Chronology of Football 1941-1950
1941 | 1942 | 1943 |
1944 | 1945 | 1946
| 1947 | 1948 | 1949
Elmer Layden was named the first Commissioner of the NFL, March 1;
Storck, the acting president, resigned, April 5. NFL headquarters
were moved to Chicago.
Bell and Rooney
traded the Eagles to Thompson for the Pirates, then re-named their
new team the Steelers. Homer Marshman sold the Rams to Daniel F.
Reeves and Fred Levy, Jr.
The league by-laws were revised to provide
for playoffs in case there were ties in division races, and sudden-death
overtimes in case a playoff game was tied after four quarters. An
official NFL Record Manual was published for the first time.
Columbus again won the championship of the
AFL, but the two-year-old league then folded.
The Bears and the Packers finished in a tie
for the Western Division championship, setting up the first divisional
playoff game in league history. The Bears won 33-14, then defeated
the Giants 37-9 for the NFL championship, December 21.
Players departing for service in World War II depleted the rosters
of NFL teams. Halas left the Bears in midseason to join the Navy,
and Luke Johnsos and Heartley (Hunk) Anderson served as co-coaches
as the Bears went 11-0 in the regular season. The Redskins defeated
the Bears 14-6 in the NFL Championship Game, December 13.
The Cleveland Rams, with co-owners Reeves and Levy in the service,
were granted permission to suspend operations for one season, April
6. Levy transferred his stock in the team to Reeves, April 16. The
NFL adopted free substitution, April 7. The league also made the
wearing of helmets mandatory and approved a 10-game schedule for
Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were granted permission
to merge for one season, June 19. The team, known as Phil-Pitt (and
called the Steagles by fans), divided home games between the two
cities, and Earle (Greasy) Neale of Philadelphia and Walt Kiesling
of Pittsburgh served as co-coaches. The merger automatically dissolved
the last day of the season, December 5.
Ted Collins was granted a franchise for Boston,
to become active in 1944.
Sammy Baugh led the league in passing, punting,
and interceptions. He led the Redskins to a tie with the Giants
for the Eastern Division title, and then to a 28-0 victory in a
divisional playoff game. The Bears beat the Redskins 41-21 in the
NFL Championship Game, December 26.
Collins, who had wanted a franchise in Yankee Stadium in New York,
named his new team in Boston the Yanks. Cleveland resumed operations.
The Brooklyn Dodgers changed their name to the Tigers. Coaching
from the bench was legalized, April 20.
The Cardinals and the Steelers were granted
permission to merge for one year under the name Card-Pitt, April
21. Phil Handler of the Cardinals and Walt Kiesling of the Steelers
served as co-coaches. The merger automatically dissolved the last
day of the season, December 3. In the NFL Championship Game, Green
Bay defeated the New York Giants 14-7, December 17.
The inbounds lines or hashmarks were moved from 15 yards away from
the sidelines to nearer the center of the field-20 yards from the
Brooklyn and Boston merged into a team that
played home games in both cities and was known simply as The Yanks.
The team was coached by former Boston head coach Herb Kopf. In December,
the Brooklyn franchise withdrew from the NFL to join the new All-America
Football Conference; all the players on its active and reserve lists
were assigned to The Yanks, who once again became the Boston Yanks.
Halas rejoined the Bears late in the season after service with the
U.S. Navy. Although Halas took over much of the coaching duties,
Anderson and Johnsos remained the coaches of record throughout the
Steve Van Buren of Philadelphia led the NFL
in rushing, kickoff returns, and scoring.
After the Japanese surrendered ending World
War II, a count showed that the NFL service roster, limited to men
who had played in league games, totaled 638, 21 of whom had died
Rookie quarterback Bob Waterfield led Cleveland
to a 15-14 victory over Washington in the NFL Championship Game,
The contract of Commissioner Layden was not renewed, and Bert Bell,
the co-owner of the Steelers, replaced him, January 11. Bell moved
the league headquarters from Chicago to the Philadelphia suburb
of Bala- Cynwyd.
Free substitution was withdrawn and substitutions
were limited to no more than three men at a time. Forward passes
were made automatically incomplete upon striking the goal posts,
January 11. The NFL took on a truly national appearance for the
first time when Reeves was granted permission by the league to move
his NFL champion Rams to Los Angeles.
Halfback Kenny Washington (March 21) and end
Woody Strode (May 7) signed with the Los Angeles Rams to become
the first African-Americans to play in the NFL in the modern era.
Guard Bill Willis (August 6) and running back Marion Motley (August
9) joined the AAFC with the Cleveland Browns.
The rival All-America Football Conference
began play with eight teams. The Cleveland Browns, coached by Paul
Brown, won the AAFC's first championship, defeating the New York
Bill Dudley of the Steelers led the NFL in
rushing, interceptions, and punt returns, and won the league's most
valuable player award. Backs Frank Filchock and Merle Hapes of the
Giants were questioned about an attempt by a New York man to fix
the championship game with the Bears. Bell suspended Hapes but allowed
Filchock to play; he played well, but Chicago won 24-14, December
The NFL added a fifth official, the back judge.
A bonus choice was made for the first time
in the NFL draft. One team each year would select the special choice
before the first round began. The Chicago Bears won a lottery and
the rights to the first choice and drafted back Bob Fenimore of
Oklahoma A&M. The Cleveland Browns again won the AAFC title, defeating
the New York Yankees 14-3.
Charles Bidwill, Sr., owner of the Cardinals,
died April 19, but his wife and sons retained ownership of the team.
On December 28, the Cardinals won the NFL Championship Game 28-21
over the Philadelphia Eagles, who had beaten Pittsburgh 21-0 in
Plastic helmets were prohibited. A flexible artificial tee was permitted
at the kickoff. Officials other than the referee were equipped with
whistles, not horns, January 14.
Fred Mandel sold the Detroit Lions to a syndicate
headed by D. Lyle Fife, January 15.
Halfback Fred Gehrke of the Los Angeles Rams
painted horns on the Rams' helmets, the first modern helmet emblems
in pro football. The Cleveland Browns won their third straight championship
in the AAFC, going 14-0 and then defeating the Buffalo Bills 49-7.
In a blizzard, the Eagles defeated the Cardinals 7-0 in the NFL
Championship Game, December 19.
Alexis Thompson sold the champion Eagles to a syndicate headed by
James P. Clark, January 15. The Boston Yanks became the New York
Bulldogs, sharing the Polo Grounds with the Giants.
Free substitution was adopted for one year,
The NFL had two 1,000-yard rushers in the
same season for the first time-Steve Van Buren of Philadelphia and
Tony Canadeo of Green Bay. The AAFC played its season with a one-division,
seven-team format. On December 9, Bell announced a mer-ger agreement
in which three AAFC franchises-Cleveland, San Francisco, and Baltimore-would
join the NFL in 1950. The Browns won their fourth consecutive AAFC
title, defeating the 49ers 21-7, December 11.
In a heavy rain, the Eagles defeated the Rams
14-0 in the NFL Championship Game, December 18.
Unlimited free substitution was restored, opening the way for the
era of two platoons and specialization in pro football, January
20. Curly Lambeau, founder of the franchise and Green Bay's head
coach since 1921, resigned under fire, February 1.
The name National Football League was restored
after about three months as the National-American Football League.
The American and National conferences were created to replace the
Eastern and Western divisions, March 3.
The New York Bulldogs became the Yanks and
divided the players of the former AAFC Yankees with the Giants.
A special allocation draft was held in which the 13 teams drafted
the remaining AAFC players, with special consideration for Baltimore,
which received 15 choices compared to 10 for other teams.
The Los Angeles Rams became the first NFL
team to have all of its games - both home and away - televised.
The Washington Redskins followed the Rams in arranging to televise
their games; other teams made deals to put selected games on television.
In the first game of the season, former AAFC
champion Cleveland defeated NFL champion Philadelphia 35-10. For
the first time, deadlocks occurred in both conferences and playoffs
were necessary. The Browns defeated the Giants in the American and
the Rams defeated the Bears in the National. Cleveland defeated
Los Angeles 30-28 in the NFL Championship Game, December 24.