As we move forward into a new year, everybody always reminisce of what happened in the year that just was. But in terms of the NFL, it is already very fresh in our memories. So let’s turn back the clock to get a taste of what the NFL was like 50 years ago.
The NFL in 1962 consisted of only 14 teams. Two Conferences, one division, 7 teams in each.
The teams in the Eastern Conference were the New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Teams in the Western Conference were the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Baltimore Colts, San Francisco 49ers, Minnesota Vikings and the Los Angeles Rams.
The Green Bay Packers won their first 10 games of the season on their way to a 14-1 record. The only game they lost came from the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving. But the Packers would go on to win their second consecutive title under legend Vince Lombardi when they defeated the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium 16-7.
But something else of more importance happened at the NFL Championship game, something that would change the landscape of the NFL and the way the world would look at football and the way they view sports in general.
The birth of NFL Films.
Ed Sabol would pay the NFL $4,000 for the rights to film the 1962 NFL Championship game, doubling the price of the 1961 championship game.
Ed Sabol would become a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011 while his son Steve Sabol, who pioneered NFL Films to a whole new level, recently, passed away after a battle with brain cancer.
The only major rule change in 1962 is it is now a penalty to grab a player’s facemask; years after facemasks became part of the helmet in the 1950’s.
The MVP Award was given to Packers Hall of Fame running back Jim Taylor while the Coach of the Year award went to Giants coach Allie Sherman.
Out of all the NFL teams at the time, only the Green Bay Packers continue to play in the same stadium, Lambeau Field. The Chicago Bears did not move into Solider Field until 1971.
Three NFL teams would relocate to new cities in the future.
The Baltimore Colts moved to Indianapolis in the middle of the night on the Mayflower in 1984, not that Mayflower.
The St. Louis Cardinals would move to the desert in Arizona in 1988 to become the Phoenix Cardinals. In 1994 they would change their name to the Arizona Cardinals.
The Los Angeles Rams to the Cardinals place in St. Louis starting in the 1995, leaving Los Angeles without an NFL team.
But 50 years ago there was another professional football league.
The AFL was in its third season and competing with the NFL for supremacy. The league consisted of two divisions, the Eastern and Western Division
Teams in the Eastern Division were the Houston Oilers, Boston Patriots, Buffalo Bills and the New York Titans.
The Western Division included the Dallas Texans, Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders.
The Houston Oilers faced the Dallas Texans in the AFL Championship Game on December 23rd, at Jeppesen Stadium in Houston, Texas. Both teams came into the game with identical 11-3 records. This was the Oilers third straight year in the championship game, winning the first two years of the leagues existence.
The Texans would go on to beat the Oilers 20-17 in double overtime in what was at the time became the longest game in American Football and remains the longest professional championship game in history.
The AFL, still years away from merging with the NFL, still went through some changes following the 1962 season.
The Texans would leave Dallas after winning their first AFL Championship and relocated to Kansas City to become the Chiefs.
The Titans of New York, as they were called back then became the New York Jets when then Titans owner Harry Wismer sold the franchise for one million dollars.
The Boston Patriots would relocate to Foxborough, Massachusetts in 1971 and changed the name to the New England Patriots.
The Houston Oilers would relocate to Tennessee in 1997, playing two seasons as the Tennessee Oilers before changing their nickname to the “Titans”, the old nickname of the now New York Jets.
In 2002, Houston got their NFL team and named them the “Texans”, the former AFL nickname of the now Kansas City Chiefs.
None of the AFL teams currently play in the same stadium as they did in 1962.
As the AFL-NFL merged years later to become one league starting in 1970, it’s great to see the AFL’s history of the Titans and Texans nicknames brought back into the fold years later.
NFL Films, Vince Lombardi’s Packers, facemask penalties, throwback uniforms, relocation, team nicknames changing, leaving the landscape only to return years later, division realignment, the Colts, Steelers and Browns joining the AFC Conference for the merger, etc. One cam make the argument that the list extends much further than just the few already listed.
But what one cannot argue with is when looking back on the NFL’s history one could easily skip over the year of 1962 as a year of great importance. But look no further than 1962 as the year when both leagues laid instrumental groundwork to build toward the future of the NFL we now enjoy.
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