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).

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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).

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

History of the Minnesota Vikings

Although originally slated to become an AFL franchise in 1959, a spot that was later awarded to the Oakland Raiders, the group representing Minnesota scorned the AFL and chose to become a part of the NFL, starting play in 1961. Bert Rose was hired as general manager and suggested the nickname of the Vikings, which was the one ultimately chosen. In 1998, the Board of Directors agreed to sell the team to Red McCombs, who turned over the reigns to current owner Zygi Wilf in 2005. The Vikings played their home games in Metropolitan Stadium from their inception until 1981, when they moved into the Hubert H Humphrey Metrodome. After the roof collapsed late in the 2010 season, plans were made to construct a state-of-the-art facility that will be called Vikings Stadium, where play is projected to begin in 2016 and that will host Super Bowl 52.

On the field, the Vikings made a splash in the very first game of their existence. Behind quarterback Fran Tarkenton, who accounted for 5 TDs, they upset the Chicago Bears, 37-13. In spite of the memorable start, they would not enjoy continued success until the hiring of head coach Bud Grant in 1967. They later reached Super Bowl 4, only to be overwhelmed by the Kansas City Chiefs, 23-7. They would continue to face Super Bowl disappointment, losing Super Bowl 8 to the Miami Dolphins, 24-7, Super Bowl 9 to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 16-6, and Super Bowl 11 to the Oakland Raiders, 32-14. The heartbreak continued in the 1998 season when they lost to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game after going 15-1 in the regular season. The Vikings experienced a revival in 2009 when quarterback Brett Favre joined the team and led them to an NFC North division title, only to be beaten by the New Orleans Saints on an overtime field goal in the NFC Championship Game. The franchise enters the 2014 season under its new head coach Mike Zimmer, a long-time defensive coordinator in the league, most recently with the Cincinnati Bengals.

In addition to Grant and Tarkenton, legendary Vikings Alan Page (defensive tackle), Paul Krause (safety), Ron Yary (tackle), Carl Eller (defensive end), and Cris Carter (wide receiver) are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

History of the Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans began their existence as the Houston Oilers of the American Football League. Oilers founder Bud Adams Jr and Lamar Hunt were instrumental in the creation and survival of the league. Adams moved the team to Tennessee in 1997 and renamed it the Titans in 1999. He owned the franchise from its inception until his death in 2013 at the age of 90 and his estate still holds ownership. After calling Jeppesen Stadium and Rice Stadium their home in the early years, the Oilers moved into the Houston Astrodome in 1968, and now play in LP Field, located in Nashville, Tennessee.

On the field, the Oilers had success right out of the gate. Behind quarterback and kicker George Blanda, they captured the 1960 & 1961 AFL Championships with 24-16 and 10-3 victories over the Chargers, then were edged by the Dallas Texans, 20-17, in a 1962 AFL Championship Game that lasted into a 2nd overtime. In 1967, the Oilers missed out on the chance to play in Super Bowl 2, losing in the AFL Championship Game to the Oakland Raiders, 40-7. They reached the AFC Championship Games in 1978 and 1979 but could not get past the Pittsburgh Steelers either time, losing 34-5 and 27-13. In the late 1980s, the team again was competitive under head coach Jerry Glanville and quarterback Warren Moon. They never reached the Super Bowl as the Houston Oilers but in their first season as the Tennessee Titans, they played in Super Bowl 34, falling to the St. Louis Rams, 23-16. Now the team starts a new chapter in their history in 2014, with Ken Whisenhunt entering his first season as head coach.

Mike Munchak (guard), Earl Campbell (running back), Bruce Matthews (guard), Elvin Bethea (defensive end), Steve McNair (quarterback), Eddie George (running back), and Frank Wycheck (tight end) all join Adams, Blanda, and Moon in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

History of the San Diego Chargers

Originally awarded to Barron Hilton for the city of Los Angeles, the Chargers franchise moved south to San Diego permanently following their initial season. Hilton sold the team to Eugene Klein in 1966 and then current owner Alex Spanos purchased the team in 1984. The Chargers played their home games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum that first season before calling Balboa Stadium home the next 6 seasons. San Diego Stadium, now named Qualcomm Stadium, opened for their use in 1967.

On the field, head coach Sid Gillman ushered in an exciting high-scoring passing game run by quarterback John Hadl and wide receiver Lance Alworth. In their first 6 seasons, the team captured their division 5 times, winning the 1963 AFL Championship with a 51-10 victory over the Boston Patriots. In the late 1970s, head coach Don Coryell revived the same offensive philosophy, which became known as ‘Air Coryell ‘, that Gillman had implemented in the previous decade. Led by quarterback Dan Fouts, they reached the AFC Championship Games in 1980 and 1981 but could not get to a Super Bowl until 1994, when they fell to the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 24, 49-26. The franchise started enjoying success again in 2002 under head coach Marty Schottenheimer and later head coach Norv Turner. They traded for quarterback Philip Rivers after the 2004 NFL Draft to team him with running back LaDainian Tomlinson. Now the team enters its second season under head coach Mike McCoy after returning to the playoffs in 2013.

Gillman, Alworth, and Fouts are joined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame by Ron Mix (tackle), Kellen Winslow (tight end), Charlie Joiner (wide receiver), and Fred Dean (defensive end).

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Friday, July 25, 2014

History of the Oakland Raiders

After floundering through its first 3 AFL seasons, the Oakland Raiders began to experience success in 1963 with the hiring of 33-year-old Al Davis as its general manager and head coach. Davis later became AFL Commissioner then returned to the Raiders organization and eventually became the franchise’s owner. He remained in that position until his death in 2011, when his son Mark took over control of the team and day-to-day operations. The team settled into Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, now called Coliseum, in 1966. After a legal battle in the early 1980s, the team was moved to Los Angeles in 1982 and played their home games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. They then returned to Oakland in 1995.

On the field, the Raiders reached AFL Championship Games in successive years from 1967-1969, capturing the title in the first one with a 40-7 victory over the Houston Oilers. They then fell to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl 2, 33-14. Their dominance continued in the 1970s under head coach John Madden. They finally overcame their fiercest rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in 1976 with a 24-7 victory over them in the AFC Championship Game, then easily defeated the Minnesota Vikings, 32-14, in Super Bowl 11. Four years later, as a wild-card team, they made it to Super Bowl 15 and rolled over the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-10. They followed that up in Super Bowl 18 by shutting down the high-powered Washington Redskins in a 38-9 upset. Their last Super Bowl appearance to date was not so kind as they were blown out by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 48-21, in Super Bowl 37.

The rich history of the Raiders is evident by the players who have been voted in as members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Joining Davis and Madden are Jim Otto (center), George Blanda (quarterback & kicker), Willie Brown (cornerback), Gene Upshaw (guard), Fred Biletnikoff (wide receiver), Art Shell (tackle), Ted Hendricks (linebacker), Howie Long (defensive end), and Marcus Allen (running back). Fittingly, punter Ray Guy will be inducted in 2014.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

History of the New York Jets

Ironically, the first AFL team to defeat the NFL champions in a Super Bowl were initially considered the worst run AFL franchise. Originally named the Titans, the team under owner Harry Wismer did well neither on the field nor at the box office. In 1963, a group led by Sonny Werblin purchased the team and turned its fortunes around, changing its name to the Jets, hiring Weeb Ewbank as the general manager and head coach, and then signing quarterback Joe Namath two years later. Ownership eventually passed on to Leon Hess in the 1970s, then to current owner Woody Johnson in 2000. As the Titans, they played their home games at the Polo Grounds before moving to Shea Stadium after their first season as the Jets. Twenty years later, they agreed to share Giants Stadium with the New York Giants until 2010, when the two teams jointly built MetLife Stadium.

On the field, the Jets rise to prominence that culminated with a 16-7 upset over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl 3 remains the highlight of the franchise’s history. They have failed to return to the Super Bowl, although reaching AFC Championship Games in 1982, 1998, 2009, & 2010. Still, the Jets look forward to a bright future under current head coach Rex Ryan.

Running backs Curtis Martin and John Riggins, along with Don Maynard (wide receiver), join Namath as members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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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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