The National Football League (NFL), formed in 1920, as the American Professional Football Association. The APFA adopted the name of the National Football League in 1922.

In November 1963, the NFL played its full schedule of games the Sunday after JFK's assassination, while the rival American Football League (AFL) postponed its games in respect to the fallen president. The older league later merged with the new league, after the AFL began to successfully sign stars from the NFL. After the merger, the NFL adopted innovative features pioneered by the AFL, such as names on player jerseys, official scoreboard clocks (in the NFL, field and scoreboard clocks often did not agree, leading to confusion), and the two-point conversion. Even before the merger, the NFL adopted the AFL's revolutionary concept of network television broadcasts and sharing of gate and television revenues by both the home and visiting teams. Eventually, the NFL adopted virtually every pioneering aspect of the American Football League, except its name.

The NFL is the largest and most popular professional American football league in the world. It consists of thirty-two teams from American cities, the newest team being the Houston Texans.

At the end of each season, the winners of the playoffs in the American Football Conference and the National Football Conference meet in the NFL championsip, the Super Bowl.

Table of contents
1 Current NFL Franchises
2 Playoffs
3 The Draft
4 Salary, and the salary cap
5 Racial Policies
6 Premerger Championships (1920-1969)
7 APFA-NFL Standings Champions
8 Championship Games
9 Commissioners and Presidents of the NFL
10 League Offices
11 Players
12 See also
13 External links

Current NFL Franchises

American Football Conference
Buffalo BillsBaltimore RavensHouston TexansDenver Broncos
Miami DolphinsCincinnati BengalsIndianapolis ColtsKansas City Chiefs
New England PatriotsCleveland BrownsJacksonville JaguarsOakland Raiders
New York JetsPittsburgh SteelersTennessee TitansSan Diego Chargers

National Football Conference
Dallas CowboysChicago BearsAtlanta FalconsArizona Cardinals
New York GiantsDetroit LionsCarolina PanthersSan Francisco 49ers
Philadelphia EaglesGreen Bay PackersNew Orleans SaintsSeattle Seahawks
Washington RedskinsMinnesota VikingsTampa Bay BuccaneersSt. Louis Rams


At the end of each season, in each conference, the four division winners and the two "wild-card" teams (the teams with one of the two best records who did not also win a division) meet in elimination rounds. The two division winners with the best records receive a bye in the first round. The conference champions then play each other in the Super Bowl.

The Draft

Most of the USA's college football players want to play in the NFL. There is a highly organized and formal process called the draft which takes place on a single day in April, in which all NFL teams participate. The NFL team with the worst record in the previous year gets first pick of the draft -- that is, they get to choose one of all the college football players in the USA who are eligible for the draft. The hope is that weak teams can thereby become strengthened over time, in the specialties where they need strengthening. Draft picks continue, in the order from the weakest team to the strongest team, and once all teams have picked one player, they all pick again starting with the weakest team.

However, draft picks are frequently traded in advance for players and other draft picks. For example, before the draft occurs, Team A might trade its first-round draft pick plus a certain player (who already plays for Team A) to Team B in exchange for another particular player who already plays for Team B.

Occasionally a player drafted out of college will go right into a "first-string" position as the team's primary player in that position. However, usually these players begin as second- or third-string backups, only playing games if the first-stringer is injured, or if there has been a runaway score and the coach decides to put a backup in the game for a little experience, and to ensure his first-stringer doesn't get injured at the end in a play that is not meaningful to the team.

Salary, and the salary cap

The minimum salary for an NFL player is $225,000 in his first year, and rises after that based on the number of years in service:

These numbers are set by contract between the NFL and the players' union, the National Football League Players' Association. These numbers are of course exceeded dramatically by the best players in each position.

Escalating player salaries throughout the 1980s and 1990s led to the creation of a salary cap, a maximum amount of money each team can pay its players in aggregate. The cap is determined via a complicated formula based on the revenue that all NFL teams receive during the previous year. As of the 2003 football season, the salary cap was $75,007,000, and the NFL teams' player costs were a mean of $72,150,250.

Proponents of the salary cap note that it prevents a well-financed team in a major city from simply spending giant amounts of money to secure the very best players in every position and thus dominating the entire sport. This has been seen as a problem in American baseball, among other sports. Proponents also claim that player salaries are out of control, and that fans end up paying higher ticket prices to pay for these salaries. Critics of the salary cap note that the driving reason for the cap was to maximize the profitability of the NFL teams, and limit the power of NFL players to command the high salaries they are said to deserve in exchange for bringing in large numbers of paying fans to the stadiums. They also note that the salary cap could hypothetically drive prospective athletes to other sports that do not cap the salaries of players.

Racial Policies

Although the NFL in 2004 is dominated at virtually every position by black athletes, that was not always the case. The league had a few black players until 1933, one year after entry to the league of George Preston Marshall. Marshall's racist policies not only excluded blacks from his Washington Redskins team but influenced the entire league to drop blacks until 1946, when pressure from the competing All-America Football Conference induced the NFL to be more liberal in its signing of blacks. Still, Marshall refused to sign black players until threatened with civil-rights legal action by the Kennedy administration in 1962. This action, and pressure by another competing league, the more liberal American Football League, slowly managed to reverse the NFL's racial quotas. However, to this day, the NFL's head-coach hiring policies are questioned, and it has had to institute measures to attempt to have black head-coach candidates be treated more equitably.

Premerger Championships (1920-1969)

From 1920 to 1932, the NFL champion was the team with the best record during the season. This was tricky to sort out, as teams played anywhere from eight to twenty games in a season. In 1932, Chicago Bears and Portsmouth Spartans were tied and played a grudge match of sorts, Chicago winning 9-0. The game proved so popular that the league reorganized to make it a permanent feature.

Between 1933 and 1966, the NFL decided its champion through a single postseason playoff game. During this period, the NFL was divided into two groupings, sometimes referred to as divisions and sometimes called conferences. The first place team in each of the two groupings at the end of the regular season played a title game to determine the championship. If there was a tie for first place, an extra playoff game was played in order to determine which team would play the title game. At various times during this period, the two groupings were called Eastern Division and Western Division ( 1933-1949); American Conference and National Conference(1950-1952); Eastern Conference and Western Conference(1953-1966).

After expansion in 1967, the NFL split the Eastern Conference into the Capitol and Century Divisions and the Western Conference into Coastal and Central Divisions, and the playoff schedule was expanded from a single game between two teams to a four team tournament, with the four divisional champions participating. The NFL champion played the American Football League champion in Super Bowls I through IV, the only true inter-league world championships of football. The first two were won by the Packers, the last two by the AFL's New York Jets and the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs, respectively.

After 1970, the AFL and NFL fully merged and underwent a realignment. Six divisions were allocated among two conferences. Since there is now only one league, the winner of the Super Bowl is the NFL champion. See Super Bowl for a complete list of Super Bowl winners.

In 2002, the National Football League realigned again, this time into eight divisions of four teams each. The realignment was to accommodate a 32nd team.

APFA-NFL Standings Champions

Year Team Wins-Losses-Ties
1920Akron Pros8-0-3
1921Chicago Staleys9-1-1
1922Canton Bulldogs10-0-2
1923Canton Bulldogs11-0-1
1924Cleveland Bulldogs7-1-1
1925Chicago Cardinals11-2-1
1926Frankford Yellow Jackets14-1-2
1927New York Giants11-1-1
1928Providence Steam Roller8-1-2
1929Green Bay Packers12-0-1
1930Green Bay Packers10-3-1
1931Green Bay Packers12-2-0
1932Chicago Bears7-1-6

Championship Games

Commissioners and Presidents of the NFL

  • 1920-21......Jim Thorpe, President
  • 1921-39......Joseph Carr, President
  • 1939-41......Carl Storck, President
  • 1941-46......Elmer Layden, Commissioner
  • 1946-59......Bert Bell, Commissioner
  • 1959-60......Austin Gunsel, interim President following death of Bell
  • 1960-89......Alvin Rozelle, Commissioner
  • 1989- .......Paul Tagliabue, Commissioner

League Offices

  • 1920-21......Canton, OH
  • 1921-41......Columbus, OH
  • 1941-46......Chicago, IL
  • 1946-60......Philadelphia, PA
  • 1960- .......New York, NY


See also

External links