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 Name||Est.||Created the||In||Created the||In|
|Racine Cardinals||1913||Chicago Cardinals|
St. Louis Cardinals
|Decauter Staleys||1919||Chicago Staleys||1921||Chicago Bears||1922|
|Portsmouth Spartans||1930||Detroit Lions||1934|
|Green Bay Packers||1921|
|Baltimore Colts||1953||Indianapolis Colts||1984|
|Dallas Texans||1959||Kansas City Chiefs||1963|
|Oakland Raiders||1960, 1994||Los Angeles Raiders||1982||Las Vegas Raiders||2020|
|Los Angeles Chargers||1959||San Diego Chargers||1961||Los Angeles Chargers||2017|
|Cleveland Rams||1936||Los Angeles Rams||1946, 2016||St. Louis Rams||1995|
|Boston Patriots||1959||New England Patriots||1971|
|New Orleans Saints||1966|
|New York Giants||1925|
|New York Titans||1959||New York Jets||1963|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||1933||Pittsburgh Steelers||1940|
|San Francisco 49ers||1944|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1974|
|Houston Oilers||1959||Tennessee Oilers||1997||Tennessee Titans||1999|
|Boston Braves||1932||Washington Redskins||1937||Washington Football Team*||2020|
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.