Gridiron Pioneers: What Are The Oldest NFL Teams? Top 10 List

John Rizzo

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The Oldest NFL Teams

The National Football League (NFL) is a sport rich in history and tradition, and at its heart lie the oldest NFL teams that have withstood the test of time. 

From the earliest days of American professional football, these franchises have played a pivotal role in shaping the league’s identity. 

In this blog post, we’ll deal with the oldest NFL teams and the enduring legacies of these venerable organizations.

From the Arizona Cardinals, originally founded as the Chicago Cardinals in 1898, to the iconic Green Bay Packers, established in 1919. 

Also, the storied Chicago Bears, dating back to 1920, these teams have witnessed the evolution of the NFL, from leather helmets to the high-octane, modern spectacle it is today. 

We’ll delve into their triumphs, iconic players, and their unwavering fan bases. Join us as we pay tribute to these gridiron pioneers who continue to be a source of inspiration for NFL fans worldwide. Stay focused. 

History of NFL Teams

The National Football League (NFL) boasts a rich and storied history that spans nearly a century. 

Established in 1920 as the American Professional Football Association (APFA) before adopting its current name in 1922, the NFL has evolved from a regional sport into one of the most popular sports leagues in the world. 

Here is an overview of the history of NFL teams, highlighting key milestones and developments:

Early Years (1920s-1930s)

  • The NFL began with ten teams in its inaugural season, including the Akron Pros, Chicago Cardinals, and Green Bay Packers.
  • The league faced financial challenges and constant team movement during its early years.
  • The Green Bay Packers, founded in 1919, are one of the oldest franchises and have maintained their small-town identity.

Growth and Expansion (1940s-1950s)

  • The NFL began to grow in popularity, thanks partly to the introduction of the NFL Championship Game in 1933.
  • The Cleveland Browns, led by legendary coach Paul Brown and quarterback Otto Graham, dominated the league in the 1940s and 1950s.
  • The NFL merged with the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) in 1950, absorbing teams like the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Colts.

The AFL-NFL Merger (1960s)

  • The American Football League (AFL) emerged as a rival league in the 1960s, leading to a merger with the NFL in 1970.
  • The merger brought new teams into the NFL, including the New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, and Oakland Raiders.

The Super Bowl Era (1967-Present)

  • The first Super Bowl was held in 1967, featuring the NFL and AFL champions in a championship game.
  • The Super Bowl has since become a cultural phenomenon, with the NFL’s championship game attracting millions worldwide viewers.
  • Iconic franchises like the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, and San Francisco 49ers dominated the NFL during the 1970s and 1980s.

Expansion and Realignment

  • The NFL expanded its number of teams through expansion drafts, adding new franchises such as the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars in the 1990s.
  • Realignment of divisions and conferences occurred to accommodate the expanding league.

The New England Patriots Dynasty (2000s-Present)

  • The New England Patriots, led by quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick, have dominated the NFL in the 21st century, winning multiple Super Bowls.
  • Other successful teams in this era include the Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, and Seattle Seahawks.

Recent Developments

  • The NFL continues to adapt and evolve, addressing issues such as player safety and the role of technology in the game.
  • The league has expanded its international presence with games played in London and Mexico City.

The Future

  • The NFL remains one of the most popular sports leagues globally, with a bright future ahead.
  • The league continues to grow its fan base, explore new revenue streams, and adapt to changing societal dynamics.

The NFL has seen the rise and fall of various franchises, iconic players, and memorable moments, solidifying its place in American sports culture.

10 Oldest NFL Teams?

Check out the following section below to learn about some of the oldest NFL teams;

Arizona Cardinals (Originally the Chicago Cardinals) – Established in 1898

Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals, originally known as the Chicago Cardinals, are the oldest continuously operated professional football franchise in the United States. 

Founded in 1898, they were a charter member of the NFL when it was established in 1920. The team moved to St. Louis in 1960 and finally settled in Arizona in 1988.

Throughout their history, the Cardinals have faced challenges, including relocation and periods of on-field struggles. 

However, they succeeded in 1947 when they won their first and only NFL Championship. In 2009, the team made a memorable Super Bowl run but narrowly lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Cardinals currently play their home games at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, and have become a competitive force in the NFL’s modern era, thanks to the leadership of players like Larry Fitzgerald and Kyler Murray.

Green Bay Packers – Established in 1919

Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers, founded in 1919 by Earl “Curly” Lambeau and George Calhoun, are among the most storied and iconic franchises in NFL history. They are based in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and are known for their unique community ownership structure.

The Packers have an illustrious history, winning a total of 13 NFL Championships, including four Super Bowl victories. 

They enjoyed a dynasty in the 1960s, led by legendary coach Vince Lombardi and star quarterback Bart Starr. The team’s success has continued through various eras, with notable quarterbacks like Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.

Lambeau Field, their home stadium, is one of the most iconic venues in the NFL. The Packers’ passionate fan base, often referred to as “Cheeseheads,” has made the team a beloved institution in Green Bay and beyond.

Chicago Bears (Originally the Decatur Staleys) – Established in 1920

Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears, originally known as the Decatur Staleys, were one of the founding members of the NFL in 1920. 

They moved to Chicago in 1921 and became the Bears in 1922. The franchise has a rich history of success, boasting nine NFL Championships and one Super Bowl victory.

The Bears are known for their storied defense, featuring legendary players like Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary, and Brian Urlacher. 

In the 1980s, the team’s “Super Bowl Shuffle” became a cultural phenomenon, highlighting their dominance. Soldier Field in Chicago serves as the home stadium for the Bears. 

The team has a passionate fan base and a historic rivalry with the Green Bay Packers, known as the “Bears-Packers rivalry,” which is one of the oldest and most intense in NFL history.

New York Giants – Established in 1925

New York Giants

The New York Giants, founded in 1925, have a long and distinguished history in the NFL. The team has won eight NFL Championships and four Super Bowls, making them one of the league’s most successful franchises.

The Giants have had iconic players like Frank Gifford, Lawrence Taylor, and Eli Manning. They are known for their strong defense, particularly during the 1980s and 1990s when they won two Super Bowl titles.

The team’s home games are played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, which they share with the New York Jets. 

The Giants have a passionate fan base and a historic rivalry with the Philadelphia Eagles, known as the “Giants-Eagles rivalry.”

Detroit Lions – Established in 1930

Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions, originally based in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Portsmouth Spartans, joined the NFL in 1930 before relocating to Detroit in 1934. The team has had a storied history with varying levels of success.

The Lions have won four NFL Championships, their most recent victory in 1957. 

They have a passionate fan base and play their home games at Ford Field in Detroit. The team has been known for legendary players like Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson.

Despite challenges over the years, the Lions remain a beloved franchise in the city of Detroit, and their annual Thanksgiving Day game is a cherished tradition in NFL football.

Philadelphia Eagles – Established in 1933

Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles, founded in 1933, are a prominent NFL franchise known for their passionate fan base and iconic moments. 

The team has won four NFL Championships and one Super Bowl, with their Super Bowl LII victory in 2018 being a significant milestone.

The Eagles’ rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys, known as the “Eagles-Cowboys rivalry,” is among the most intense in the NFL.

Legendary players like Chuck Bednarik, Reggie White, and Donovan McNabb have donned the Eagles’ green and white.

Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia is the team’s home stadium, and the city’s fans are known for their dedication and passionate support.

Pittsburgh Steelers (Originally the Pittsburgh Pirates) – Established in 1933

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers, originally known as the Pittsburgh Pirates, were founded in 1933. The team’s early history was marked by struggles, but they eventually became one of the most successful franchises in NFL history.

The Steelers have won a total of six Super Bowl championships, more than any other team, and have a strong tradition of tough defense, known as the “Steel Curtain” defense in the 1970s.

Heinz Field is the team’s home stadium, with iconic players like Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, and Ben Roethlisberger. 

The Steelers have a passionate fan base, often referred to as the “Steeler Nation,” and their rivalry with the Baltimore Ravens is one of the fiercest in the NFL.

Washington Football Team (Originally the Boston Braves) – Established in 1932

Washington Football Team

The Washington Football Team, originally known as the Boston Braves, was established in 1932 and is among the NFL’s oldest franchises. It is closely associated with its storied history and iconic moments.

The team has won three NFL Championships and two Super Bowls, with its most recent Super Bowl victory coming in 1991. The franchise has been home to legendary players like Sammy Baugh, John Riggins, and Darrell Green.

In 2020, the team adopted the temporary name “Washington Football Team” while working on selecting a new, permanent team name. They play their home games at FedExField in Landover, Maryland, and have a dedicated fan base.

Cleveland Browns – Established in 1946

Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns were founded in 1946 and have a rich football tradition in Cleveland, Ohio. The team has won multiple NFL Championships, with their most recent title coming in 1964.

The Browns are known for their passionate fan base and legendary players like Jim Brown, Otto Graham, and Ozzie Newsome. Despite periods of struggle, they have maintained a loyal following.

FirstEnergy Stadium is the Browns’ home venue, and their rivalry with the Pittsburgh Steelers is one of the NFL’s most intense rivalries, known as the “Steelers-Browns rivalry.”

San Francisco 49ers – Established in 1946

San Francisco 49ers - Established in 1946

The San Francisco 49ers were founded in 1946 as part of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) before merging with the NFL in 1950. 

The team has a storied history with five Super Bowl victories, making them one of the most successful franchises in NFL history.

The 49ers have been home to iconic players like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and Steve Young, and their success has spanned different eras.

Levi’s Stadium, located in Santa Clara, California, is the team’s home stadium. The 49ers have a dedicated fan base known as the “Faithful” and have maintained a strong presence in NFL history, with a rich tradition of success.


Which NFL team is the oldest?

The Arizona Cardinals, originally founded as the Chicago Cardinals in 1898, are the oldest continuously operated professional football franchise in the United States.

When were the Green Bay Packers established?

The Green Bay Packers were established in 1919, making them one of the oldest NFL franchises with a rich history of success.

How old is the Chicago Bears franchise?

The Chicago Bears, originally known as the Decatur Staleys, were established in 1920, making them one of the founding members of the NFL.

When did the New York Giants join the NFL?

The New York Giants became an NFL franchise in 1925 and have a long and distinguished history, winning multiple NFL Championships and Super Bowls.

When were the Pittsburgh Steelers founded?

The Pittsburgh Steelers, originally known as the Pittsburgh Pirates, were established in 1933, and they have gone on to become one of the most successful franchises in NFL history with multiple Super Bowl championships.

Wrapping Up

In the ever-evolving landscape of American football, the oldest NFL teams serve as living artifacts of the sport’s enduring legacy. 

From humble beginnings to modern-day presence, these franchises have weathered decades of challenges and triumphs, leaving an indelible mark on the NFL’s history.

Through championships won, legendary players who’ve graced their rosters, and the unwavering support of passionate fan bases, these teams showcase the essence of the NFL’s timeless appeal. 

The Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, and others have contributed to the league’s rich tapestry and helped define the essence of American football.

As we celebrate their contributions, we look forward to the next chapters in their stories, confident that these gridiron pioneers will continue inspiring generations of fans. Best wishes.

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John Rizzo

I am a professional rugby player in the Washington DC-Baltimore area. I have been playing rugby for over 10 years and have had the opportunity to play in many different countries. I am also a coach for both youth and adult rugby teams. I graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in Sports Management and Marketing. I am currently working on my MPA from American University and plan to pursue this career path after graduating next year. LinkedIn