January 29, 2008

NFL Thumbnail Histories: The AAFC; the Cleveland Browns; the San Francisco 49ers; and the Baltimore Colts/ Indianapolis Colts.

Click on the image below for my map of NFL, 1920-1960, plus helmets of 49ers and Colts…

The All American Football Conference was formed in 1944, but did not begin play until 1946, due to World War II.  The AAFC had advantages that other competitor-leagues did not.  The AAFC was bankrolled by ownership groups that were, in most cases, wealthier than their NFL counterparts.  And the founder of the league, Arch Ward, was editor of the influential Chicago Tribune newspaper.  This gave the new league much more media attention.  Also, the league began right after a major disruption in the NFL (ie, World War II).


There was one big problem with the AAFC, though.  That was the disparity in team strength.  And while it was true that the Cleveland Browns won all 4 of the AAFC’s Titles, to say they were the only good team would be untrue, as the San Francisco 49ers, the New York (Football) Yankees, and the Buffalo Bills all fielded strong squads.  But aside from the Los Angeles Dons, the other franchises, such as the Chicago Rockets, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the spectacularly unsuccessful Miami Seahawks, held the league back.  In the end, the league’s lack of a draft kept the talent levels static: the Browns dominated to the point of turning the AAFC boring. 

The crowds that Cleveland, San Francisco, Buffalo, and Baltimore drew could not be ignored, though, and the NFL opted for a merger in 1950.  They balked at allowing the Buffalo Bills in, though, citing the city’s small size, and cold weather (and ignoring the fact that Green Bay is smaller and colder).   So the Cleveland Browns, the San Francisco 49ers, and the original Baltimore Colts were given franchises in the NFL.  The Colts lasted only one season (another franchise was formed as the Baltimore Colts three years later(1953)).   The fans in Buffalo had to wait another decade for football, when the town won a franchise in the AFL (of 1960 to 1969).

Thanks to the SSUR, and (

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