NFL History: the Teams That Were There at the Start (Part I)

NFL History: the Teams That Were There at the Start (Part I) - partycasino

The modern-day NFL is made up of 32 teams split equally between the National Football Conference and the American Football Conference - but it wasn’t always that way. 

When the league was founded in 1920, it was known as the American Professional Football Association and was made up of 14 founding members. 

Over the years, the size of the league rose and fell until it finally settled on the format it’s in today. Here’s a closer look at the first half of the teams who were there at the start.

Akron Pros, Ohio

Formed in 1920, the Pros featured the first-ever African-American coach, Fritz Pollard, and other legends such as Bob "Nasty" Nash. They won the first-ever season with an 8-0-3 record, awarded the inaugural American Professional Football Association trophy, and received the Brunswick-Balke Collendar Cup.

Buffalo All-Americans, NY

Buffalo Bills are the team that many know today, but there was another Buffalo outfit: the Buffalo All-Americans once upon a time. In the first season, they notched up 9-9-1 and thought they should have won the league and taken the Brunswick-Balke Collendar Cup. However, in 1920 the league was awarded by votes, not the results of games, and Buffalo lost out to Akron.

Canton Bulldogs, Ohio

Although Canton took part in the first season of the NFL, they weren't there right from the start. Only ten teams lined up initially; Canton was one of four others who joined later in the year. Winning the title in 1922 and 1923, Canton still holds the record in the NFL for the most back-to-back wins, beating everyone else with a 25 straight.

Chicago Cardinals, Illinois

When the Cardinals played Decatur Staleys for the first time, they were unknowingly taking part in what was set to be the longest-standing rivalry in the NFL. Decatur Staleys are now known as the Chicago Bears, and the Cardinals moved to Arizona, but these two are the only ones of the original franchises which are still in operation today.

Chicago Tigers, Illinois

Another Chicago team, the Tigers, were also part of the original line-up - but they were also the first team to withdraw. However, disbanding wasn't a result of a failure but an agreement between team bosses. Head of the Tigers, Guil Falcon, made a pact with Cardinals boss Chris O'Brien that whoever lost a head-to-head match would withdraw from the league. The Tigers lost 3-6, so they gracefully withdrew and left the Cardinals to claim the limelight.

Cleveland Tigers, Ohio

Another set of Tigers played in the league, but these ones were based in Cleveland. They were the only team to score 7 points against the champions, Akron Pros, demonstrating their prowess - even if they didn't actually win. The following year the Tigers shed their stripes, changing their name to the Cleveland Indians; this allowed them to share not just their name but also a stadium with the baseball club from the city. Their participation was short-lived, and after just a single season as the Indians, they disbanded. Later, the city was to reignite their love of the game through Cleveland Browns.

Columbus Panhandles, Ohio

The name may sound unusual, but the team took their moniker from many of the players' jobs. The majority worked on the Pennsylvania railroad, more specifically the Panhandle section. Six brothers who worked on the railroad played for the Panhandles together, the Nessers, and together they turned the team into a sell-out sensation. In 1921, Charlie Nesser - the son of Ted Nesser - joined the team. This was to be the only time in the whole of NFL history that a father and son would play together in the same team. Despite their popularity, the Panhandles were disbanded in 1922 due to demands over wages and rising costs.