National Football League franchise moves and mergers

Throughout the years, a number of teams in the National Football League (NFL) have either moved or merged.

In the early years, the NFL was not stable and teams moved frequently to survive, or were folded only to be resurrected in a different city with the same players and owners. The Great Depression era saw the movement of most surviving small-town NFL teams to the large cities to ensure survival. Franchise mergers were popular during World War II in response to the scarcity of players. Few of these relocations and mergers were accompanied with widespread controversy.

Franchise moves became far more controversial in the late 20th century when a vastly more popular NFL, free from financial instability, allowed many franchises to abandon long-held strongholds for perceived financially greener pastures. Despite a Pete Rozelle promise to Congress not to relocate franchises in return for a law exempting the league from certain aspects of antitrust laws, making possible the AFL–NFL merger, several franchises have relocated in the years since the merger and the passage of the law (Public Law 89-800) which sanctioned it.

While owners invariably cited financial difficulties as the primary factor in such moves, many fans bitterly disputed these contentions, especially in Baltimore, St. Louis, and Cleveland, each of which eventually received teams some years after their original franchises left. However, Los Angeles, the second-largest media market in the United States, did not have an NFL team from 1995 to 2015. The league had started actively promoting a return to Los Angeles no later than 2006,[1] and in January 2016, the NFL gave the St. Louis Rams approval to move back to Los Angeles. A year later, the San Diego Chargers also relocated to the city, while the Oakland Raiders are scheduled to relocate to Las Vegas in 2019 or 2020.

Within the United States, the San Diego–Tijuana market is currently the largest metropolitan area (and only one with over 3 million residents) without an NFL franchise. The only other city to be seriously considered in the country in recent times was San Antonio, Texas, which the Raiders seriously considered as a relocation candidate in 2014 before choosing Las Vegas instead. Speculation on future relocation has mainly been centered around two larger cities outside the United States: Toronto, Canada (q.v. National Football League in Toronto) and London, England, United Kingdom (q.v. Potential London NFL franchise), the latter of which would be the first attempt by one of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada to place a team outside North America.

Additionally, with the increasing suburbanization of the U.S., the building of new stadiums and other team facilities in the suburbs instead of the central city became popular from the 1970s on, though at the turn of the 21st century a reverse shift back to the central city became somewhat evident.

Teams making more significant moves, in chronological order

The NFL considers these continuous franchises that relocated to different metropolitan areas.

The list also includes franchises from the 1960s American Football League that moved during that league's existence. The NFL and AFL agreed to merge in 1966, with the merger taking effect in 1970. All AFL franchises were accepted into the NFL, and the NFL incorporated the AFL's history, records, and statistics.

Quasi-moves: movement of more or less intact teams from one city to another

The NFL considers these separate franchises but there is significant continuity from one to the other

Franchise mergers

Teams moving between cities/boroughs within their metropolitan area, chronologically by team's first such move

Temporary moves, in chronological order

The following are not actually relocations, but temporary moves because these teams' home stadiums were either under construction or otherwise adversely affected:

Ultimate disposition of the 15 charter franchises

By the start of the 1920 APFA season, the nascent National Football League was composed of 15 franchises. Of those teams, only two are still in operation as of 2016 (denoted in bold):

  • Akron Pros: Changed name to Akron Indians in 1926. Permanently suspended operations in 1927.
  • Buffalo All-Americans: Changed name to Buffalo Bisons in 1924, Buffalo Rangers in 1926, and changed back to Buffalo Bisons in 1927 before suspending operations halfway through 1927. Resumed play in 1929, but folded following the season. City is currently represented by the Buffalo Bills, a charter member of the American Football League in 1960.
  • Canton Bulldogs: Cleveland Bulldogs in 1923. Suspended operations in 1924. Resumed play in Canton in 1925. Folded following 1926 season. City is currently represented only by the preseason Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.
  • Chicago Cardinals: Merged with Pittsburgh Steelers for one year in 1944. Returned as an independent team in 1945. Moved to St. Louis in 1960. Moved to Phoenix in 1988. Changed name to Arizona Cardinals in 1994.
  • Chicago Tigers: Folded following 1920 season.
  • Cleveland Tigers: Folded following 1921 season. City is currently represented by the Cleveland Browns.
  • Columbus Panhandles: Changed name to Columbus Tigers in 1923. Folded following 1926 season.
  • Dayton Triangles: Moved to Brooklyn as Brooklyn Dodgers in 1930. Changed name to Brooklyn Tigers in 1944. Merged with Boston Yanks in 1945. Folded after 1945 season. Through multiple successor franchises, the modern Indianapolis Colts can trace their indirect lineage to the Triangles.[5]
  • Decatur Staleys: Moved to Chicago in 1921. Changed name to Chicago Bears in 1922.
  • Detroit Heralds: Changed name to "Tigers" and folded in the middle of the 1921 season, sending its players to Buffalo. City currently represented by the Detroit Lions.
  • Hammond Pros: Folded following 1926 season.
  • Massillon Tigers: Represented at the September 17, 1920, meeting by Ralph Hay but never played in the league and are only counted as a charter member on a technicality.
  • Muncie Flyers: Folded following 1921 season.
  • Rochester Jeffersons: Suspended operations following 1925 season; folded in 1928.
  • Rock Island Independents: Left NFL and became an independent team following 1924 season. Joined first American Football League in 1926, but folded before end of season.

See also


  1. ^ Canadian expansion not on NFL radar, CBC Sports, 2/3/2006
  2. ^ Willis, 2010, p. 323–325.
  3. ^ Peterson, 1997, p. 122.
  4. ^ McDonough, 1994, p. 50.
  5. ^ "HOW TO GET FROM DAYTON TO INDIANAPOLIS BY WAY OF BROOKLYN, BOSTON, NEW YORK, DALLAS, HERSHEY AND BALTI MORE" (PDF). Professional Football Researchers Association. Retrieved 2014-04-17.


  • Official 2005 National Football League Record and Fact Book. New York: Time Inc. Home Entertainment. (2005). ISBN 1-932994-36-X
  • Carroll, Bob; with Gershman, Michael, Neft, David, and Thorn, John (1999). Total Football:The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-270174-6
  • McDonough, Will (1994). 75 Seasons: The Complete Story of the National Football League. Atlanta: Turner Publishing, Inc. ISBN 1-57036-056-1
  • Peterson, Robert W. (1997). Pigskin: The Early Years of Pro Football. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-507607-9
  • Willis, Chris (2010). The Man Who Built the National Football League: Joe F. Carr. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, Inc. ISBN 978-0-8108-7669-9

Card-Pitt was the team created by the temporary merger of two National Football League (NFL) teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chicago Cardinals, during the 1944 season. It was the second such merger for the Steelers, who had combined with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1943 to form the "Steagles". The arrangement was made necessary by the loss of numerous players to World War II military service, and was dissolved upon completion of the season. The war ended before the start of the 1945 season, and both teams resumed normal operations.

Card-Pitt finished with a 0–10 record in the Western Division, which led sportswriters to derisively label the team the "Car-Pitts", or "carpets".

Expansion of major sports leagues in the United States and Canada

The expansion of major sports leagues in the United States and Canada has occurred throughout the twentieth century for all of the major professional sports leagues in those two countries.

List of defunct National Football League franchises

The following is a list and brief history of American football franchises that at one time played in the National Football League (NFL). The NFL was known as the American Professional Football Association (APFA) in 1920 and 1921. Note that the list represents NFL franchises that no longer exist, not franchises/teams that relocated. However, during the 1920s it is hard to tell if some teams changed nicknames from year to year or if each nickname represented a new franchise. It was also not uncommon for two or more teams to have the same nickname during the same season. No NFL franchise has folded since 1952. The Buccaneers, Colts, Cowboys, Giants, Lions, Panthers, and Texans franchises listed on this page are not the current franchises of those names. A defunct team, in this case, refers to a team which has had the rights to have a team returned to the NFL (or league collective at the time). Massillon Tigers attended the meetings in 1920, but never fielded a team in 1920.

Six defunct teams won an APFA/NFL championship: 1920 Akron Pros, 1922 and 1923 Canton Bulldogs, 1924 Cleveland Bulldogs, 1926 Frankford Yellow Jackets and 1928 Providence Steam Roller.

National Football League

The National Football League (NFL) is a professional American football league consisting of 32 teams, divided equally between the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC). The NFL is one of the four major professional sports leagues in North America, and the highest professional level of American football in the world. The NFL's 17-week regular season runs from early September to late December, with each team playing 16 games and having one bye week. Following the conclusion of the regular season, six teams from each conference (four division winners and two wild card teams) advance to the playoffs, a single-elimination tournament culminating in the Super Bowl, which is usually held in the first Sunday in February, and is played between the champions of the NFC and AFC.

The NFL was formed in 1920 as the American Professional Football Association (APFA) before renaming itself the National Football League for the 1922 season. The NFL agreed to merge with the American Football League (AFL) in 1966, and the first Super Bowl was held at the end of that season; the merger was completed in 1970. Today, the NFL has the highest average attendance (67,591) of any professional sports league in the world and is the most popular sports league in the United States. The Super Bowl is among the biggest club sporting events in the world and individual Super Bowl games account for many of the most watched television programs in American history, all occupying the Nielsen's Top 5 tally of the all-time most watched U.S. television broadcasts by 2015. The NFL's executive officer is the commissioner, who has broad authority in governing the league. The players in the league belong to the National Football League Players Association.

The team with the most NFL championships is the Green Bay Packers with thirteen (nine NFL titles before the Super Bowl era, and four Super Bowl championships afterwards); the teams with the most Super Bowl championships are the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers, each with six. The current NFL champions are the New England Patriots, who defeated the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII for their sixth Super Bowl championship.

Oakland Raiders relocation to Las Vegas

The Oakland Raiders relocation to Las Vegas is a successful effort by Mark Davis, the owner of the Oakland Raiders, to relocate the American football club from its current and longtime home of Oakland, California to Paradise, Nevada.

The team is scheduled to begin playing its home games at the Las Vegas Stadium as the Las Vegas Raiders for the 2020 National Football League (NFL) season. NFL team owners voted 31–1 to approve the move, which was announced at the annual league meetings in Phoenix, Arizona on March 27, 2017.The Raiders became the third NFL franchise to relocate in the 2010s, following the Rams' move from St. Louis, Missouri to Los Angeles, California on January 12, 2016, and the Chargers' move from San Diego, California to Carson, California on January 12, 2017. The Raiders' move to Las Vegas comes after years of failed efforts to renovate or replace the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum, which has been consistently rated as one of the worst stadiums in the NFL.


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