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Touchdown! A “Genealogy” Timeline of NFL Teams

By Diane Haddad
American football players, circa 1922. Courtesy the Library of Congress

If you’re curious about your favorite team’s history, look no further! This article includes a quick history of the National Football League (NFL) and a timeline showing when each of its 32 franchises joined the league and how they have evolved.

NFL History Crash Course

The NFL was founded as the American Professional Football Association in 1920; it renamed itself the National Football League two years later. Two of its 10 charter teams still exist, albeit in different cities: the Decatur Staleys (now the Chicago Bears) and Racine Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals). The Green Bay Packers (founded in 1921) hold the distinction of being the oldest active NFL team to still play in its founding city.

In 1969, the NFL and its rival, the AFL (American Football League, founded in 1960), merged. The eight AFL charter teams joined the NFL and all still exist:

  • New York Titans (now the New York Jets)
  • Boston Patriots (now the New England Patriots)
  • Buffalo Bills
  • Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans)
  • Los Angeles Chargers (the San Diego Chargers from 1961 to 2016)
  • Denver Broncos
  • Oakland Raiders (the Los Angeles Raiders from 1982 to 1993, now the Las Vegas Raiders)
  • Dallas Texans (now the Kansas City Chiefs)

The roots of some NFL teams have as many twists and turns as your family tree does, with name changes and moves from town to town. This football history timeline shows the “parent teams” of today’s NFL teams, their migrations, and the years they were born. It lists teams alphabetically by current franchise name, which is in all caps. Through it, you’ll also get a glimpse into NFL expansion history and the names of old, defunct teams.

NFL History Timeline

Team NameEst.Created theInCreated theIn
Racine Cardinals1913Chicago Cardinals
St. Louis Cardinals
Phoenix Cardinals
1922
1960
1988
Arizona Cardinals1994
Atlanta Falcons1965
Baltimore Ravens1996
Buffalo Bills1959
Carolina Panthers1993
Decauter Staleys1919Chicago Staleys1921Chicago Bears1922
Cincinnati Bengals1967
Cleveland Browns1944
Dallas Cowboys1960
Denver Broncos1959
Portsmouth Spartans1930Detroit Lions1934
Green Bay Packers1921
Houston Texans2002
Baltimore Colts1953Indianapolis Colts1984
Jacksonsville Jaguars1993
Dallas Texans1959Kansas City Chiefs1963
Oakland Raiders1960, 1994Los Angeles Raiders1982Las Vegas Raiders2020
Los Angeles Chargers1959San Diego Chargers1961Los Angeles Chargers2017
Cleveland Rams1936Los Angeles Rams1946, 2016St. Louis Rams1995
Miami Dolphins1965
Minnesota Vikings1960
Boston Patriots1959New England Patriots1971
New Orleans Saints1966
New York Giants1925
New York Titans1959New York Jets1963
Philadelphia Eagles1933
Pittsburgh Pirates1933Pittsburgh Steelers1940
San Francisco 49ers1944
Seattle Seahawks1974
Tampa Bay Buccaneers1974
Houston Oilers1959Tennessee Oilers1997Tennessee Titans1999
Boston Braves1932Washington Redskins1937Washington Football Team*2020
*As for January 2021, the NFL franchise in Washington, DC, has not announced a replacement mascot.

If you’re after records of ancestors who played football (or other sports), whether on a community, school or professional level, find tips in our athletic ancestors research guide.

Last updated, February 2021.

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A Timeline of NFL Teams
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