Jun 212013

The league we now know as the NFL was founded in 1920. Back then it was named the American Professional Football Association, and all of the league’s original 14 teams were located in the Great Lakes region. A stark contrast from today’s 32-team league that is spread out from the Atlantic to the Pacific. How did the league get from there to here? A lot of changes.

Whether it has been through franchise relocation, extinction, or expansion, the NFL’s landscape has been molded by the over 200 changes its teams have carried out over 94 seasons.

I have produced a two-minute flash animation showing how the NFL’s landscape has changed through the decades.

Here is a full screen and a slower-speed version of the animation below.

[swfobj src=”http://www.footballgeography.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/nfl_chronology_5.swf”]


Notes: The animation includes AAFC and AFL teams… I stacked the football markers on top of one another when two or more teams were located in the same city (i.e. NY Giants and Jets)…  And yes, I know that the NFL doesn’t use white-striped footballs, but they’re easier to see in the animation.


Listed below is the NFL’s chronology broken down in a sortable table.

Show the Legend »


Founding Member: Founding member of the league it’s listed with.

Joined the NFL: A franchise from the AAFC or AFL that joined the NFL in a merger.

New Team: A new franchise. Either from expansion, or the relocation and rebranding of an existing franchise.

Rejoined the NFL: A “mothballed” franchise that rejoined the NFL.

Folded: A team that has folded. The year listed is the first season that the team didn’t participate in the NFL.

Left the NFL: A franchise that left the NFL for another football league.

Inactive: A franchise that has been “mothballed”, but eventually returns to the league.

Moved: A franchise that moved to a different city.

Merged Team: A franchise that temporarily merged with another franchise.

Name Change: A franchise that didn’t move, but changed its name.


NFL Chronology

Columns can be sorted by clicking on the titles in the header. You can quickly find a specific team using the search box to the right. 

YearLgeFranchiseTeamLocationType of Change
1920NFLAkron Pros/IndiansAkron ProsAkron, OHFounding Member
1920NFLArizona CardinalsChicago CardinalsChicago, ILFounding Member
1920NFLBuffalo AA/Bisons/RangersBuffalo All-AmericansBuffalo, NYFounding Member
1920NFLCanton BulldogsCanton BulldogsCanton, OHFounding Member
1920NFLChicago BearsDecatur StaleysDecatur, ILFounding Member
1920NFLChicago TigersChicago TigersChicago, ILFounding Member
1920NFLCleveland Tigers/IndiansCleveland TigersCleveland, OHFounding Member
1920NFLColumbus Pan./TigersColumbus PanhandlesColumbus, OHFounding Member
1920NFLDayton TrianglesDayton TrianglesDayton, OHFounding Member
1920NFLDetroit HeraldsDetroit HeraldsDetroit, MIFounding Member
1920NFLHammond ProsHammond ProsHammond, INFounding Member
1920NFLMuncie FlyersMuncie FlyersMuncie, INFounding Member
1920NFLRochester JeffersonsRochester JeffersonsRochester, NYFounding Member
1920NFLRock Island IndependentsRock Island IndependentsRock Island, ILFounding Member
1921NFLChicago TigersChicago TigersChicago, ILFolded
1921NFLDetroit HeraldsDetroit HeraldsDetroit, MIFolded
1921NFLChicago BearsChicago StaleysChicago, ILMoved
1921NFLCleveland Tigers/IndiansCleveland IndiansCleveland, OHName Change
1921NFLCincinnati CeltsCincinnati CeltsCincinnati, OHNew Team
1921NFLDetroit TigersDetroit TigersDetroit, MINew Team
1921NFLEvansville Crimson GiantsEvansville Crimson GiantsEvansville, INNew Team
1921NFLGreen Bay PackersGreen Bay PackersGreen Bay, WINew Team
1921NFLLouisville Brecks/ColonelsLouisville BrecksLouisville, KYNew Team
1921NFLMinneapolis Mar./Red J.Minneapolis MarinesMinneapolis, MNNew Team
1921NFLNew York Brickley GiantsNew York Brickley GiantsNew York, NYNew Team
1921NFLTonawanda KardexTonawanda KardexTonawanda, NYNew Team
1921NFLWashington SenatorsWashington SenatorsWashington, DCNew Team
1922NFLCincinnati CeltsCincinnati CeltsCincinnati, OHFolded
1922NFLCleveland IndiansCleveland IndiansCleveland, OHFolded
1922NFLDetroit TigersDetroit TigersDetroit, MIFolded
1922NFLMuncie FlyersMuncie FlyersMuncie, INFolded
1922NFLNew York Brickley GiantsTonawanda KardexTonawanda, NYFolded
1922NFLTonawanda KardexNew York Brickley GiantsNew York, NYFolded
1922NFLWashington SenatorsWashington SenatorsWashington, DCFolded
1922NFLChicago BearsChicago BearsChicago, ILName Change
1922NFLMilwaukee BadgersMilwaukee BadgersMilwaukee, WINew Team
1922NFLOorang IndiansOorang IndiansMarion, OHNew Team
1922NFLRacine Legion/TornadoesRacine LegionRacine, WINew Team
1922NFLToledo MaroonsToledo MaroonsToledo, OHNew Team
1923NFLEvansville Crimson GiantsEvansville Crimson GiantsEvansville, INFolded
1923NFLColumbus Pan./TigersColumbus TigersColumbus, OHName Change
1923NFLCleveland Indians/BulldogsCleveland IndiansCleveland, OHNew Team
1923NFLDuluth Kelleys/EskimosDuluth KelleysDuluth, MNNew Team
1923NFLSt. Louis All-StarsSt. Louis All-StarsSt. Louis, MONew Team
1924NFLOorang IndiansOorang IndiansMarion, OHFolded
1924NFLSt. Louis All-StarsSt. Louis All-StarsSt. Louis, MOFolded
1924NFLToledo MaroonsToledo MaroonsToledo, OHFolded
1924NFLCanton BulldogsCanton BulldogsCanton, OHInactive
1924NFLLouisville Brecks/ColonelsLouisville BrecksLouisville, KYInactive
1924NFLBuffalo AA/Bisons/RangersBuffalo BisonsBuffalo, NYName Change
1924NFLCleveland Indians/BulldogsCleveland BulldogsCleveland, OHName Change
1924NFLFrankford Yellow JacketsFrankford Yellow JacketsPhiladelphia, PANew Team
1924NFLKansas City Blues/CowboysKansas City BluesKansas City, MONew Team
1924NFLKenosha MaroonsKenosha MaroonsKenosha, WINew Team
1925NFLKenosha MaroonsKenosha MaroonsKenosha, WIFolded
1925NFLMinneapolis Mar./Red J.Minneapolis MarinesMinneapolis, MNInactive
1925NFLRacine Legion/TornadoesRacine LegionRacine, WIInactive
1925NFLKansas City Blues/CowboysKansas City CowboysKansas City, MOName Change
1925NFLDetroit PanthersDetroit PanthersDetroit, MINew Team
1925NFLNew York GiantsNew York GiantsNew York, NYNew Team
1925NFLPottsville Mar./Bos. BdogsPottsville MaroonsMinersville, PANew Team
1925NFLProvidence Steam RollerProvidence Steam RollerProvidence, RINew Team
1925NFLCanton BulldogsCanton BulldogsCanton, OHRejoined the NFL
1926NFLRochester JeffersonsRochester JeffersonsRochester, NYFolded
1926NFLCleveland Indians/BulldogsCleveland BulldogsCleveland, OHInactive
1926NFLRock Island IndependentsRock Island IndependentsRock Island, ILLeft the NFL
1926NFLAkron Pros/IndiansAkron IndiansAkron, OHName Change
1926NFLBuffalo AA/Bisons/RangersBuffalo RangersBuffalo, NYName Change
1926NFLDuluth Kelleys/EskimosDuluth EskimosDuluth, MNName Change
1926NFLBrooklyn LionsBrooklyn LionsNew York, NYNew Team
1926NFLHartford BluesHartford BluesEast Hartford, CTNew Team
1926NFLLos Angeles BuccaneersLos Angeles BuccaneersLos Angeles, CANew Team
1926NFLLouisville Brecks/ColonelsLouisville ColonelsLouisville, KYRejoined the NFL
1926NFLRacine Legion/TornadoesRacine TornadoesRacine, WIRejoined the NFL
1927NFLAkron Pros/IndiansAkron IndiansAkron, OHFolded
1927NFLBrooklyn LionsBrooklyn LionsNew York, NYFolded
1927NFLCanton BulldogsCanton BulldogsCanton, OHFolded
1927NFLColumbus Pan./TigersColumbus TigersColumbus, OHFolded
1927NFLDetroit PanthersDetroit PanthersDetroit, MIFolded
1927NFLHammond ProsHammond ProsHammond, INFolded
1927NFLHartford BluesHartford BluesEast Hartford, CTFolded
1927NFLKansas City Blues/CowboysKansas City CowboysKansas City, MOFolded
1927NFLLos Angeles BuccaneersLos Angeles BuccaneersLos Angeles, CAFolded
1927NFLLouisville Brecks/ColonelsLouisville ColonelsLouisville, KYFolded
1927NFLMilwaukee BadgersMilwaukee BadgersMilwaukee, WIFolded
1927NFLRacine Legion/TornadoesRacine TornadoesRacine, WIFolded
1927NFLBuffalo AA/Bisons/RangersBuffalo BisonsBuffalo, NYName Change
1927NFLNew York YankeesNew York YankeesNew York, NYNew Team
1927NFLCleveland Indians/BulldogsCleveland BulldogsCleveland, OHRejoined the NFL
1928NFLCleveland Indians/BulldogsCleveland BulldogsCleveland, OHFolded
1928NFLDuluth Kelleys/EskimosDuluth EskimosDuluth, MNFolded
1928NFLBuffalo AA/Bisons/RangersBuffalo BisonsBuffalo, NYInactive
1928NFLDetroit WolverinesDetroit WolverinesDetroit, MINew Team
1929NFLDetroit WolverinesDetroit WolverinesDetroit, MIFolded
1929NFLNew York YankeesNew York YankeesNew York, NYFolded
1929NFLPottsville Mar./Bos. BdogsBoston BulldogsBoston, MAMoved
1929NFLOrange/Newark TornadoesOrange TornadoesEast Orange, NJNew Team
1929NFLStaten Island StapletonsStaten Island StapletonsNew York, NYNew Team
1929NFLBuffalo AA/Bisons/RangersBuffalo BisonsBuffalo, NYRejoined the NFL
1929NFLMinneapolis Mar./Red J.Minneapolis Red JacketsMinneapolis, MNRejoined the NFL
1930NFLBuffalo AA/Bisons/RangersBuffalo BisonsBuffalo, NYFolded
1930NFLDayton TrianglesDayton TrianglesDayton, OHFolded
1930NFLPottsville Mar./Bos. BdogsBoston BulldogsBoston, MAFolded
1930NFLOrange/Newark TornadoesNewark TornadoesNewark, NJMoved
1930NFLBrooklyn Dodgers/TigersBrooklyn DodgersNew York, NYNew Team
1930NFLDetroit LionsPortsmouth SpartansPortsmouth, OHNew Team
1931NFLMinneapolis Mar./Red J.Minneapolis Red JacketsMinneapolis, MNFolded
1931NFLOrange/Newark TornadoesNewark TornadoesNewark, NJFolded
1931NFLCleveland IndiansCleveland IndiansCleveland, OHNew Team
1932NFLCleveland IndiansCleveland IndiansCleveland, OHFolded
1932NFLFrankford Yellow JacketsFrankford Yellow JacketsPhiladelphia, PAFolded
1932NFLProvidence Steam RollerProvidence Steam RollerProvidence, RIFolded
1932NFLWashington RedskinsBoston BravesBoston, MANew Teams
1933NFLStaten Island StapletonsStaten Island StapletonsNew York, NYLeft the NFL
1933NFLWashington RedskinsBoston RedskinsBoston, MAName Change
1933NFLCincinnati RedsCincinnati RedsCincinnati, OHNew Team
1933NFLPhiladelphia EaglesPhiladelphia EaglesPhiladelphia, PANew Team
1933NFLPittsburgh SteelersPittsburgh PiratesPittsburgh, PANew Team
1934NFLDetroit LionsDetroit LionsDetroit, MIMoved
1934NFLSt. Louis GunnersSt. Louis GunnersSt. Louis, MONew Team | Mid-Season
1935NFLCincinnati RedsCincinnati RedsCincinnati, OHFolded
1935NFLSt. Louis GunnersSt. Louis GunnersSt. Louis, MOFolded
1937NFLWashington RedskinsWashington RedskinsWashington, DCMoved
1937NFLSt. Louis RamsCleveland RamsCleveland, OHNew Team
1940NFLPittsburgh SteelersPittsburgh SteelersPittsburgh, PAName Change
1943NFLSt. Louis RamsCleveland RamsCleveland, OHInactive
1943NFLPhiladelphia EaglesPhil-Pitt "Steagles"Philadelphia, PAMerged Team
1943NFLPittsburgh SteelersPhil-Pitt "Steagles"Philadelphia, PAMerged Team
1944NFLArizona CardinalsCard-Pitt "Carpets"Pittsburgh, PAMerged Team
1944NFLPittsburgh SteelersCard-Pitt "Carpets"Pittsburgh, PAMerged Team
1944NFLBrooklyn Dodgers/TigersBrooklyn TigersNew York, NYName Change
1944NFLBoston YanksBoston YanksBoston, MANew Team
1944NFLSt. Louis RamsCleveland RamsCleveland, OHRejoined the NFL
1945NFLBoston YanksBos/Bkn Yanks/TigersBoston, MAMerged Team
1945NFLBrooklyn Dodgers/TigersBos/Bkn Yanks/TigersBoston, MAMerged Team
1946NFLBrooklyn Dodgers/TigersBrooklyn TigersNew York, NYFolded
1946AAFCBrooklyn DodgersBrooklyn DodgersNew York, NYFounding Member
1946AAFCBuffalo Bisons/BillsBuffalo BisonsBuffalo, NYFounding Member
1946AAFCChicago Rockets/HornetsChicago RocketsChicago, ILFounding Member
1946AAFCCleveland BrownsCleveland BrownsCleveland, OHFounding Member
1946AAFCLos Angeles DonsLos Angeles DonsLos Angeles, CAFounding Member
1946AAFCMiami SeahawksMiami SeahawksMiami, FLFounding Member
1946AAFCNew York YankeesNew York YankeesNew York, NYFounding Member
1946AAFCSan Francisco 49ersSan Francisco 49ersSan Francisco, CAFounding Member
1946NFLSt. Louis RamsLos Angeles RamsLos Angeles, CAMoved
1947AAFCMiami SeahawksMiami SeahawksMiami, FLFolded
1947AAFCBuffalo Bisons/BillsBuffalo BillsBuffalo, NYName Change
1947AAFCBaltimore ColtsBaltimore ColtsBaltimore, MDNew Team
1949NFLBoston YanksBoston YanksBoston, MAFolded
1949AAFCBrooklyn DodgersNY/Bkn Yankees/DodgersNew York, NYMerged Team
1949AAFCNew York YankeesNY/Bkn Yankees/DodgersNew York, NYMerged Team
1949AAFCChicago Rockets/HornetsChicago HornetsChicago, ILName Change
1949NFLNew York Bulldogs/YanksNew York BulldogsNew York, NYNew Team
1950AAFCBrooklyn DodgersBrooklyn DodgersNew York, NYFolded
1950AAFCBuffalo Bisons/BillsBuffalo BillsBuffalo, NYFolded
1950AAFCChicago Rockets/HornetsChicago HornetsChicago, ILFolded
1950AAFCLos Angeles DonsLos Angeles DonsLos Angeles, CAFolded
1950AAFCNew York YankeesNew York YankeesNew York, NYFolded
1950NFLBaltimore ColtsBaltimore ColtsBaltimore, MDJoined the NFL
1950NFLCleveland BrownsCleveland BrownsCleveland, OHJoined the NFL
1950NFLSan Francisco 49ersSan Francisco 49ersSan Francisco, CAJoined the NFL
1950NFLNew York Bulldogs/YanksNew York YanksNew York, NYName Change
1951NFLBaltimore ColtsBaltimore ColtsBaltimore, MDFolded
1952NFLNew York Bulldogs/YanksNew York YanksNew York, NYFolded
1952NFLDallas TexansDallas TexansDallas, TXNew Team
1953NFLDallas TexansDallas TexansDallas, TXFolded
1953NFLIndianapolis ColtsBaltimore ColtsBaltimore, MDNew Team
1960AFLBuffalo BillsBuffalo BillsBuffalo, NYFounding Member
1960AFLDenver BroncosDenver BroncosDenver, COFounding Member
1960AFLKansas City ChiefsDallas TexansDallas, TXFounding Member
1960AFLNew England PatriotsBoston PatriotsBoston, MAFounding Member
1960AFLNew York JetsNew York TitansNew York, NYFounding Member
1960AFLOakland RaidersOakland RaidersSan Francisco, CAFounding Member
1960AFLSan Diego ChargersLos Angeles ChargersLos Angeles, CAFounding Member
1960AFLTennessee TitansHouston OilersHouston, TXFounding Member
1960NFLArizona CardinalsSt. Louis CardinalsSt. Louis, MOMoved
1960NFLDallas CowboysDallas CowboysDallas, TXNew Team
1961AFLSan Diego ChargersSan Diego ChargersSan Diego, CAMoved
1961NFLMinnesota VikingsMinnesota VikingsBloomington, MNNew Team
1962AFLOakland RaidersOakland RaidersOakland, CAMoved
1963AFLKansas City ChiefsKansas City ChiefsKansas City, MOMoved
1963AFLNew York JetsNew York JetsNew York, NYName Change
1966NFLAtlanta FalconsAtlanta FalconsAtlanta, GANew Team
1966AFLMiami DolphinsMiami DolphinsMiami, FLNew Team
1967NFLNew Orleans SaintsNew Orleans SaintsNew Orleans, LANew Team
1968NFLCincinnati BengalsCincinnati BengalsCincinnati, OHNew Team
1969AFLNew England PatriotsBoston PatriotsChestnut Hill, MAMoved
1970NFLBoston PatriotsBoston PatriotsBoston, MAJoined the NFL
1970NFLBuffalo BillsBuffalo BillsBuffalo, NYJoined the NFL
1970NFLCincinnati BengalsCincinnati BengalsCincinnati, OHJoined the NFL
1970NFLDenver BroncosDenver BroncosDenver, COJoined the NFL
1970NFLKansas City ChiefsKansas City ChiefsKansas City, MOJoined the NFL
1970NFLMiami DolphinsMiami DolphinsMiami, FLJoined the NFL
1970NFLNew York JetsNew York JetsNew York, NYJoined the NFL
1970NFLOakland RaidersOakland RaidersOakland, CAJoined the NFL
1970NFLSan Diego ChargersSan Diego ChargersSan Diego, CAJoined the NFL
1970NFLTennessee TitansHouston OilersHouston, TXJoined the NFL
1971NFLDallas CowboysDallas CowboysIrving, TXMoved
1971NFLNew England PatriotsNew England PatriotsFoxborough, MAMoved
1973NFLBuffalo BillsBuffalo BillsOrchard Park, NYMoved
1973NFLNew York GiantsNew York GiantsNew Haven, CTMoved
1975NFLDetroit LionsDetroit LionsPontiac, MIMoved
1975NFLNew York GiantsNew York GiantsNew York, NYMoved
1976NFLNew York GiantsNew York GiantsEast Rutherford, NJMoved
1976NFLSeattle SeahawksSeattle SeahawksSeattle, WANew Team
1976NFLTampa Bay BuccaneersTampa Bay BuccaneersTampa, FLNew Team
1980NFLSt. Louis RamsLos Angeles RamsAnaheim, CAMoved
1982NFLMinnesota VikingsMinnesota VikingsMinneapolis, MNMoved
1982NFLOakland RaidersLos Angeles RaidersLos Angeles, CAMoved
1984NFLIndianapolis ColtsIndianapolis ColtsIndianapolis, INMoved
1984NFLNew York JetsNew York JetsEast Rutherford, NJMoved
1987NFLMiami DolphinsMiami DolphinsMiami Gardens, FLMoved
1988NFLArizona CardinalsPhoenix CardinalsTempe, AZMoved
1994NFLArizona CardinalsArizona CardinalsTempe, AZName Change
1995NFLOakland RaidersOakland RaidersOakland, CAMoved
1995NFLSt. Louis RamsSt. Louis RamsSt. Louis, MOMoved
1995NFLCarolina PanthersCarolina PanthersClemson, SCNew Team
1995NFLJacksonville JaguarsJacksonville JaguarsJacksonville, FLNew Team
1996NFLCleveland BrownsCleveland BrownsCleveland, OHInactive
1996NFLCarolina PanthersCarolina PanthersCharlotte, NCMoved
1996NFLBaltimore RavensBaltimore RavensBaltimore, MDNew Team
1997NFLTennessee TitansTennessee OilersMemphis, TNMoved
1997NFLWashington RedskinsWashington RedskinsLandover, MDMoved
1998NFLTennessee TitansTennessee OilersNashville, TNMoved
1999NFLTennessee TitansTennessee TitansNashville, TNName Change
1999NFLCleveland BrownsCleveland BrownsCleveland, OHRejoined the NFL
2002NFLChicago BearsChicago BearsChampaign, ILMoved
2002NFLDetroit LionsDetroit LionsDetroit, MIMoved
2002NFLHouston TexansHouston TexansHouston, TXNew Team
2003NFLChicago BearsChicago BearsChicago, ILMoved
2005NFLNew Orleans SaintsNew Orleans SaintsBaton Rouge, LAMoved
2006NFLArizona CardinalsArizona CardinalsGlendale, AZMoved
2006NFLNew Orleans SaintsNew Orleans SaintsNew Orleans, LAMoved
2009NFLDallas CowboysDallas CowboysArlington, TXMoved


Sources: Pro-Football-Reference.com, The Pro Football Archives, ColorWerx


  2 Responses to “NFL Chronology”

  1. This is absolutely amazing and you did an excellent job. One mistake that I noticed however is that the Ravens weren’t a “new” team. They moved from Cleveland and changed their name, so I would say that it’s incorrect to say that the Ravens were a “new team” and that the Browns “folded” although the history didn’t move, the ownership, team, and entire staff did.

  2. Thank you for the compliments. It took awhile to put together. I’m not a Flash expert, but I know enough to get around.

    When the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore, they essentially became a new franchise in the eyes of the NFL, the official record. It’s a strange franchise transaction, but not entirely uncommon in the history of the league. I agree with the NFL’s stance on it. The Ravens were a new team. They might have retained the Browns’ players and management, but they didn’t keep the records. I know other people might think differently. Although, I don’t think I’m incorrect and listing the Browns as inactive and the Ravens as a new team (certainly not an expansion one though) in my presentation.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.