An In-Depth Look at the Fascinating History of the NFL


Did you know that Soldier Field, the Chicago Bears’ home stadium, is the oldest stadium in the NFL?

Even though many people refer to baseball as “America’s pastime,” the NFL gets the best ratings. Many people don’t realize that football was not always the most important sport in the United States. In fact, it took many years for the NFL to become popular.

To help you understand the fascinating history of the NFL, we’ve written a guide. Keep reading, and we’ll tell you everything that’s important to know.

The Invention of Football

The person who is credited for inventing football is a man named Walter Camp. He came up with the idea all the way back in 1876. Less than twenty years later, a guard named William (Pudge) Heffelfinger became the first person to be paid for playing football.

In 1899, the first neighborhood football team started playing football. They were called the Morgan Athletic Team.

Amazingly, this team still exists today. They eventually changed their name to the Chicago Cardinals before changing their name to the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1994 they became the Phoenix Cardinals.

People started trying to create the National Football League during the first few years of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, the effort failed because the league was very disorganized.

One of the main problems was that there were not yet rules in place that prevented players from changing from one team to another. Whoever paid a player the most money would be able to hire them. Players would often switch between several different teams within a single season.

The Creation of the American Professional Football Association

People created the American Professional Football Association (APFA) in 1920 in Canto, Ohio. The association was composed of eleven teams, ten of which were located in the midwest of the United States.

This association was extremely disorganized. One of its main purposes was to prevent teams from stealing players from other teams. It’s also important to know that APFA teams would frequently play non-APFA teams.

In 1921, the association started publishing official standings. They also changed their name to the National Football League. The year after this, the Chicago Bears came into existence.

During the early days of the NFL, it was common for teams to enter and leave the league at a moment’s notice. Some of the most popular teams were the Providence Steam Rollers and the Ohio Oorang Indians.

In 1926, the American Football League came into existence before quickly falling apart.

Until the early nineteen-thirties, the NFL continued to function as a disorganized league whose teams and players were constantly shifting from year to year.

This changed when the NFL started holding yearly championships. This is also when people created the two-division structure that the NFL still has today.

The First Superbowl and the Disappearance of African American Players

The best team in the nineteen-thirties was the Green Bay Packers. They were the first-ever team to win three titles in a row.

In 1933, African American players were banned from playing in the NFL. It was a man named George Preston Marshall who people blame for making this poor decision. As the owner of the Boston Braves, he had a lot of power in the NFL and convinced other owners not to employ African American players.

It wasn’t until min 1940s that African Americans were able to play again in the NFL.

The first NFL games started being televised in the 1930s. Once NFL teams started playing on television, the sport quickly became more popular.

The NFL Becomes More Popular than College Football

Until the end of World War II, college sports were much more popular than professional sports. Even though many thousands of people would come to watch professional football games, most people were much more interested in college teams such as Princeton, Alabama, and Yale.

One of the reasons that the NFL became so popular in the nineteen forties was because teams started using the T formation. This speeded up the game and made it more exciting to watch.

It was also around this time when African American players were able to start playing football again.

The NFL Grows in Popularity

Until the 1950s, football wasn’t one of the types of sports that people identified as being “American.” Most United States citizens saw those who dedicated their lives to playing football as thrill-seekers. Baseball was much more popular than football.

This started to change when the NFL started regularly broadcasting its games on television. This gave people across the country the opportunity to watch rising football stars such as Otto Graham, Ollie Matson, Joe Perry, Dick Barwegen, and Bill George.

At the end of the nineteen fifties, the American Football League came to life for the fourth time.

The AFL and the NFL Merge

The NFL became the most important spectator sport in the nineteen sixties. Despite how popular it had become, many teams and players chose to instead join the AFL.

It was a man named Lamar Hunt who convinced several other men to join him in creating AFL franchises. People often referred to the eight owners of AFL teams as “the foolish club.”

The AFL made several important changes to the game of football which influenced the NFL. This includes adding the players’ names on their jerseys and adding a play clock that was visible to fans.

Teams from the AFL were also more likely to hire African American players than NFL teams were. This meant that AFL teams were able to build stronger teams.

During the 1960s, AFL and NFL teams fought with one another to acquire the nation’s top football players. But in 1970, the two leagues agreed to merge with each other. Most of the original AFL teams joined the NFL’s AFC conference.

The NFL Took the World by Storm in the 1970s and 1980s

In the early 1970s, the television networks CBS and NBC created television contracts for broadcasting football games. CBS earned the rights to broadcast all of the NFC’s regular-season games, and NBC earned the rights to broadcast all of the AFC’s regular-season games.

The two networks agreed to take turns airing the Super Bowl and playoff games.

It was also during this period when people around the country started treating the Super Bowl as an unofficial holiday. In fact, for almost every year in the 1970s, the Super Bowl was the year’s top-rated program.

Several people founded another competitor to the NFL in the early 1980s called the United States Football League (USFL). This competing league had good financing and was able to attract many big-name players.

But after three years, the USFL fell apart because it was not making enough money.

Franchises Relocate and Merge

During the first decades of the NFL’s existence, teams would frequently come into existence and fall apart. It was also common for teams to move from city to city.

During the last years of the twentieth century, it became much more controversial when franchises chose to move. Many teams were more financially stable than they used to be, which means that they had more freedom to make dramatic and costly decisions.

Therefore, owners started choosing to move their teams to new cities that they believed would have more profitable markets. This enraged many fans and caused them to lose interest in the NFL.

The NFL and Its Steroid Policy

Many people don’t realize that the NFL has the longest-running steroid policy of all professional sports. It was first created in 1987. If a player tests positive for steroids, they will be suspended without pay.

The Contemporary NFL

Thirty-two NFL teams are currently in existence. Teams are prohibited from having more than fifty-five players at a time.

Unlike other professional sports leagues, there are no teams that are based in Canada. This means that nearly all of the world’s professional football games are played in the United States.

It’s also much easier than it was in the past for sports fans to make informed decisions about which teams are most likely to win football games. If you want to find out more about NFL predictions today, be sure to check out the top NFL predictions today.

The Fascinating History of the NFL

If you are trying to learn about the history of the NFL, it’s important to know that football was not popular in the United States until the middle of the twentieth century. The first NFL teams often changed their names and locations.

If you want to find out more about the world’s top professional sports, don’t forget to check out the Entertainment section of our blog.