The 1931 NFL season was the 12th regular season of the National Football League. The league decreased to 10 teams due to financial hardships caused by the Great Depression. While the Cleveland Indians joined as an expansion team, the league lost the Minneapolis Red Jackets and the Newark Tornadoes. Even the Frankford Yellow Jackets had to fold midway through the season.
Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers were named the NFL champions for the third consecutive time after they finished the season with the best record.
|1931 National Football League season|
|Duration||September 13 – December 13, 1931|
|Champions||Green Bay Packers|
The two best teams in 1931, the Green Bay Packers and the Portsmouth Spartans, did not face each other that season. The Spartans would later become the Detroit Lions, and face the Packers regularly, but not in their 14 games in '31. Green Bay and Portsmouth were both unbeaten at 7–0–0 after seven weeks of play. In Week Eight, however, the Spartans played two games on the weekend of October 31. After defeating Frankford 14–0, Portsmouth travelled to New York's Polo Grounds to face the Giants. A crowd of 32,500 watched the Spartans lose, 14–0. In Chicago, the Packers beat the Bears, 6–2. The next week, Portsmouth lost again. When the Packers were finally beaten in Week Ten, losing 21–13 to the Cardinals and falling to 9–1–0, Portsmouth was at 10–2–0. In Week Eleven, Portsmouth had a "must win" game against the Cardinals, and was trailing 13–7 at halftime. Dutch Clark scored a touchdown, but Glenn Presnell's conversion attempt failed, leaving the score at 13–13. After the Cards went up 20–13, even a tying score would have left the Spartans in second place, but Portsmouth lost 20–19. The same day, Green Bay won at New York, 14–10, and also won on Thanksgiving (38–7 at Providence). On November 29, Green Bay registered its 12th win, 7–0 at Brooklyn, to clinch the title, meaning a 7–6 loss to the Bears the next week was immaterial.
|Green Bay Packers||12||2||0||.857||291||87||L1|
|New York Giants||7||6||1||.538||154||100||W2|
|Providence Steam Roller||4||4||3||.500||78||127||T1|
|Staten Island Stapletons||4||6||1||.400||79||118||W2|
|Frankford Yellow Jackets||1||6||1||.143||13||99||L2|
Note: Tie games were not officially counted in the standings until 1972.
The 1931 All-Pro Team consisted of American football players chosen by various selectors for the All-Pro team of the National Football League (NFL) for the 1931 NFL season. Teams were selected by, among others, the Green Bay Press-Gazette based on the returns of ballots sent to each club in the league as well as sports writers and officials, the United Press (UP), and Collyer's Eye (CE).Players displayed in bold were consensus first-team selections. Four players were unanimously selected for the first team by all three selectors: Portsmouth Spartans quarterback Dutch Clark; Chicago Bears halfback Red Grange; Chicago Cardinals fullback Ernie Nevers; and New York Giants guard Butch Gibson.Deck Shelley
'Dexter "Deck" Shelley (June 4, 1906 – December 17, 1968) was born and raised in San Antonio. He was recruited to play high school football in Dallas for the Terrill School, a forerunner of St. Mark's School of Texas. He went on to become an all conference running back for the University of Texas. During the 1929 edition of the rivalry game between Texas and the University of Oklahoma, Shelley recovered an early fumble on defense and then scored a rushing touchdown to catalyze
the victory.Frank Baker (American football)
Frank Louis Baker (July 23, 1909 – September 14, 1985) was an American football player in the National Football League.Milt Gantenbein
Milton Edward Gantenbein (May 31, 1910 – December 18, 1988) was an American football player who played on three championship teams, as an end and as a defensive end for the Green Bay Packers from 1931 to 1940.
The former University of Wisconsin–Madison standout was a member of three National Football League (NFL) championship teams under head coach Curly Lambeau. In 1931, his rookie year, the sure-handed Gantenbein was the perfect complement to deep-threat Laverne Dilweg in Lambeau's pass-oriented offense and was a solid addition at defensive end. Green Bay's defense limited opponents to 87 points and had five shutouts, while the Packer offense compiled 291 points in fashioning a 12-2 record and winning a third league championship title in the 1931 NFL season. Gantenbein continued as a two-way starter for the next three seasons, playing in the shadow of Dilweg and John McNally.
In the 1936 NFL season, Don Hutson and Gantenbein were the main targets in the Packers' record-setting passing attack, with 34 and 15 catches respectively. The duo was also instrumental in Green Bay's 21-6 victory over the Boston Redskins in the 1936 NFL Championship Game . Gantenbein iced the game with an 8-yard touchdown reception from Arnie Herber in the third quarter.
Gantenbein was named a team captain for the 1937 squad, and he again was a stalwart in the defensive line and the team's second leading receiver with 12 catches for 237 yards (19.8 yard average) and two touchdowns. In the 1937 NFL season, Green Bay slipped to 7–4. In the 1938 NFL season, the team had an 8-3 record and made it to the 1938 NFL Championship Game, where the Packers lost 23–17 to the Giants in New York.
In the 1939 NFL season, the Green Bay Packers struggled at times but posted a 9–2 record to gain a rematch with the New York Giants for the league title in the 1939 NFL Championship Game. This time the game was played on Wisconsin soil, and Gantenbein opened the scoring with a 7-yard touchdown reception from Arnie Herber. It would be all the points the Packers needed on a cold and windy afternoon at Wisconsin State Fair Park in Milwaukee, as they crushed the Giants, 27–0.
He was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1972 and finished his career with three NFL championships, 77 receptions, 1,299 yards and eight touchdowns. Milt played in 103 regular-season games as a Packer.
With his playing days behind him, Gantenbein went on to coach football at Manhattan College in New York for several years.Ray Jennison
Raymond Ellis Jennison (January 19, 1910 – May 13, 1990) was a player in the National Football League. He played offensive line with the Green Bay Packers during the 1931 NFL season.Russ Saunders
Stebbell Russell "Russ" Saunders was a fullback in the National Football League. He played with the Green Bay Packers during the 1931 NFL season.He was an All-American at USC and was one of the models for the Tommy Trojan statue. He was MVP in the 1930 Rose Bowl when he led the Trojans to a 47–14 victory over the Pittsburgh Panthers.
After playing football, Saunders went on to a career in Hollywood. He was one of 11 All-American football players to appear in the 1930 film Maybe It's Love. In 1938 he was nominated for an Oscar for best Assistant Director for The Life of Emile Zola. He was assistant or Second Unit director on more than 85 films including PT 109, Hatari!, Arsenic and Old Lace, High Sierra and production manager for Stripes, The Amityville Horror and Bonnie and Clyde among others. His first screen appearance was in the 1927 movie The Drop Kick in which the 1927 USC team appeared. In that film, Russ appeared along with John Wayne—a teammate from the USC team—and worked on many of Wayne's movies over the following decades.Waldo Don Carlos
Waldo Emerson Don Carlos (October 16, 1909 – June 18, 1997) was a center in the National Football League.
1931 NFL season