In 1946 the NFL champion (from 1945) Cleveland Rams moved to Los Angeles. The All-American Football Conference was formed, and the Cleveland Browns became the instant powerhouse of the league. The mighty Bears won the NFL title. A new rule said that if a pass hit the goal post it was automatically incomplete, even if a player caught it before it hit the ground.
The New York Yankees lost in 1947 -- the football Yankees, that is. The Cleveland Browns squashed them 14-3 and took home their second AAFC title. In 1948 the Browns went 14-0 during the regular season and won the championship game, 49-7, over the Buffalo Bills. In 1949 it was more of the same, with the Browns copping the AAFC title with a 21-7 win over the 49ers. The following year the Browns, San Francisco and Baltimore joined the NFL.
Meanwhile, back in the NFL, the Cardinals won the 1947 title, while the Eagles won it in '48 and '49 without giving up a single point in either championship game! Rule changes in those three years outlawed plastic helmets, allowed free substitution (1949) and added a fifth official.
In 1950 the great Curly Lambeau resigned as head coach of the Green Bay Packers. Why? Disgruntled fans! Titletown wasn't winning any titles and Curly was feeling the pressure. In their first NFL game the Browns defeated the twice-champion Eagles, 35-10. The Los Angeles Rams' games were televised (both home and on the road) and the Rams made it to the NFL championship game, where they lost to -- who else? -- the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns actually lose a big game!
The Cleveland Browns made it to the championship game in 1951 but lost to the LA Rams, 24-17. The game was televised coast-to-coast for the first time. A new rule made it illegal for the center, guards or tackles to catch a forward pass.
In 1952 The New York Yankees became the Dallas Texans, then folded in mid-season. To finish out the year the team played its entire remaining schedule on the road. The Lions feasted on the Browns for the NFL title.
The NFL practice of blacking out home games ended up in court, but the NFL's policy was upheld. The old Dallas franchise, or what was left of it, became the Baltimore Colts. The 1953 title went to the Lions again, as they edged the Browns, 17-16.
In 1954 the Cleveland Browns got sweet revenge as they obliterated the Detroit Lions for the title, 56-10. In 1955 the Cleveland quarterback, Otto Graham, played his last game as he led the Browns to another NFL title, 38-14, over the Rams. In his ten years, Graham, a former All-American in basketball, quarterbacked the Browns to ten championship games and seven titles.
The fabulous '50s roll on.
In 1956 the Giants hunted down the Bears, 47-7, for the NFL title. The following season Detroit killed Cleveland, 59-14, for the crown. In 1958 the great Jim Brown rushed for an at-the-time NFL-record 1.527 yards. The title game went to overtime, with Baltimore prevailing over the Giants, 23-17. Many fans still regard that game as the greatest of all time.
Vince Lombardi was named head coach of the Green Bay Packers in 1959. Lamar Hunt formed the newest version of American Football League. The eight-team AFL held its first draft in November in preparation for the 1960 season. The Colts defeated the Giants once again for the NFL title.
The AFL, the Packers and the first Super Bowl.
The AFL started play but only 21,597 showed up for the first regular-season game. Innovations by the AFL included the option to run or pass the ball for a two-point conversion following a touchdown.
Pete Rozelle was elected as the new commissioner of the NFL. The Chicago Cardinals moved to St. Louis. The Eagles defeated the Packers for the NFL title in 1960, 17-13.
The 1960 AFL title game was actually played in 1961, with the Houston Oilers copping the title over the LA Chargers. The Chargers were then moved to San Diego.
Canton, Ohio (remember those Bulldogs?) was chosen as the site for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Houston defeated the Chargers again for the AFL title while the Packers obliterated the Giants, 37-0, for the NFL title.
In 1962 the AFL title went to the Dallas Texans in an overtime win over the Oilers, 20-17. In a bizarre twist, the Texans won the toss in overtime and ended up kicking off with the wind in their face. The Packers won the NFL title again.
In 1963 Paul Hornung and Alex Karras were suspended from football for placing bets on games. The Dallas Texans became the Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Titans became the New York Jets. Jim Brown set another NFL rushing record for a season, this time with 1,863 yards. The Bears won their sixth and last title under George Halas with a 14-10 win over the Giants and a bloodied Y.A. Tittle. The Chargers smoked the Patriots in the AFL championship, 51-10.
Horning and Karras were reinstated in 1964. The Cleveland Browns defeated Baltimore for the NFL championship while Buffalo beat San Diego in the AFL. Pete Gogolak became the first soccer-style kicker in pro football.
In 1965 the Packers defeated the Browns for the NFL title and the Bills defeated the Chargers for the AFL title. The 1966 season finally brought what everyone was waiting for -- the first Super Bowl. The game was played on January 16, 1967 and was called the "AFL-NFL World Championship Game."
What happened? Find out in two weeks with Part IV of Turning Pro!
If you missed Part II of this article series, please click here.