Cowboys beat the Denver Broncos 27-10 in Super Bowl XII. Dallas' defense dominates the game - Denver gaims only 61 yards passing, throws 4 interceptions, and fumbles 3 times. For the first and only time, the MVP is shared between two players: Harvey Martin and Randy White, appropriately both Dallas defensive players.
1978 NFL makes a number of changes. Rules on pass blocking are relaxed and defensive contact with recievers is limited to within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. The side judge is added as the seventh official. The number of games is increased to 16.
1978 Before, during, and after the 1978 season, an amazing 14 of the 28 NFL teams change head coach at least once.
Jan 1979 Pittsburgh beats Dallas 35-31 in Super Bowl XIII. It is the first Super Bowl rematch. The Steelers are the first team to win 4 Super Bowls. The Cowboys are the first team to appear in 5.
1979 Tom Cousineau is drafted first overall by the Buffalo Bills. But shockingly, he choses to play with the Canadian Football League's Montreal Alouttes instead.
Jan 1980 With a 31-19 victory over the L.A. Rams, the Pittsburgh Steelers win their 4th Super Bowl in 6 years.
1980 The NFL Pro Bowl is played in Honolulu, Hawaii for the first time. It would remain there.
1980 The Los Angeles Rams move to the L.A. suburb of Anahiem.
Jan 1981 By beating the Eagles 27-10, the Raiders become the first Wild Card team to win a Super Bowl.
Jan 2, 1982 San Diego beats Miami 41-38 in overtime in the AFC playoffs, considered one of the greatest games ever. Miami comes back from a 24-0 deficit, but famous Charger tight end Kellen Winslow fights off cramps to catch 13 passes and block a field goal.
May 7, 1982 A federal court jury rules in favor of the Oakland Raiders in their lawsuit to be able to move to Los Angeles.
1982 The NFL begins counting sacks seperately from tackles.
Sept 20, 1982 The NFL players go on strike. The strike is settled after 57 days, but the season is shortened to 9 games.
1982 The Snowplow Game. New England beats Miami 3-0 in a December blizzard. Thinking quickly, Patriots head coach Ron Meyers has a snowplow clear the spot where the winning field goal is be attempted from.
1983 The QB Class of '83. Six quarterbacks are drafted in the first round, including John Elway and Dan Marino. They would combine for 11 Super Bowl appearances, though with only a 2-9 record in them.
1983 The United States Football League (USFL) begins play with 12 teams and games in the spring.
1983 A record 16 running backs rush for at least 1,000 yards.
1984 The USFL expands to 18 teams.
1984 Eric Dickerson of the Los Angeles Rams sets the new single season rushing record with 2,105 yards.
1984 Miami's Dan Marino is the first QB to pass for over 5,000 yards (with 5,084) and sets a new record for passing touchdowns with 48.
1985 The Baltimore Stars win their second straight USFL Championship in their third championship appearance in as many years of the league.
1985 Roger Craig of the 49ers becomes the first place to have 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards recieving in the same season.
1985-1986 On the strength of their famous 46 defense, the Chicago Bears go 15-1 in the regular season, shutout both playoff opponents, and demolish the New England Patriots 46-10 to win their first Super Bowl appearance. Appropriately, their only loss comes to the Miami Dolphins who preserve their place as the only undefeated team with a win on Monday Night Football that scores record TV ratings.
Apr 1986 The Bucaneers draft Bo Jackson with the first overall pick, but he choses to play baseball instead.
July 29, 1986 A US District Court jury rules on the $1.7 billion anti-trust the USFL has filed against the NFL. The jury rules in favor the USFL but awards them a mere $1. Now lacking a TV contract and having contracted down to 8 teams, the result is devastating to the USFL. Their planned fall season (after 3 years of spring play) is canceled and the league folds.
Jan 1987 The Drive. John Elway leads the Broncos 98 yards for an overtime forcing touchdown against the Cleveland Browns in the AFC playoffs. Denver goes on to lose 39-20 to the Giants in the Super Bowl.
Apr 1987 With his rights back in the draft, Bo Jackson is picked again, this time by the Raiders. They are able to convince him to play football each year after the baseball season finishes. He plays impressively for several years, but retires from football in 1990 after a hip injury.
1987 Instant Replay is introduced in the NFL.
Aug 3, 1987 Chicago beats Dallas 17-6 in Wembley Stadium in London, England. It is the first American Bowl, a yearly preseason game played overseas.
Sept 22, 1987 NFL players strike again. The third week of the season is canceled, but play resumes for Week 4 with replacment players (nicknamed "scabs") and a few regular players who cross the picket line.
Oct 25, 1987 The regular players return as the NFL strike is settled.
Oct 31, 1987 One of the largest and most complex trades in NFL history occurs, involving 3 teams and 10 players & draft choices. Included are Eric Dickerson (sent from the Rams to the Colts) and the rights to unsigned rookie LB Cornelius Bennett (sent from the Colts to the Bills).
Jan 1988 The Redskins beat the Broncos 42-10 to win Super Bowl XXII, mostly on the strength of 5 touchdowns on 5 possessions during a 6 1/2 minute span in the 2nd quarter. 4 of those scores are passes by Washington's Doug Williams, the first black QB to lead a team to the Super Bowl. Third string rookie RB Timmy Smith also gains a record 204 yards, the only game in his entire short career he would break 100.
1988 The Cardinals move from St. Louis to Phoenix, Arizona.
Jan 1989 Starting with 3:20 left on the clock, Joe Montana leads the San Fransisco 49ers on The Drive (which would become more famous than Elway's from two years earlier). The 49ers march 92 yards for a touchdown and a 20-16 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII.
Mar 22, 1989 Commisioner Pete Rozelle surpises everyone by retiring at the NFL Annual Meeting.
1989 Jerry Jones buys the Dallas Cowboys from H.R. "Bum" Bright.
1989 Dallas head coach Tom Landry is fired after 29 seasons. Having coached the Cowboys since their inaugural season, Landry had led the Cowboys to a 20 consecutive winning seasons streak and appeared in 5 Super Bowls but had losing seasons for the previous three years.
1989 Jimmy Johnson, Landry's replacement in Dallas, proceeds to makes the largest trade in NFL history when he sends RB Herschel Walker to Minnesota. The total deal involves 18 players and draft choices and also the San Diego Chargers.
1989 Art Rooney, founder and owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, dies. He is succeeded by son Dan Rooney.
Oct 3, 1989 Replacing Mike Shanahan only four games into the season, the Raiders' Art Shell becomes only the second black coach in NFL history and the first since Fritz Pollard coached the Akron Pros in 1921.
Oct 26, 1989 Paul Tagliabue is named the new NFL commissioner
Jan 1990 Despite the retirement of coach Bill Walsh the previous year, San Fransisco wins its 4th Super Bowl in 9 years, becoming the second team to win 4. Denver becomes the second team to lose 4. The 55-10 score also sets records for most points scored by one team and largest margin of victory.
Nov 11, 1990 Derrick Thomas of the Chiefs sacks Dave Krieg of the Seahawks a record 7 times. But Krieg manages to throw a game winning touchdown pass, barely preventing Thomas from recording an eigth sack.
Dec 1990 Impressed by the success of their No Huddle Offense, the Buffalo Bills switch to it full time.
Jan 1991 The New York Giants win their second Super Bowl when a field goal by Buffalo's Scott Norwood goes wide right by two feet as time expires. Norwood would never live the miss down although the blame was deserved more by holder Frank Reich who failed to have the laces forward. This missed kick provides the inspiration for the movie "Ace Ventura" ("Laces out!")
Feb 1991 Neil Austrian is named to the newly created posistion of NFL President.
1991 The World League, a 10-team spring development league sponsored by the NFL, begins play. One team plays in Canada and three more play in Europe. Fittingly, World Bowl '91 is played in London and features two of the international teams; the London defeats Barcelona 21-0.
1991 Detriot's Mel Gray becomes the first player to lead the league in punt returns and kickoff returns in the same season.
1992 The World League plays its second season, ending in a Sacremento 21-17 win over Orlando that is played in Montreal. While international attendance remains high, poor attendance for the American teams leads the NFL to suspend operations after the season.
Jan 3, 1993 Down 35-3 to the Houston Oilers at halftime in the AFC playoffs, the Buffalo Bills come back to win 41-38 in overtime.
Nov 14, 1993 Don Shula becomes the winningest coach in NFL history, eclipsing George Halas with his 325th win. He would retire in 1995 with 347.
Jan 1994 The Buffalo Bills lose their 4th consecutive Super Bowl.
Jan 1995 San Fransisco is the first team to win 5 Super Bowls.
1995 The Jacksonville Jaguars (AFC) and Carolina Panthers (NFC) join the NFL.
1995 Los Angeles loses both of its NFL teams: the Raiders return to Oakland and the Rams move to St. Louis.
Jan 1996 Dallas wins its 3rd Super Bowl in 4 years. The Cowboys are also the 2nd team to win 5 Super Bowls, having appeared in 8.
1996 The Cleveland Browns move to Baltimore and become the Ravens. To appease angry Cleveland fans, the Browns team history is left behind; the Ravens are treated as a completely new team.
1997 The Houston Oilers move to Tennessee. They play a year in Memphis as the Tennessee Oilers before moving to Nashville and becoming the Tennessee Titans.
1998 Denver wins the first of two consecutive Super Bowls thus breaking John Elway's 0-3 streak as a Super Bowl quarterback, Denver's 0-4 streak in Super Bowls, and the NFC's streak of 13 consecutive Super Bowl wins.
1999 The Cleveland Browns return to the NFL.
2002 The Houston Texans (AFC) join the NFL. The league reorganizes its divisions, now with 4 divisions in each conference. The Seattle Seahawks switch to the NFC.
2003 On Monday Night Football, down 21 points with only 4:20 left, the Indianapolis Colts score 3 touchdowns to force overtime against the Tampa Bay Bucaneers, where they would go on to win.
2005 After Hurricane Katrina ravages New Orleans and leaves the Superdome unusable, the Saints are forced to play their home games in San Antonio, Texas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Dec 24, 2006 Michael Vick becomes the first QB to rush over 1000 yards in a single season.
Jan 2009 The Arizona Cardinals reach their first NFL championship game since 1948, but are narrowly defeated by the Pittsburgh Steelers who win their record 6th Super Bowl.