Monday, August 11, 2014

History of the Jacksonville Jaguars

Following a series of attempts to secure an NFL team, the city of Jacksonville finally prevailed in 1993. Shortly after the Carolina Panthers came into existence, the league granted expansion rights for another franchise to a group led by Wayne Weaver, to begin play as the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1995. Current owner Shahid Khan purchased the team from Weaver in 2012. From the beginning, the Jaguars have played their home games in what is now called EverBank Field.

On the field, the Jaguars enjoyed more success early than they have lately. Spurred by the hiring of head coach Tom Coughlin, they pulled off huge upsets over the Buffalo Bills and the Denver Broncos in only their second season to reach the AFC Championship Game, only to fall to the New England Patriots, 20-6. Three seasons later, they would again reach the AFC Championship Game, losing to the Tennessee Titans, 33-14, but have won only one playoff game since then. The team entered a new era in 2013 under new leadership with general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley.

There are not yet any players represented as Jacksonville Jaguars in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Sources: profootballhof.com, and wikipedia.org

Friday, August 8, 2014

History of the Carolina Panthers

After a 19-year pause, the NFL once again expanded by two more teams. Former NFL player Jerry Richardson, who still controls the franchise, purchased the rights to start one of the teams for the Carolinas, to begin play in 1995. The Panthers play their home games in Bank of America Stadium.

On the field, the Panthers enjoyed more success in the early years than any expansion team before it. After posting a competitive 7-9 record under head coach Dom Capers, they reached the NFC Championship Game and were defeated by the Green Bay Packers, 30-13, in only their second season. The team struggled though until 2002, when John Fox was hired as head coach and they went all the way to Super Bowl 38 in his second season, losing to the New England Patriots in a classic game, 32-29. The Carolina organization rebooted in 2011, hiring head coach Ron Rivera and drafting quarterback Cam Newton. Last season, they finished 12-4 but were not able to get past the divisional round.

There are not yet any players represented as Carolina Panthers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Sources: profootballhof.com, and wikipedia.org

Thursday, August 7, 2014

History of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Along with Seattle, the Tampa Bay area was awarded a franchise by the NFL in 1974 to complete the expansion to 28 teams. The Buccaneers were purchased by Hugh Culverhouse, whose death in 1994 led to the sale of the team. Malcolm Glazer outbid New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, paying $192 million for the franchise, and putting his family, still the current ownership entity, in charge of financial operations. The team played its home games in Tampa Stadium until 1998, when their current home, Raymond James Stadium, was built.

On the field, the Buccaneers endured an NFL-record 26 consecutive losses out of the gate. In fact, except for a blip in 1979, when, led by quarterback Doug Williams and an outstanding defense, they reached the NFC Championship Game and were shutout by the Los Angeles Rams, 9-0, the Buccaneers mostly suffered through losing seasons until the Glazer family took control. The team got more used to winning with the entrance of head coach Tony Dungy in 1996 as well as a change in uniform design, but they did not get over the playoff hump until Dungy was replaced with Jon Gruden, who the Buccaneers received from the Oakland Raiders by trading draft picks and cash, in 2002. Ironically, in Gruden’s first season, he would then lead the Bucs to a victory over his former team, the Raiders, 48-21, in Super Bowl 37. Fast forward to the 2014 season, with the team bringing back Lovie Smith, who had served as linebackers coach under Dungy, to become the next head coach.

Fittingly, all of the members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who spent most of their careers with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are defensive players, namely Lee Roy Selmon (defensive end), Warren Sapp (defensive tackle), and Derrick Brooks (linebacker).

Sources: profootballhof.com, and wikipedia.org

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

History of the Seattle Seahawks

In 1974, looking to expand after the AFL-NFL merger, the league granted a franchise to Seattle, a city which had already began the construction of the Kingdome. Purchased by the Nordstrom family, the Seahawks would start play two years later. The team was initially built through an expansion draft, drawing unprotected players from the other 26 teams in the league at the time, as well as the annual NFL Draft. Ownership passed to Ken Behring in 1988, then the current owner Paul Allen, co-creator of Microsoft, would buy the franchise in 1997. After calling the Kingdome their home for most of their history, the Seahawks would move into what is now called CenturyLink Field in 2002.

On the field, as expected, the Seahawks struggled in the early years to win games but broke through to reach the playoffs in the 1983 season after bringing in Chuck Knox as head coach. They surprised the Denver Broncos and the Miami Dolphins on their way to losing the AFC Championship Game to the Oakland Raiders, 30-14. After their first division title in 1988, the team would have a dry spell until Allen entered and in 1999 hired head coach Mike Holmgren, who had led the Green Bay Packers to a championship earlier in the decade. The Seahawks would go 13-3 in 2005 but lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 21-10, in Super Bowl 40. Five seasons later, the reigns were turned over to head coach Pete Carroll, who brought in running back Marshawn Lynch, drafted quarterback Russell Wilson, and built a smothering defense. The team reached the pinnacle last season with a 43-8 beatdown of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 48.

Notable Seattle Seahawks players who are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame include Steve Largent (wide receiver), Cortez Kennedy (defensive tackle), and Walter Jones (tackle).

Sources: profootballhof.com, and wikipedia.org

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

History of the Cincinnati Bengals

In 1967, The Cincinnati Bengals became the final franchise awarded by the AFL when Paul Brown, former head coach of the Cleveland Browns, led the group that purchased it. Their nickname was inspired by a short-lived team that played in the city during the 1930s. Brown would also serve as head coach for their first 8 seasons and then continue as general manager until his death in 1991. His son Mike then took over as owner and still currently serves in that role. The Bengals played their home games in Nippert Stadium until 1970, when Riverfront Stadium, which they shared with the Cincinnati Reds, was built. In 2000, they moved into their own home, named Paul Brown Stadium after the team’s legendary founder.

On the field, the Bengals enjoyed some success while Paul Brown was head coach then later in the 1980s. Behind quarterback Ken Anderson, they defeated the San Diego Chargers, 27-7, in the 1981 AFC Championship Game, one of the coldest games ever played, to reach Super Bowl 16, falling to the San Francisco 49ers, 26-21. Seven years later, led by head coach Sam Wyche and quarterback Boomer Esiason, they returned to the ultimate game but lost again to the 49ers, 20-16, in Super Bowl 23. After Paul Brown’s death in 1991, the team struggled to find their winning ways again for over a decade. With a fresh start in 2003 under head coach Marvin Lewis and quarterback Carson Palmer, the team returned to the playoffs in 2005 yet have failed to win a playoff game since the 1990 season.

Anthony Munoz (tackle), who spent his entire career with the Cincinnati Bengals, joins Paul Brown as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Sources: profootballhof.com, and wikipedia.org

Monday, August 4, 2014

History of the New Orleans Saints

The city of New Orleans was granted a franchise by the NFL on All Saints Day in 1966, with John Mecom Jr becoming the majority owner. Starting play in 1967, large crowds have characterized the Saints history. Current owner Tom Benson purchased the team in 1985. The Saints played their home games in Tulane Stadium until 1975, when they moved into the Louisiana Superdome, now known as the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The 2005 season was marred by Hurricane Katrina, preventing the Saints from playing any home games in New Orleans. The Superdome was renovated in time for the start of the 2006 season.

On the field, losses also characterized the Saints until the arrival of Benson, who brought in Jim Finks as general manager and Jim Mora as head coach. As a tandem, they were unable to win a playoff game during their tenure so Benson then turned to head coach Mike Ditka, who infamously traded all of the New Orleans draft picks away in 1999 to acquire running back Ricky Williams, then proceeded to go 3-13. The hiring of head coach Jim Haslett finally led to a playoff win in his first season but Haslett was released after the 2005 season. With a fresh start in 2006 under head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees, the team reached the NFC Championship Game, losing to the Chicago Bears, 39-14. After 2 subpar seasons, they rebounded to go 13-3 in 2009 and defeat the Indianapolis Colts, 31-17, in Super Bowl 44. The Saints have continued to be contenders every season since, with the exception of 2012, when they went 7-9 after allegations of bounty payments by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams led to his indefinite suspension as well as Payton being suspended for the entire season.

In addition to Finks, players inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as Saints include Rickey Jackson (linebacker) and Willie Roaf (tackle).

Sources: profootballhof.com, and wikipedia.org

Friday, August 1, 2014

History of the Miami Dolphins

In 1966, the Miami franchise was founded by Joe Robbie along with well-known celebrity Danny Thomas. The Dolphins became the ninth franchise awarded by the AFL. Wayne Huizenga became the owner in 1994, 5 years after Robbie’s death, then sold the franchise to Stephen Ross, who is now the majority owner, in 2008. In the early years, the Dolphins played their home games in the Orange Bowl until 1987, when they moved into what is now called Sun Life Stadium.

On the field, the Dolphins did not have to endure many years of mediocrity before enjoying success. When Don Shula arrived as head coach in 1970, a tradition of winning seasons began. In his second season, with quarterback Bob Griese, running back Larry Czonka, and wide receivers like Paul Warfield, they would reach Super Bowl 6, losing to the Dallas Cowboys, 24-3. The loss would be the impetus for the following season, when the team went undefeated, capped off by a 14-7 victory over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl 7. The next season they would repeat, downing the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl 8, 24-7. They would not return to the Super Bowl until the 1980s, losing 27-17 to the Redskins in Super Bowl 17, then 38-16 to the San Francisco 49ers two years later, quarterback Dan Marino’s rookie season.

Shula, Griese, Czonka, Warfield, and Marino are joined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame by Dolphins greats Jim Langer (center), Larry Little (guard), Dwight Stephenson (center), and Nick Buoniconti (linebacker).

Sources: profootballhof.com, and wikipedia.org

Thursday, July 31, 2014

History of the Atlanta Falcons

The city of Atlanta finally got the professional football team they had been coveting when the NFL awarded a franchise to Rankin Smith in 1966. Ownership passed to the current owner Arthur Blank in 2002. The Falcons played their home games in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium from their inception until 1992, when they moved into the Georgia Dome. New Atlanta Stadium is now under construction and it is expected that play will begin there in 2017.

On the field, the team had a meager beginning, not reaching the playoffs until 1978. Over the next few seasons, they failed to get past the divisional round, losing twice to the Dallas Cowboys. Their best season came in 1998 under head coach Dan Reeves, quarterback Chris Chandler, and running back Jamal Anderson. They compiled a 14-2 record and upset the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game in overtime, 30-27, after kicker Gary Anderson missed his first field goal of the season late in regulation that would have won the game for the Vikings. After the Falcons enjoyed some success with quarterback Michael Vick in the early 2000s, they started fresh in 2008 with the hiring of general manager Thomas Dimitroff, head coach Mike Smith, and the drafting of quarterback Matt Ryan. They achieved successive winning seasons until 2013, when their record was a disappointing 4-12, but look to turn things around in 2014.

The Atlanta Falcons list of Pro Football Hall of Famers is short but includes Deion Sanders (cornerback), and Claude Humphrey (defensive end).

Sources: profootballhof.com, and wikipedia.org