In this article, I explore the history of the five oldest teams in the NFL; delving into each franchise, when they were formed, where they are based, stand-out championship moments and taking a look at the players that have made them what they are.
Established in Chicago as the Morgan Athletic Club in 1898, the franchise joined the NFL as a charter member in 1920 – making them the oldest NFL team. The team relocated to St. Louis in 1960 and played there for 27 years.
They were known mainly as the “Football Cardinals” or “Big Red” – since the Major League Baseball team in the city was also named the Cardinals.
Before the 1988 season, the franchise moved to Tempe, Arizona and played at Sun Devil Stadium. Since the 2006 season, the Arizona Cardinals have played their home games in Glendale while the training facility remains in Tempe.
The first title in the National Football League franchise history was in 1925 over the Pottsville Maroons, and the second came more than two decades later, in 1947. The opportunity for back-to-back championships eluded them after falling to the Philadelphia Eagles, 7-0 in 1948.
After winning their second title, the Arizona Cardinals have struggled mightily, having gone 75 seasons without a title, marking the longest period between championships in North American sports. The Cardinals hold the distinction of being the first NFL franchise to lose 700 games, with an all-time regular season record well below .500 at 581-790-41.
Of their 11 playoff teams, the Cardinals won seven games, but three of those were during their only NFC Championship season of 2008. They came within four points of winning Super Bowl XLIII, falling to the Steelers 27-23. The franchise has won five division titles since their championship appearance in 1948.
Despite the championship drought, the Cardinals are the only NFL team with a perfect home record in the playoffs, winning all five games. They have won three division titles since relocating to Arizona 35 years ago.
Hall of fame members from the oldest NFL team includes Charles Bidwell, Jimmy Conzelman, John Driscoll, Dick Lane, Ollie Matson, Ernie Nevers, Charley Trippi, Larry Wilson, Dan Dierdorf, Roger Wherli, Aeneas Williams, and Kurt Warner.
Green Bay Packers
One of the founding teams of the NFL, the Green Bay Packers were established in 1919 (making them the 2nd oldest NFL team) and has the distinction of being the only non-profit, community-owned major pro sports NFL football team in the USA.
The Packers played against other semi-professional teams in 1919 and 1920 before joining the American Professional Football Association (APFA) in 1921. The Packers’ home games have been played at Lambeau Field since 1957, and they hold the record for most wins of any NFL franchise.
Other franchise accolades include 13 league titles, with nine pre-Super Bowl era. They also won the first two Super Bowls under coach Vince Lombardi. After Lombardi retired, the franchise hit a down period in the NFL championship through most of the 1970s and 1980s.
The team rebounded in the 1990s with Brett Favre at quarterback and has made the playoffs 22 times since 1993. Super Bowl titles came with Favre and then Aaron Rodgers as the quarterback in 1996 and 2010, respectively.
The Green Bay Packers’ .571 winning percentage and 826 regular season wins are the most in NFL championship history.
Notable players that have worn a Packers’ uniform are Hall of Famers Tony Canadeo, Brett Favre, Don Hutson, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, and Reggie White. A total of 24 members of the Packers Wall of Fame are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Bears were founded on September 20, 1920, in Decatur, Illinois, which makes them one of the oldest NFL teams. The Chicago Bears moved to Chicago the following year. The team played at Wrigley Field until 1970 when they moved to Soldier Field, located next to Lake Michigan.
The team headquarters is located at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, a suburb of Chicago. The Bears practice at a facility next to the headquarters during the season. The team plays in the NFC North Division and has long-standing rivalries with the Packers, Detroit Lions, and Minnesota Vikings.
The Chicago Bears won their first of nine league championships in 1921; eight of their titles came before the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. Their lone Super Bowl victory followed the 1985 season when they went 15-1 and had one of the most dominant defences in NFL championship history.
The franchise holds the record for most retired jersey numbers, most members in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the second-most all-time wins.
Among those in the Hall of Fame that wore a Bears’ uniform include Sid Luckman, Bronko Nagurski, Walter Payton, Mike Ditka, Richard Dent, Dan Hampton, Dick Butkus, and Gale Sayers.
New York Giants
The Giants are the only franchise still in the NFL that joined the professional football league in 1925 – qualifying them as the 4th oldest NFL team.
They were known as the “New York National League Football Company, Inc” from 1929 to 1937 to distinguish themselves from the MLB team with the same name.
The New York Giants have taken on several nicknames over the years, including “G-Mean” and “Big Blue”, among others. Their defensive unit of the 1980s, led by Lawrence Taylor, was often called the “Big Blue Wrecking Crew.”
The Giants are located in the New York metropolitan area and play in the NFC East Division. They host their home games at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. While rivals with the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Commanders, the Giants’ biggest rivalry is with the Philadelphia Eagles – who they have been playing since 1933.
The New York Giants have eight NFL championships, with four before the AFL-NFL merger and four Super Bowl championships. They rank third among all NFL franchises in titles, and their 19 championship appearances are the third most in NFL history.
Four Giants players have won the league Most Valuable Player (MVP) title – Mel Hein, Frank Gifford, Y.A. Tittle, and Lawrence Taylor.
Notable 29 Hall of Famers in franchise history include Harry Carson, Frank Gifford, Sam Huff, head coach Bill Parcells, Michael Strahan, Lawrence Taylor, Y.A. Tittle, and executive George Young.
Founded in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Portsmouth Spartans and joined the NFL in 1930. The franchise relocated to Detroit in 1934 and was renamed in reference to the city’s MLB team, the Detroit Tigers.
The Detroit Lions found early success, winning their first title in 1935. They added three more in 1952, 1953, and 1957 seasons – before the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. Sadly, the franchise has had little success since, winning only one playoff game in 1991. In fact, they have the longest streak in the National Football League without a playoff win.
The Lions’ ineptitude includes being one of only four NFL teams to never play in the Super Bowl and the only one that has been around the entire Super Bowl era not to play in the big game.
The Lions compete in the NFC North division and have long-standing rivalries with the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, and Minnesota Vikings.
Despite many years of futility, 15 players that wore the Detroit Lions’ uniform have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Those players are Lem Barney, Jack Christiansen, Dutch Clark, Lou Creekmur, Alex Karras, Dick Lane, Yale Lary, Bobby Layne, Dick LeBeau, Barry Sanders, Charlie Sanders, Joe Schmidt, Dick Stanfel, Doak Walker, and Alex Wojciechowicz.
Oldest Teams In The NFL
|NFL Team||Year Formed|
|#1 Arizona Cardinals||1898|
|#2 Green Bay Packers||1919|
|#3 Chicago Bears||1920|
|#4 New York Giants||1925|
|#5 Detroit Lions||1930|