its last great realignment.
That second quarter century began when the Cleveland Rams found a wonderful tailback at UCLA named Bob Waterfield whose gorgous movie star
he led the Rams to the NFL championsip on the margin of a fluke safety scored when a pass thrown by Washington’s Sammy Baugh from his own end
Louis in 1945) disappeared.
A NEW RIVAL:THE ALL-AMERICA FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
and a shattering of the racial barriers that heretofore had made the sport an all white entity since 1933.
prepared it for the up tempo era of sports in post-war America.
who decided a champion with a “world series.” He mistakenly believed the two leagues would coexist without problems, as major league baseball did.
But it never happened beause he underestimated the importance of the player draft and instead of peace and harmony, the two leagues fought each
THE NEW NFL
New York with the Giants and Yanks (a combination of the Bulldogs, and Yankees from the AAFC) and the original franchises in the middle. The
Colts in 1953.
So Bell matched the two league champions–Cleveland and the Eagles–against eachother in the season opener and the Browns clobbered the proud
NFL champions 35-10. The NFL’s “old guard” was stunned but Bell was delighted.
The Browns then went on to win their first NFL championship with a thrilling 30-28 victory over the Los Angeles Rams which, had there been
the “most memorable” game of his career because it validated all that his team had accomplished, and because “so many of the game’sgreatest players
competed on the same field.”
title game losses to the Rams on Van Brocklin’s 75-yard touchdown pass to Tom Fears midway through the fourth quarter of the 1951 game, and to
56-10 for the 1954 title after which Graham retired. When Brown was unable to find a suitable replacement, he induced Otto to come back for one
final year, and they combined to win one last title, defeating the Rams 38-14.
DEEEF-ENSE LEADS THE WAY … AND SO DOES JIM BROWN
come up with new defensive schemes and the New York Giants were the first to succeed in 1950 when coach Steve Owen developed an “Umbrella
Defense” to try and counter the Browns’ great passing offense. He put the concept on the blackboard and then told a young player-coach named Tom
Landry to fill in the blanks. Landry did, and seven years later, faced with another threat in Cleveland named Jim Brown, he did it again by winnowing
and so did many of its principals, including middle linebacker Sam Huff who made the cover of Time Magazine and was the subject of a prime time
game’s bigger fullbacks yet he possessed world-class speed with great open field running ability. So many of his runs were incredible that even his
great performances became commonplace and Paul Brown, with whom he feuded during some of their time together, said he was the greatest back he
had ever seen.
Walter Payton broke it inthe 80s. However, Brown’s most enduring statistic is his still No. 1 5.2 yards per carry average.
Brown’s running made Cleveland an instant contender (had they a quarterback of Graham’s caliber, they would have begun another long dynasty run)
NFL title and won division titles in 1958 and ‘59.
The 1958 title was decided in a playoff game that followed a season-ending 13-10 victory over Cleveland when Pat Summerall kicked a 49-yard field
and set up the title clash with Baltimore.
That was the third part of the equation. Baltimore’s football fortunes were resustitated when Carroll Rosenbloom purchased the Dallas Texans
franchise after the 1952 season. Two years later, he hired Browns’ assistant Weeb Ewbank to coach his team, and a year later, stumbled into a young
and the toughness of a Marine drill sergeant. He didn’t have the strongest arm, he wasn’t a nifty runner but he had the daring of a riverboat gambler and
the great attribute of turning apparantly lost games into last-minute wins. It didn’t take long for an aura of invincibility to build around him and rub off
produce the Western Division championship and a match against the Giants in Yankee Stadium for the 1958 title.
THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED
The game, long hailed as “the greatest game ever played,” because of its impact on the sport, was televised nationally but the Giants-Browns rivalry
even a cable break that cut off transmission for several minutes and caused near-hysteria in millions of homes around the nation. The magnificent
score on Steve Myrha’s field goal in the final seven seconds. When he got the ball in the extra quarter, he did it again, finally sending Ameche tumbling
into the end zone at 8:15 of overtime for a 23-17 victory.
wasn’t long before the entire nation couldn’t get enough of the sport. It was as if the two had been invented for each other.
of its games and dividng the revenues equally with all eight teams. In 1962, CBS acquired rights to all the NFL games, and in 1965, NBC had those of
the AFL, and soon revenues were being totalled in millions of dollars … $15.9 million from CBS for the 1964 NFL season and title game, $18.8
exceed a billion dollars.
THE TV GAME
experimented with three Monday night games in 1969 on CBS, but when it cast about for having a full-time schedule, both NBC and CBS demurered,
not wishing to disturb their already solid Monday night entertainment schedule. But ABC, television’s poor cousin at that time, took a chance and it
paid off with a phenomenon never before envisioned.
One game was offered each Monday night–always a good matchup because the NFL wanted to showcase its product–and the manner in which
Americans spent the first weekday night changed forever. For one thing, the weekly event became a game-within-a-game, first with the one transpiring
whom were poles apart in outlook and temperament. Week after week, the overbearing Cosell fell victim to Meredith’s pure “country boy” wit that
delighted millions whenever he punctured Cosell’s pretensions and pomposities.
quarter century later, the series–the longest running in TV history–still attracts huge audiences.
Television’s impact on NFL football didn’t only happen on Monday night. In Washington, the emergence of the Washington Redskins as an exciting
team, had a profound impact on the league’s TV policies. Everyone in the Nation’s Capitol was a Redskins fan — particularly those working in the
Halls of Congress.
That “fandom” turned to a frenzy when first Vince Lombardi came to town and produced a winning team in his only season before dying from cancer
This rabid interest clashed headlong into the NFL policy of not televising home games, and it didn’t take long for those diehard Redskins fans on
Capitol Hill to demand a change–or else! The NFL suddenly rearranged its “blackout” law to include only those home games not sold out 72 hours
before kickoff. Since every Redskins game was sold out for the season, Washington — and Congress — was assuaged.
And pro football began its move abroad, beginning in 1986 when the Cowboys and Chicago Bears played at Wembley Stadium in London biore
consolidate and promote NFL Properties interests aboard — interests which produced some $3 billion worth of sales each year.
GREAT TEAMS – GREAT PLAYERS
And then there were great receivers such as Jerry Rice of the 49ers, who will hold every major receiving record when he finally retires; Washington’s
Art Monk; Steve Largent of Seattle; Paul Warfield of Cleveland and Miami; Lynn Swann and John Stallworth of Pittsburgh; Drew Pearson of Dallas;
Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, who played more consecutive games than anyone in the sports history and Alan Page; Miami’s famed No-Name Defense that
helped the Dolphins to the NFL’s only perfect season in 1972; the Steel Curtain of Pittsburgh that paved the way to four Super Bowls, led by Mean Joe
Fridge) Perry. And many, many more.
But getting to that point and into such a heady existence was not always easy, beginning at the very start of the third trimester.
NFL Champions (1970-93) 1970 Baltimore (AFC) 16, Dallas (NFC) 13 1971 Dallas (NFC) 24, Miami (AFC) 3 1972 Miami (AFC) 14,
Washington (NFC) 7 1973 Miami (AFC) 24, Minnesota (NFC) 7 1974 Pittsburgh (AFC) 16, Minnesota (NFC) 6 1975 Pittsburgh (IAFC) 21, Dallas
(NFC) 17 1976 Oakland (AFC) 32, Minnesota (NFC) 14 1977 Dallas (NFC) 27, Denver (AFC) 10 1978 Pittsburgh (AFC) 35, Dallas (NFC) 31
1979 Pittsburgh (AFC) 31, Los Angeles (NFC) 19 1980 Oakland (AFC) 27, Philadelphia (NFC) 10 1981 San Francisco (NFC) 26, Cincinnati (AFC)
16 1985 Chicago (NFC) 46, New England (AFC) 10 1986 New York (NFC) 39, Denver (AFC) 20 1987 Washington (NFC) 42, Denver (AFC) 10
1988 San Francisco (NFC) 20, Cincinnati (AFC,) 16 1989 San Francisco (NFC) 55, Denver (AFC) 10 1990 New York (NFC) 20, Buffalo (AFC) 19
1991 Washington (NFC) 37, Buffalo (AFC) 24 1992 Dallas (NFC) 52, Buffalo (AFC) 17 1993 Dallas (NFC) 30, Buffalo (AFC) 13