Wednesday, July 23, 2014

History of the New England Patriots

In November of 1959, Billy Sullivan Jr secured the eighth and final initial franchise awarded by the American Football League for his native city of Boston. Local fans suggested the Patriots name more than any other and so it was the nickname ultimately chosen. In 1971, the full name was changed to the New England Patriots. The Sullivan family would own the team until 1988, when it was purchased by Victor Kiam, the owner of Remington Products. Four years later, he sold the team to James Orthwein, who then resold it to the current owner Robert Kraft in 1994. During the AFL years, they struggled to find a permanent place for their home games, temporarily playing in Fenway Park before finally settling into Foxboro Stadium in 1971. Gillette Stadium was constructed in 2002 and is now their current home.

On the field, the Boston Patriots would reach only one AFL Championship Game, in 1963, but were thrashed by the San Diego Chargers, 51-10. After the AFL-NFL merger, they were placed in the AFC East division, where they still remain. They finally made it to another championship game, earning a spot in Super Bowl 20 under head coach Raymond Berry, but were blown out by the Chicago Bears, 46-10. Bill Parcells, who had gained success with the New York Giants, was hired as the head coach in 1993, and eventually led the team to a birth in Super Bowl 31, where they were knocked off by the Green Bay Packers, 35-21. It wasn’t until 2000, when Bill Belichick was brought in as head coach, that the Patriots were able to win a championship, claiming victories in Super Bowls 36, 37, & 39, guided by quarterback Tom Brady. Unfortunately, their undefeated season in 2007 culminated with a 17-14 loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl 42. They suffered the same outcome when they faced the Giants in Super Bowl 46, falling 21-17. Under the leadership of Kraft, Belichick, & Brady, the team still remains a perennial contender.

Along with Sullivan, longtime Patriots John Hannah (guard) and Andre Tippett (linebacker) are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

History of the Kansas City Chiefs

Lamar Hunt had a profound effect on the history of professional football, creating the American Football League and assembling its first team, the Dallas Texans, in 1960. He quickly brought in Hank Stram as its first head coach. Three years later, he moved the franchise to Kansas City and changed its nickname to the Chiefs. Later in the decade, he was instrumental in forcing the merger of the AFL with the NFL. After he passed away in 2006, his son Clark took over ownership of the team. While in Dallas, they played their home games in the Cotton Bowl. Municipal Stadium became home after the relocation to Kansas City until Arrowhead Stadium was constructed in 1972.

On the field, the Chiefs rivaled the Oakland Raiders as the best team during the period that the AFL existed. They had the distinction of playing in the first ever World Championship Game between the two leagues, later to be called the Super Bowl. They fell to the Green Bay Packers, 35-10, but would rebound to knock off the heavily favored champions of the NFL, the Minnesota Vikings, in Super Bowl 4 with a 23-7 upset, led by quarterback Len Dawson. After the 1988 season, when Carl Peterson became the general manager, the team returned to success under head coaches such as Marty Schottenheimer, Dick Vermeil, and Herm Edwards. Although they signed legendary players such as Joe Montana, Warren Moon, and Marcus Allen late in their careers, they have never returned to the Super Bowl. Hope is high again as former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid was hired after the 2012 season to take over a team that was 2-14 and immediately made them contenders again. The team brought quarterback Alex Smith on board and started the 2013 season by winning their first 9 games and then making the playoffs.

Hunt, Stram, and Dawson are joined as Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees by other Chiefs greats like Emmitt Thomas (cornerback), Buck Buchanan (defensive tackle), Willie Lanier (linebacker), Jan Stenerud (kicker), and Derrick Thomas (linebacker).

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Monday, July 21, 2014

History of the Denver Broncos

When Bob Howsam, a minor league baseball team owner, was awarded a franchise for Denver, the Broncos became a charter member of the American Football League that began play in 1960. After ownership changed hands a couple of times, current owner Pat Bowlen took over the team in 1984. From their inception, they played home games in Mile High Stadium until 2001, when they moved into what is now named Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

On the field, past winning the very first AFL game ever, the Broncos were the worst team record-wise of any the AFL franchises in the 10 seasons of its existence. After the merger with the NFL in 1970, things turned around in 1972 with the hiring of head coach John Ralston. Denver strung together several winning seasons which then culminated in an appearance in Super Bowl 12, a 27-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. It would be almost 10 years before the team would return to the Super Bowl, this time led by quarterback John Elway. Unfortunately, it was not a pleasant experience as the final scores of the losses in Super Bowls 21, 22, and 24 got progressively worse. Then, when Mike Shanahan was hired as head coach in 1995, they were finally able to get over the top, sparked by the performance of running back Terrell Davis. After a devastating playoff upset at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Denver rebounded the following season to reach Super Bowl 32 and knock off the defending champion Green Bay Packers, 31-24. The next season, they were dominant and triumphed in Super Bowl 33 over the Atlanta Falcons, 34-19. Elway retired after the season but has now returned to the organization as its Executive Vice President of Football Operations in 2011 and subsequently hired John Fox as the head coach. Then, prior to the 2012 season, the Broncos signed quarterback Peyton Manning after he was released by the Indianapolis Colts. He led them to a birth in Super Bowl 48, falling to the Seattle Seahawks, 43-8.

Elway is joined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame by Floyd Little (running back), Shannon Sharpe (tight end), and Gary Zimmerman (tackle).

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Friday, July 18, 2014

History of the Buffalo Bills

And then came the American Football League. We will proceed through the teams of this historic organization in alphabetical order, beginning with the Buffalo Bills, a team which became a charter member of the new league that began play in 1960 when they were bought by Ralph Wilson, who remained the owner until his death in March 2014 at the age of 95. The Ralph Wilson Trust, which is controlled by his widow, Mary Wilson, inherited the team. They used War Memorial Stadium as their home from their inception until 1973, when the team moved into a new, larger stadium, later named after the only owner the franchise has ever known.

On the field, quarterback Jack Kemp, who ironically was released by the San Diego Chargers before being picked up by the Bills, led the team to consecutive AFL championships in 1964 and 1965, defeating the Chargers both times, 20-7 and 23-0. Unfortunately, the following year they missed out on playing in Super Bowl 1 when they were trounced by the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFL title game, 31-7. Super Bowl appearances remained elusive until Buffalo acquired quarterback Jim Kelly after the folding of the USFL in 1985. Under head coach Marv Levy, the Bills would reach the ultimate game in 4 successive seasons but fell to NFC East teams each time, starting with a 20-19 loss at the hands of the New York Giants in Super Bowl 25. The years have been lean since, with a current playoff drought lasting since 1999. The franchise started fresh for the 2013 season, hiring Doug Marrone as their latest head coach.

Along with Wilson, Levy, and Kelly, former Bills Billy Shaw (guard), O.J. Simpson (running back), Joe DeLamielleure (guard), James Lofton (wide receiver), Thurman Thomas (running back), and Bruce Smith (defensive end) have also been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

History of the Dallas Cowboys

America’s Team. It was a label dubbed by Bob Ryan of NFL Films in 1978 but it all started for the Cowboys back in 1960 when Dallas was awarded an NFL franchise. Its first owner, Clint Murchison Jr, proceeded to bring in general manager Tex Schramm, director of player personnel Gil Brandt, and head coach Tom Landry, who were all instrumental in creating an era of unprecedented success. Things turned upside down in 1989 when Jerry Jones took over as owner and replaced Landry with Jimmy Johnson, who resigned after only 2 seasons. Since then, a series of head coaching changes has taken place that included Bill Parcells for a time, with Jason Garrett now at the helm. In the early years, the Cowboys played their home games in the Cotton Bowl until 1971, when they moved into Texas Stadium. They built what is now called AT&T Stadium in 2009.

On the field, from the mid 1960s to the mid 1980s, the Cowboys achieved a winning record for 20 straight seasons. After a tough loss in Super Bowl 5 to the Baltimore Colts, they returned to the ultimate game the following year and took down the Miami Dolphins, 24-3, with quarterback Roger Staubach leading the way. Later in the decade, they overwhelmed the Denver Broncos in a 27-10 Super Bowl 12 victory. Under Johnson, with quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith, and wide receiver Michael Irvin, they won Super Bowl 27, 52-17, and Super Bowl 28, 30-13, both times defeating the Buffalo Bills. Two years later, this trio of players led them to the championship again, outlasting the Pittsburgh Steelers, 27-17.

Other Cowboy greats like Bob Lilly (defensive tackle), Tony Dorsett (running back), and Larry Allen (tackle) join Schramm, Landry, Staubach, Aikman, Smith, and Irvin in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

History of the Indianapolis Colts

You might say this franchise had a ‘false start’ in its beginning. The Baltimore Colts were originally formed as part of the All-American Football Conference back in 1947 and when the league folded, they became a member of the NFL. But financial problems caused the franchise to be disbanded after one season. They reformed in 1953, inheriting the Dallas Texans franchise after the city met the challenge issued by commissioner Bert Bell to sell 15,000 tickets within 6 weeks. The first owner was Carroll Rosenbloom, who traded the team to Los Angeles Rams owner Robert Irsay in 1972. Then Irsay infamously moved the Colts in the middle of the night to Indianapolis in 1984. After the death of Robert Irsay in 1997, his son, current owner Jim Irsay, took control. The team played in Memorial Stadium until the move, then began using the Hoosier Dome, which was then renamed to the RCA Dome in 1994. Today they call Lucas Oil Stadium, which opened in 2008, their home.

On the field, the arrival of head coach Weeb Ewbank and quarterback Johnny Unitas helped them win back-to-back NFL championships in 1958 and 1959. In a twist of fate, after Don Shula replaced Ewbank in 1963, his Colts faced the New York Jets, coached by Ewbank, in Super Bowl 3. With quarterback Joe Namath under center, they orchestrated arguably the biggest upset in NFL history, winning 16-7. The Colts were vindicated two years later when they defeated the Dallas Cowboys, 16-13, in Super Bowl 5 on a Jim O’Brien field goal in the final seconds. Their Super Bowl drought lasted until 1998, when quarterback Peyton Manning came on the scene and ultimately led the Colts to a victory over the Chicago Bears, 29-17, in Super Bowl 41. After suffering from neck problems which required surgery, Manning was released in 2012. The franchise has a bright future as they drafted quarterback Andrew Luck out of Stanford #1 overall following Manning’s release and he has led them to the playoffs in his first two seasons.

Great Colt players like Gino Marchetti (defensive end), Raymond Berry (wide receiver), and Lenny Moore (running back) join Ewbank, Shula, and Unitas in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

History of the San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers came over into the NFL from the All-American Football Conference with the Cleveland Browns in 1950. Ownership in the beginning was with the Morabito family. Then Edward DeBartolo purchased the team in 1977 but after enduring some legal problems in the late 1990s, passed control of the team to the York family in 2000, with Jed York as the current owner. The team moved from Kezar Stadium to Candlestick Park in 1971 and are opening the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, to start playing home games there in the 2014 season.

On the field, the San Francisco 49ers did not enjoy the success that the Browns did following the move from the AAFC, winning no NFL championships before the Super Bowl era. Their struggle to get to the big game continued in the early 1970s when they could not get past the Dallas Cowboys. That all changed when DeBartolo came on the scene, hiring head coach Bill Walsh, who proceeded to build a dynasty in the 1980s. Ironically, Walsh was an understudy to Paul Brown when he was an offensive coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals, but Brown did not name him head coach when he retired in 1975 so Walsh served as head coach at Stanford University until he joined the 49ers. Employing the ‘West Coast Offense’ with quarterback Joe Montana, the team overcame the Dallas Cowboys in the 1981 NFC Championship game, 28-27, on a last-minute pass from Montana to Dwight Clark which will forever be remembered as ‘The Catch’. The 49ers went on to claim Super Bowl 16 over the Cincinnati Bengals, 26-21, then under Walsh, won Super Bowls 19 and 23. After Walsh retired, George Seifert took over and the following year, the 49ers went all the way again, annihilating the Denver Broncos, 55-10, in Super Bowl 24. Five years later, QB Steve Young led the 49ers to a 49-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl 29. In recent years, under general manager Trent Baalke and head coach Jim Harbaugh, the team has returned to prominence, reaching Super Bowl 47 but falling to the Baltimore Ravens, 34-31.

Walsh, Montana, and Young are joined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame by, among others, Y.A. Tittle (quarterback), Jerry Rice (wide receiver), and Ronnie Lott (safety).

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Monday, July 14, 2014

History of the Cleveland Browns

Prior to becoming part of the NFL in 1950, the Cleveland Browns were part of the All-American Football Conference. Arthur McBride had acquired the franchise in 1944 and hired the legendary Paul Brown as the team’s first head coach and general manager. Art Modell gained ownership of the team in 1961. Then, after 35 years in Cleveland, he announced that he was planning to move the team to Baltimore. A deal was worked out so that the team could be moved but the Browns franchise was basically suspended until the 1999 season when they restarted with what amounted to an expansion team. The Lerner family controlled the team until 2012, when Jimmy Haslam became the new owner. They also got a new home in FirstEnergy Stadium, after being in Cleveland Municipal Stadium since their inception.

On the field, the Browns dominated the AAFC from the time games began in 1946 until the league folded after the 1949 season, winning all 4 championships. Then, with quarterback Otto Graham and fullback Marion Motley, they won NFL championships in 1950, 1954, and 1955. Running back Jim Brown join the team in 1957 and they captured another title in 1964 with a 27-0 shutout of the Baltimore Colts. The years since then have not been so kind as the team has failed to ever reach the Super Bowl, suffering heartbreaking losses beginning with those to the Green Bay Packers in 1967 and the Baltimore Colts in 1968. An exciting 1980 season ended in a game dubbed the ‘mistake by the lake’ when quarterback Brian Sipe threw an interception late in the game which allowed the Oakland Raiders to seal the victory and eventually go on to win Super Bowl 15, 27-10. Then, despite reaching AFC Championship games in 1986, 1987, and 1989, they lost each time to the Denver Broncos.

In addition to Paul Brown, Graham, Motley, and Jim Brown, Cleveland greats Lou Groza (tackle), Leroy Kelly (running back), and Ozzie Newsome (tight end) are also in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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