NFL History, Origins and Founding
The National Football League today is the most successful sporting league in America and the NFL has become a colossal industry turning huge profits and captivating thousands of fans.
The NFL, however, took a long and tumultuous journey to grow into what it is today. William Heffelfinger is credited as the first professional football player, accepting payment for play as far back as 1892.
It was not until 1920 that the pro league was originated. In 1920, the American Professional Football Association helped to organize the professional teams that had sprouted up around the Midwest. The APFA changed its name to the NFL in 1922, charging $100 for teams to join the league.
Of the league’s charter members, the Chicago Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals) and the Decatur Staleys (now the Chicago Bears) are the only two franchises remaining. The Green Bay Packers (founded 1919, joined 1921) and the New York Giants (founded 1925) soon followed. The NFL continued to rise in popularity and eventually gained some financial stability. Innovations such as the NFL draft (1936) and revenue sharing (1961) helped the NFL grow into what it is today.
NFL Pre Super Bowl Era
For the NFL’s first twelve seasons, the league determined its champion based off of league record alone. But, when the Chicago Bears and Portsmouth Spartans tied for record in 1932, the NFL decided that a championship game was in order to decide the title.
The 1932 Championship was also the first football game to be played in doors, with the game being played on an 80 yard field that had accommodated a circus the week before. Since that game, the NFL has used a championship game to decide its winner. The most famous pre Super Bowl championship occurred in 1958 between the Baltimore Colts and New York Giants in what would come to be known as “The Greatest Game Ever Played”. Unitas and the Colts triumphed at Yankee Stadium in front of a huge national television audience. The game was a huge moment for the NFL’s popularity and future.
AFL-NFL Rivalry and Merger
In 1959, a group of eight owners, many who had been spurned by the NFL in buying a pro football franchise, decided to start their own rival league. Known as the “foolish club”; the eight owners were led by Lamar Hunt and created the American Football League.
The League began their play in 1960, with many of the teams being in markets previously not occupied by the NFL. While the NFL tried to ignore the AFL, it became apparent that the AFL was building a fan base capable of threatening the NFL’s stability. The two leagues discussed a merger and finally came to an agreement in 1966. The two leagues would not officially join until 1970, but Super Bowl play between the two leagues began in 1967, with the respective champions facing off for the world title. Other leagues have attempted to accomplish this same success since, most notably the USFL of the 1980s, but none have come close to touching the dominance of the NFL.
NFL Modern Era
The NFL has taken on a completely different look than pro football at the NFL’s origins. A number of rule changes and advancements in strategy have changed the game from “three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust” to a high velocity aerial show. There have also been a few major adjustments to the league’s structure.
The NFL now plays a sixteen game regular season with twelve of the thirty-two NFL football teams qualifying for the playoffs. The current free agent system was introduced in 1993, allowing players to negotiate and sign with other teams once their contracts expire.
NFL Betting History
Betting has gone along with the NFL throughout the league’s history. Player betting scandals were a black mark on the NFL in its early years, and Jimmy the Greek helped to popularize NFL betting in the Super Bowl era. The game was often simpler, and thus easier to predict, in its early years. However, the parity created in today’s NFL has made NFL betting the most exciting in all of sports. Our Daily Betting Tips can help you to keep up to date with league developments and how to bet on today’s NFL.