The NFL today has changed immensely from when it originated. In todays league, there are 32 teams, 2 conferences, and 6 divisions. At different points of the NFL’s history, franchises have been added to grow the league and its sport globally. This builds the legacy of the league more and more each time. The NFL has been around for over 100 years, so who are the oldest teams in the NFL that are still playing today?
The 5 oldest teams in the NFL consist of the Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, and the Detroit Lions. Arizona and Chicago are the only two teams that were apart of the inaugural season in 1920, and still apart of the league today.
Before we dive into each team individually, let’s briefly take a look at the origination of the NFL. This will give some context to the rich history of these teams in particular.
When Did The NFL Become The National Football League?
In 1920 a league formed in Ohio. This league was the American Professional Football Association (APFA). The APFA would officially become the National Football League (NFL) in 1922. From 1922 on, the NFL has gone through many changes and much evolution.
Through the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s, other rival leagues attempted to combat the NFL. These leagues included three iterations of the American Football League (AFL) and another known as the All-America Football Conference (AAFC).
Now that we’ve covered the origins of the NFL and it’s creation, let’s take a look at the 5 oldest teams in the NFL.
#5 – Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions are number 5 on the oldest teams in the NFL list. Established in 1929, their inaugural season in the NFL took place in 1930. The teams original name was the Portsmouth Spartans from 1930-1933, but in 1934 they became the Detroit Lions that we know today. Detroit’s home field is located in Detroit, Michigan called Ford Field.
Two years after entering the NFL, the then Spartans played in one of the most important games in NFL history. This was a championship game against the Chicago Bears. That game brought three major rule changes to the NFL. Following this, the league was separated into two divisions with a championship game played annually.
Prior to the purchase of the Spartans, there had been several attempts to establish a professional football team in Detroit. Unlike previous teams, the newly formed Lions had some of the best players at that time. Dutch Clark is a good example, as he is one of the best football players in the history of Detroit. He was an early football superstar and the NFL’s last dropkicker.
The Detroit Lions had their best seasons in the 1950s, trying to recapture that greatness ever since. They have 4 NFL Championships in 1935, 1952, 1953 and 1957. They have not been to a championship game since 1957.
#4 – New york Giants
At number 4 on the oldest teams in the NFL list is the New York Giants. Playing their first NFL season in 1925, the New York Giants have never changed cities. The Giants are one of a few teams to do so. Home field for the Giants is located in East Rutherford, New Jersey, called MetLife Stadium.
From the beginning, the New York Giants were a popular team. More than 70,000 people came out to watch the team play during its first season. The Giants were a very strong and skilled team from the beginning, winning their first NFL Championship after just 3 seasons in 1927.
The New York Giants franchise has a strong history of success. The team has won 4 Super Bowls (1986, 1990, 2007, 2011), as well as four NFL Championships (1927, 1934, 1938, 1956).
#3 – Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers were founded in 1919, playing their first NFL season in 1921. The Packers are the third oldest team in the NFL. Like the New York Giants, they are another team that has remained in the same city that the team originated from. Home field for the Packers is Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Even though the Packers did not join the NFL until its second year, the team does have a unique distinction. They are the oldest continuous franchise that has never moved or changed its name.
Earl Curly Lambeau and George Whitney Calhoun founded the Packers. Lambeau was a former football player and became the Packers’ first head coach. The Green Bay Packers’ named their home field in honor of Lambeau. In addition to Lambeau, coach Vince Lombardi is another dominant figure in the Packers’ history. Between the two coaches, the Green Bay Packers won 11 NFL Championships (pre-Super Bowl).
On top of the NFL Championships pre-Super Bowl, the Packers have a rich history of success. They have 20 division titles, 9 conference championships, and 4 Super Bowls. Their Super Bowl victories are from 1966, 1967, 1996, and 2010.
Fun fact, The Green Bay Packers are the only remaining small town NFL team. Also, the only community-owned non-profit organization in the NFL.
Oldest Teams In The NFL #2 – Chicago Bears
The hated rival to the Green Bay Packers, the Chicago Bears are the second oldest team in the NFL. The Bears played their first NFL season back in 1920. The original team named was the Decatur Staleys in 1920. In 1921, they would change and play under the name the Chicago Staleys. The following year in 1922 they switched to the Chicago Bears, who they are today. They play home games in Chicago, Illinois at Soldier Field.
The Bears are just one of two teams that are still around from the NFL’s inaugural season back in 1920. From the start, the Chicago Bears have been one of the most popular and successful franchises in NFL history. The Chicago Bears are still owned today by members of the original ownership, the Halas family.
The Bears had massive success pre-Super Bowl, winning the NFL championship 8 times. Those championships were in 1921, 1932, 1933, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1946, and 1963. They have 1 Super Bowl victory in 1985.
Oldest Teams In The NFL #1 – Arizona cardinals
The oldest team in the NFL, joined by the Chicago Bears for being around at the NFL’s creation, is the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals franchise established themselves in 1898, and joined the NFL in the 1920 inaugural season. Since 1988 the Cardinals have been based in Arizona, but the franchise can be traced back to 1898.
Initially the team was called the Morgan Athletic Club. Years later when the team bought used jerseys from the University of Chicago, team founder Chris O’Brien called the faded color “Cardinal red.” This would result in the name Cardinals, and the jersey color concept that they still use today.
Names that Arizona’s football team has gone by in history are:
- Chicago Cardinals (1920-1943, 1945-1959)
- St. Louis Cardinals (1960-1987)
- Phoenix Cardinals (1988-1993)
- Arizona Cardinals (1994-present)
The Bidwill family first acquired the team in 1932, and still own the franchise today. Under Charles W. Bidwill’s ownership, the Cardinals remained in operation during the Great Depression and World War II. After the end of the war, Bidwill finally put together a winning team. They would go on to win the NFL Championship in 1947.
Since joining the NFL in 1920, the Cardinals have called three different cities home. Those would be Chicago, St. Louis, and Phoenix, on top of Arizona where they currently reside.
The Cardinals franchise’s success can be shown in winning two NFL championships in 1925 and 1947. Along with that they have 1 conference championship in 2008, and 7 division titles.
I hope this article provided you with valuable information. If you are an NFL fanatic like I am, I hope this was of interest for you. The NFL is arguably the most popular sport in North America at the moment, so diving into the deep rich history of the league is fascinating.