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Key Milestones in the history of the NFL

posted by Chris Valentine

In less than a year from now, the NFL will celebrate 100 years since it was founded. A lot has changed since the inaugural 1920 season, in terms of how the sport of American football is played and also how the NFL itself is governed.

Below are highlights of some of the key milestones in the history of the NFL.

Forward Pass

For those who follow rugby, the idea of throwing the ball forward may seem a little strange. However, prior to a change in the law back in 1933, quarterbacks in the NFL could only throw the ball forward from within five yards of the line of scrimmage. It was not uncommon for a quarterback to throw less than 800 yards during an entire season.

The Draft

One glance at soccer shows just how unfair a sport can be when the richest teams have the pick of the best talent. This changed in the NFL when the draft system was put in place. The draft system ensured that the team with the worst record from the previous season had the first pick of the best amateur player the following season.

Racial Integration

While this may be a surprising statistic for some, there were no black players in the NFL between 1934 and 1946. During its early years, the NFL was predominantly white and despite the introduction of the Rooney Rule, there were just three African American head coaches at the beginning of the 2019 NFL season.

The Schedule

It seems crazy to imagine an NFL season without a fixed schedule but that was regularly the case when teams arranged their own matches against whoever was available at the time. It wasn’t until 1935 that a rigid structure was in place and teams played 12 games guaranteed during the season.

The Helmets

A quick Internet search for a 1920’s NFL helmet will show a soft leather helmet. Clearly this would not be strong enough to prevent head injuries during a collision between players and a plastic helmet complete with face grill was developed in the 1940’s. A decade later and all players wore the polymer helmets we see today.

The AFL Merger

In 1959, a new league formed with the intention of challenging the NFL as being the most exciting American football League. The AFL was backed by a group of wealthy owners and moved to attract some of the brightest young talent from the NFL. This made the NFL sit up and take notice and eventually the two formed to create the competition we see today.

The Super Bowl

The Super Bowl matches any other individual sporting occasion on the planet in terms of popularity. It has grown to be a massive worldwide sporting and commercial success. Just to have an advertising slot for a few seconds during an interval on television can cost a fortune during the Super Bowl, such is the interest in the NFL’s showpiece occasion.

The half-time Show

The game itself is just one element of the Super Bowl. There is plenty of entertainment throughout the Super Bowl weekend but as far as musical artists are concerned, the half-time show is the prime time slot. Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Prince and Michael Jackson are just some of the big names to have performed in the Super Bowl half-time show.

The Salary Cap

The salary cap is another successful way of making sure the NFL remains competitive for every team. Unlike other sports around the world, The NFL salary cap means teams cannot pay players as much as they want to attract them away from their rivals. Sound coaching is therefore key to success.

International Expansion

Those who regularly follow the NFL will know games are currently being played in London during the regular season. Official NFL games have been staged at Wembley and the Tottenham Hotspur stadium, with tickets selling out quickly upon release.

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