Oldest Teams in the NFL

10 Oldest Teams in the NFL

American football dates back to the late -19th century when colleges began playing games using modified rules from soccer and rugby. As football grew in popularity, many companies sponsored professional teams. This laid the foundation for the American Professional Football Association (APFA), which was started in 1920 as the direct forerunner of the National Football League (NFL).

The APFA started with 10 teams, which had already existed in some form as regional teams. Today, only two teams from this initial lineup are still around: the Arizona Cardinals (formerly the Chicago Cardinals) and the Chicago Bears (initially the Decatur Staleys).

For the 1922 season, the APFA changed its name to the NFL, and the other teams on this list joined in subsequent years. All of these teams played an important part in establishing the rules and customs of today’s NFL.

For this list, we chose to arrange the teams by the date that they entered the NFL and not when they were originally formed.

For this list, we chose to arrange the teams by the date that they entered the NFL and not when they were originally formed.


10. Cleveland Browns

First Season in NFL:  1950
Year Established: June 4, 1944 
Previous Name(s):  Cleveland Browns (1946 – 1995), (1999 – Present); team suspended operations between 1996 – 1998
Home Field:  FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland BrownsPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Cleveland Browns were formed in 1944 by local businessman Arthur B. McBride after he acquired a franchise in the new All-America Football Conference (AAFC) that would start playing games in 1946.

The first thing that McBride did was hire Paul Brown, who was a successful high school, college, and military coach. Brown was appointed as the team’s coach and general manager and named the team after him.

The Browns dominated the AAFC until its fourth and final season in 1949. The team joined the NFL the following year, along with two other AAFC teams, the San Francisco 49ers and the original Baltimore Colts (not the same franchise as the later Baltimore Colts, now the Indianapolis Colts).

After moving to the NFL, the Browns won the NFL Eastern Conference championship for six straight years from 1950 to 1955 and NFL titles in 1950, 1954, and 1955.

The Cleaveland Browns is presently owned by Jimmy and Dee Haslam. 

Did You Know?

The Cleveland Browns suspended operations from 1996 to 1998 for poor performance and after Browns fans and Cleveland city officials blocked then-owner Arthur Modell from moving the team to Baltimore.

9. Los Angeles Rams

First Season in NFL:  1937
Year Established: 1936 
Previous Name(s):  Cleveland Rams (1936 – 1942), (1944 – 1945); Los Angeles Rams (1946 – 1994), (2016 – Present); and St. Louis Rams (1995 – 2015)
Home Field:  Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles RamsPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Los Angeles Rams was formed in 1936 in Cleveland. If you are a fan, you should know the history to appreciate how far they’ve come.

For the first six years of the franchise’s history, the Rams were a terrible team with a 0.500 mark in total and were disbanded for a year (1943 season) following a shortage of manpower due to World War II.

The Rams played their last game, a championship which they won, in Cleveland in 1945 and were moved to Los Angeles for the next season.

After moving to L.A., new owner Dan Reeves signed Kenny Washington and Woody Strode, the first two African-American athletes with an NFL contract since 1932. Reeves was also the first owner in the NFL to hire a full-time scouting staff.

The Los Angeles Rams is presently owned by Stan Kroenke.

Did You Know?

The Los Angeles Rams won their first Super Bowl in 2000 as the St. Louis Rams. In 2021, the Los Angeles Rams won Super Bowl LVI against the Cincinnati Bengals with a score of 23-20.

8. Philadelphia Eagles

First Season in NFL:  1933
Year Established: July 8, 1933 
Previous Name(s):  Philadelphia Eagles (1933 – 1942), (1944 – Present); and Phil-Pitt Steagles (1943)
Home Field:  Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia EaglesPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Philadelphia eagles have been around since 1933. They were establishes to replace the bankrupt Frankford Yellow Jackets in the NFL. Bert Bell and Lud Wray were the first owners of the team. They bought the Frankford Yellow Jackets for $2500 and named it the Philadelphia eagles.

In 1943, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers were combined for one season because of the lack of men left at home during World War II. During the first decade, the Philadelphia Eagles were an okay team. They truly found their success in the mid-1940s.

They have big wins! The Eagles have won a total of 4 NFL championships along with one Super Bowl. They have 16 division titles as well.

Today, Philadelphia Eagles is owned by Jeffery Lurie.

Did You Know?

Financial struggles led Lud Wray to sell the team and Bert Bell become the sole owner, taking on the role of head coach as well.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers

First Season in NFL:  1933
Year Established: July 8, 1933
Previous Name(s):  Pittsburgh Pirates (1933 – 1939); Pittsburgh Steelers (1940 – 1942), (1945 – Present); Phil-Pitt Steagles (1943); and Card-Pitt (1944)
Home Field:  Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh SteelersPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Pittsburgh Steelers were founded in 1933 by Arthur J. Rooney. The team is still owned by the Rooney family over half a century later. While the team has always been in Pittsburgh, it was not always called the Steelers and was initially the Pittsburgh Pirates (like the baseball team).

Like many other teams, the Pittsburgh steelers also had their fair share of failures. For the first 40 years of the franchise’s history, the Steelers never won a championship of any kind. The biggest twist happened in the 1970s. The Steelers had one of the greatest winning streaks in NFL history.

During the 1970s, the Pittsburgh Steelers earned eight consecutive playoff berths, seven AFC Central titles and four AFC championships. The Steelers went on to become the first team in the NFL to win four Super Bowls and is the only team to win the Super Bowl twice in a row.

Did You Know?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have won more Super Bowl titles (6) and both played in (16) and hosted more conference championship games (11) than any other team in the NFL.

6. Washington Commanders

First Season in NFL:  1932
Year Established: July 9, 1932 
Previous Name(s):  Boston Braves (1932); Boston Redskins (1933 – 1936); Washington Redskins (1937 – 2019); Washington Football Team (2020 – 2021); and Washington Commanders (2022 – Present) 
Home Field:  FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland

Washington CommandersPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Boston Braves, today’s Washington Commanders, was established in 1932 by George Preston Marshall. It was a result of Mrshall being awarded the inactive Boston NFL franchise. The team was named after “Braves field” that they used, which was the home of the National League baseball team. 

In 1933, the team was moved to Fenway Park and got named the Redskins. They did not have a lot of fan support in Boston. Hence they moved to Washington, D.C. in 1937 and still continues to remain there.  

Since the 1960s, the “Redskins” name was controversial and seen as an insult/slur to Indigenous Americans. For several decades, activists tried to make Washington change the team’s name, but owners/management would not budge.

In 2020 — after other institutions made name changes following the George Floyd protests — a group of investors worth $620 billion wrote letters to major sponsors Nike, FedEx, and PepsiCo.  Why? To put pressure on the Redskins to change their name. Later that year, the NFL and the Washington franchise finally decided to change the team’s name and promised that the new name would have no association with Indigenous Americans. 

After playing as the Washington Football Team from 2020 – 2021, the team rebranded to the Washington Commanders as a nod to the strong military presence around Washington, D.C. 

The present owner of the team is group headed by Josh Harris who bought it from Daniel Snyder in 2023 for $6.05 billion.

Did You Know?

The Washington Commanders have sold out their home games since 1968, the longest consecutive sellout streak in NFL history.

5. Detroit Lions

First Season in NFL:  1930
Year Established: 1929 
Previous Name(s):  Portsmouth Spartans (1930 – 1933); and Detroit Lions (1934 – Present)
Home Field:  Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan

Detroit LionsPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

Detroit Lions were formed in 1934 when Detroit radio executive George A. Richards purchased the Portsmouth, Ohio, Spartans for $8,000, which was an unheard of amount of money at the time.

The Spartans were initially formed in 1929 and had joined the NFL the following year. Two years later, the Spartans played in one of the most important games in NFL history, a championship game against the Chicago Bears. 

After that game came three major rule changes and the NFL was separated into two divisions and a championship game was played annually.

Before the Spartans were purchased, there had been several attempts to establish a professional team in Detroit. However, the newly formed Lions had some of the best players of the time and was led by Dutch Clark, an early football superstar and the NFL’s last dropkicker.

The Detroit Lions had their best seasons in the 1950s and have been trying to recapture that success ever since.

The team is currently owned by Sheila Firestone Ford Hamp, an American businesswoman and football executive.

Did You Know?

The Detroit Lions have never won a Super Bowl and last won a championship game in 1957.

4. New York Giants

First Season in NFL:  1925
Year Established: August 1, 1925 
Previous Name(s):  New York Giants (1925 – Present)
Home Field:  MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey

New York GiantsPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

The New York Giants are one of the few NFL teams that has remained in the same city since it was founded. The Giants team was founded in 1925 by Tim Mara, who purchased an NFL franchise in New York for $500.

By the end of that first season, Mara had invested another $25,000 just to keep the team alive and ensure that New York would continue to have professional team.

From the start, the New York Giants were a popular team and more than 70,000 people had come out to watch the team play during its first season. The Giants were also a strong and skilled team from the beginning and won their first NFL Championship in 1927, their third season.

Members of the Mara family still own the New York Giants today, along with Tisch family, who purchased 50 percent of the team in 1991. The present owners are John Mara and Steve Tisch.

Did You Know?

The New York Giants have won four Super Bowls (1986, 1990, 2007, and 2011) as well as four NFL Championships (1927, 1934, 1938, and 1956).

3. Green Bay Packers

First Season in NFL:  1921
Year Established: August 11, 1919 
Previous Name(s):  Green Bay Packers (1919 – Present)
Home Field:  Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin

Green Bay PackersPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

While the Green Bay Packers did not join the NFL until its second year, the team does have the distinction of being the oldest continuous franchise that has never moved or changed its name. From its inception in 1919, the Packers, who were sponsored by the Indian Packing Company, have been based out of Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The Green Bay Packers were founded by Earl Curly Lambeau and George Whitney Calhoun. Lambeau was a former football player and became the Packers’ first coach. The Green Bay Packers’ home field is named in honor of Lambeau.

In addition to Lambeau, coach Vince Lombardi is the other dominant figure in the Packers’ history. Between the two coaches, the Green Bay Packers won 11 NFL Championships (pre-Super Bowl).

Packers won 11 NFL Championships (pre-Super Bowl).

Did You Know?

The Green Bay Packers are the only remaining small town NFL team and also the only community-owned non-profit organization in the NFL.

2. Chicago Bears

First Season in NFL:  1920
Year Established: September 17, 1920 
Previous Name(s):  Decatur Staleys (1920); Chicago Staleys (1921); and Chicago Bears (1922 – Present)
Home Field:  Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois

Chicago BearsPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

Besides the Arizona Cardinals, the Chicago Bears are the only current franchise that has been around since the first year of the NFL in 1920. The Bears started out in Decatur, Illinois as the Staleys and were moved to Chicago the following year. The team changed its name to the Chicago Bears in 1922 and has never moved cities or changed its name since then.

The Bears were initially sponsored by the Staley Starch Company, who decided to give team to legendary coach George Halas, for $5,000. The Staley Starch Company also allowed Halas to move the team to Chicago if he promised to keep the Staleys name for one more year.

From the start, the Chicago Bears have been one of the most popular and successful franchises in the NFL. Today, the Chicago Bears are still owned by members of the Halas family.

Did You Know?

The Chicago Bears have only won the Super Bowl once (1985), but won several NFL championships before the Super Bowl first started in 1967 — the Bears won the NFL championship in 1921, 1932, 1933, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1946, and 1963.

1. Arizona Cardinals

First Season in NFL:  1920
Year Established: 1898 
Previous Name(s):  Chicago Cardinals (1920 – 1943), (1945 – 1959); Card-Pitt (1944); St. Louis Cardinals (1960 – 1987); Phoenix Cardinals (1988 – 1993); and Arizona Cardinals (1994 – Present)
Home Field:  State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona

Arizona CardinalsPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Arizona Cardinals are the oldest team in the NFL and along with the Chicago Bears, is one of only two teams that were part of the inaugural NFL roster. While the franchise has been based out of Arizona since 1988, the Cardinals trace their history all the way back to 1898, decades before the NFL was founded.

The team was initially called the Morgan Athletic Club and a few years later when the team bought used jerseys from the University of Chicago, team founder Chris O’Brien called the faded color “Cardinal red.”

The Bidwill family, which still owns the Cardinals today, first acquired the team in 1932. Under Charles W. Bidwill’s ownership, the Cardinals remained in operation during the Great Depression and World War II. After the end of the war, Bidwill had finally put together a winning team that went on to snag the NFL championship title in 1947.Since joining the NFL in 1920, the Cardinals have called three different cities home, Chicago, St. Louis, and Phoenix. The Arizona Cardinals is presently owned by Michael Bidwill ,an American businessman.

Did You Know?

The Cardinals had to challenge a team named the Tigers for territorial rights in Chicago when the NFL was first established. The Cardinals won in a 6 – 0 victory and the Tigers were forced to leave the city.


American football has a long history and NFL is one of their most watched professional sports club. The term “football” was officially, was officiallytermed in the rulebook for the 1876 college football season. The rule changes of the game was significantly shaped and influenced by Walter Camp, the “Father of American Football.”

NFL still has some of the teams that it started out with. These oldest teams in the NFL has a ton of fans across the country making the football season a spirited celebration for may.


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