New Life, New Fans, New Town. But, Sometimes a Painful Experience.

 

In the early days of the NFL teams moved often. The need for quality players and decent locations for attendance was key during these early days when the NFL and professional football were not yet king and teams struggled. During the 1960’s and 1970’s however, the league began to evolve and grow. Key to this growth was the move by the populous from the country to the cities. With increased popularity, a legitimate challenger to NFL superiority arose in the form of a rival league, the AFL, in 1960.

 

With this growth came the need to expand the market, cities like Baltimore. Houston. St. Louis and Miami became viable sites. The Dallas Cowboys became a new NFL franchise in 1960. In 1961, the Minnesota Vikings, who had an understanding with the AFL to become that league’s franchise, suddenly opted out of the deal to join the NFL. During the early expansion era, the AFL, which had been founded in 1960, added two teams to expand to 12 from their original 10 franchises. Besides the Vikings and Cowboys, the NFL opened new franchises in the South, New Orleans and Atlanta.

 

Following the merger of the two leagues in the 1970’s, teams were added in Tampa, FL and Seattle, WA. In the 1990’s the Carolina’s and Jacksonville received franchises as interest permeated the South. Sometimes, ownership maneuvers, as in the case of the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Oilers and Cleveland Browns, caused voids that were filled by new franchises. Finally, in 2002 the last expansion team to date, the Houston Texans, opened for business. Expansion will continue to occur as populations increase in urban markets. Potential sites at this time are Los Angeles, due to ownership moves, Memphis and Toronto, Canada.

 

Here are the stories of the first seasons of the NFL/AFL expansion teams since 1960. It is an excited time when teams are added. It opens new markets and brings aboard new fans. Expansion drafts are conducted and teams are hastily put together under new management schemes. It is a struggle in that first year.

 

 

 

1960

Dallas Cowboys

Coach: Tom Landry

Record: 0-11-1

The Cowboys played their first preseason game in Seattle, where they lost to the San Francisco 49ers, 16-10. On August 19th, they hosted the Baltimore Colts in their first home game, the Salesmanship Club preseason game. They lost in the final minutes, 14-10. Their first win came in a preseason game at Louisville, KY, where they beat the New York's Giants, 14-3.

The Cowboys played every NFL team one time during the first season, but were listed in the Western Division standings. On September 24th the Cowboys met the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Cotton Bowl in their first official game, losing 35-24. They lost their next 10 games before tying the Giants in New York on December 4th in the 11th week. They lost their final game to finish 0-11-1.

Stars of that first season were Don Meredith, Eddie LeBaron and L.G. Dupre.

 

 

 

1961

Minnesota Vikings

Coach: Norm Van Brocklin

Record: 3-11

 

The Minnesota Vikings’ ownership were originally awarded an American Football League franchise, but forfeited the offer to become the NFL’s 14th team. They were coached by Norm Van Brocklin, who had retired as quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles.

 

On September 17, 1961, the Vikings debuted at home led by rookie quarterback, Fran Tarkenton. Tarkenton came off the bench to throw four touchdown passes and run for a fifth to lead his Vikings to a 37-13 win over the Chicago Bears.

 

Following the historic victory, they lost 7 straight games. The Vikings also won in Week 10 against the Baltimore Colts and Week 13 against the Los Angeles Rams. They would finish the season with a 3-11 record.

 

Besides Tarkenton, stars of the first year were Tommy Mason and Ed Sharockman.

 

 

 

1966

Miami Dolphins

Coach: George Wilson

Record: 3-11

 

The Dolphins started slow in 1966 by losing all four of their preseason game. On September 2, 1968 before 26,776 at the Orange Bowl, Joe Auer returned the opening kickoff 95 yards, but the Dolphins lost to the Oakland Raiders, 23-14. It was the second time in expansion history that a team started the regular season with a kickoff return. On October 16th, Miami defeated the Denver Broncos 24-7. On October 23, the Dolphins won their first road game, 20-13, over Houston at Rice Stadium. Their third win would come in the season’s last game as the Dolphins wrapped up a season sweep of the Oilers, 29-28, at home

 

Heroes of that first season were Frank Emanuel, Billy Joe and Cookie Gilchrist.

 

 

 

 

1966

Atlanta Falcons

Coach: Norb Hecker

Record: 3-11

 

The first preseason game was a 9-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Aug. 1, 1966. The first regular season game was on Sept. 11, 1966 when the Falcons lost to the Los Angeles Rams, 19-14, before 54,418 at Atlanta Stadium. The Falcons finally won on Nov. 30, 1966 with a 27-16 win over the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium. They won again on the road the next week at Minnesota. On Dec. 11, 1966, the Falcons tied an NFL record for an expansion team by winning a third game, 16-10, over the St. Louis Cardinals at home.

 

The heroes of the first year were Tommy Nobis, Randy Johnson and Ernie Wheelwright. Nobis was named Rookie of the Year.

 

 

 

 

 

1967

New Orleans Saints

Coach: Tom Fears

Record: 3-11

*Click Here to see first regular season play in Saints'

a 94 yard kickoff return by John Gilliam vs. the Rams.

 

The New Orleans Saints posted a 5-1 preseason record in the inaugural season of 1967. In the first regular season game against the Rams, Rookie John Gilliam returned the opening kickoff 94 yards at Tulane Stadium. The Rams, however, won 27-13.

 

The Saints won their first game in the eighth week against the Philadelphia Eagles, 31-24. They also defeated Atlanta and Washington in that first season.

 

Stars of that first season were Billy Kilmer, Jim Taylor, Gary Cuozzo and Danny Abramowicz, who had been a 17th round draft pick.

 

 

 

 

1968

Cincinnati Bengals

Coach: Paul Brown

Record: 3-11

 

The Bengals played in the old AFL. The first season home games were played in Nippert Stadium at the University of Cincinnati's campus.

 

The first regular season game was against the Chargers in San Diego on September 6, 1968. Cincinnati lost, 13-29. On September 15th, the Bengals played at home against the Denver Broncos winning 24-10. The won two in a row by defeating the Buffalo Bills the following week. The Bengals suffered through a seven game losing streak after these wins, but snapped the string at Miami with a win later in the season. The 3-11 record matched the other expansion teams of the 1960’s.

 

The stars of that first season were John Stofa and Paul Robinson. Robinson was named the AFL Rookie of the Year.

 

 

1976

Seattle Seahawks

Coach: Jack Patera

Record: 2-12 Losses

*Click Here to see a video about the Seahawks' first win.

 

On August 1, 1976, the Seahawks played their first game against San Francisco in the preseason at the Kingdome, losing 27-20.  Seattle captures its first victory on August 29, 1976 with a 17-16 win over San Diego. They play their first regular season game on September 12th, 1976, losing 30-24 to the St. Louis Cardinals.

 

The Seahawks lost their first five games before meeting fellow expansion team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on October 17th, winning 13-10 when linebacker Mike Curtis blocked a Buccaneers field goal attempt with 42 seconds remaining. The Seahawks won their first home game by beating the Atlanta Falcons 30-13 three weeks later. Their final record in 1976 was 2-12.

 

Stars in that first season were Sherman Smith and Jim Zorn. Zorn was named the NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year and defensive tackle, Steve Niehaus was NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year.

 

 

 

1976

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Coach: John McKay

Record: 0-14

*Click Here to see a video about the Bucs' first win.

The Buccaneers played their first season in the AFC West and moved to the NFC Central in their second season. On September 12, 1976 they played their first regular season game in Houston against the Oilers, losing 20-0. After losing their first five games, they lost 13-10 to fellow expansion team, Seattle, on a last minute field goal. After losing, 23-20, to Miami the following week to go to 0-7, the Bucs lost the rest of their games to finish 0-14. Tampa Bay was outscored a total of 412-125 on the season. This team is often remembered as the worst in the history of the NFL.

Stars for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976 were Lee Roy Selmon Steve Spurrier.

 

 

 

1995

Jacksonville Jaguars

Coach: Tom Coughlin

Record: 4-12

*Click Here to for video about the Jags in the '96 playoffs.

The Jaguars played their first preseason contest in the Pro Football Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio, losing to fellow expansion team, the Carolina Panthers, 20-14. On August 18, 1995, he Jaguars host their first home preseason game, losing to the St. Louis Rams 27-10.  

On Sept. 3, they play their first regular season game at home, losing to the Houston Oilers 10-3. The first win comes on October 1st at Houston, 17-16 at Houston in the fifth week. The following week they win at home, 20-16 over Pittsburgh. On October 22nd, the Jaguars win their third game of the season at Cleveland, 23-15. In the final week of the season, the Jaguars win their fourth game by sweeping Cleveland on the season, 24-21 at Cleveland.

Stars of that first season were Jimmy Smith, Mark Brunell, Tony Boselli and Byron Barker is AFC Punter of the Year.

 

 

 

1995

Carolina Panthers

Coach: Dom Capers

Record: 7-9

In the first game, the Panthers lose in overtime to the Falcons 23-20 in Atlanta. After losing their next two games, the Panthers play their first home game in Clemson, SC, losing 31-10 to the St. Louis Rams. They lose their first 5 games before beating the New York Jets 26-15. Incredibly, the Panthers win would be the first of 4 straight. They go on to split their next 6 games and lose the season finale 20-17 to the Redskins in Washington. At 7-9 they still were able to post the best record ever for an expansion team.

Stars of that first season were Kerry Collins and Sam Mills.

 

 

 

1999

Cleveland Browns

Coach: Chris Palmer

Record: 2-14

*Click Here to hear Drew Carey welcome the Browns back.

 

In 1996, Art Modell moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore. The team became the Ravens. But the city of Cleveland maintained the rights to the team name and, on August 9, 1999, the Browns defeating the Dallas Cowboys 20-17 in the annual Hall of Fame Game in Canton, OH.
 

On September 12, 1999, football returned to Cleveland as the Browns lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 43-0. The Browns lost their first 7 games, but defeated the New Orleans Saints on the road in week 8 on a last second Hail Mary pass from Tim Couch to Kevin Johnson. The final score was 21-16. Two weeks later the Browns avenged their opening game loss by defeating the Steelers in Pittsburgh, 16-15. It was the Browns’ final win of the year as they finished 2-14. They won no home games.

 

Stars of that first season were Tim Couch, Terry Kirby and Kevin Johnson

 

2002

Houston Texans

Coach: Dom Capers

Record: 4-12

*Click Here to view a intro to the Texans-Cowboys game, 2002

 

The first game for the Houston Texans was the annual Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. They lost to the New York Giants 34-17. On August 10, 2002 the Texans won their first preseason game, 13-10, over the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome. They lost their first preseason home game to the Dolphins on August 24, 24-3.

 

On September 8th, the Texans became the second expansion team since 1960 to win their first game as they stunned the Dallas Cowboys 19-10. They would lose their next five games. They won on the road for the first time on October 27, 2002 at Jacksonville, 21-19. Four weeks later, they defeated the playoff bound New York Giants, 16-14, at home. On December 8, they stunned the AFC North champion Pittsburgh Steelers, 24-6, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. They lost their final four games to finish a respectable, 4-12.

 

Stars of that first season were David Carr, Kris Brown and Aaron Glenn. Aaron Glenn and Gary Walker are selected to the Pro Bowl.

 

The first year is always rough, but the succeeding years bring new talent and parity. The Miami Dolphins were competing in the Super Bowl within six years of their creation. For Minnesota, they were competitive by the mid-60's. Even lowly Tampa Bay was in the playoffs within four years. The greatest expansion rise came in 1997 when the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars each played in their respective Conference championship games in only their third year of existence. For the Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns, it's still too early to tell. Only one team, the New Orleans Saints, have never been to the Super Bowl from that group of 60's and 70's expansion teams. But, the 2006 season brought the Saints to a level that had never attained in 30 years when they played for the NFC championship.

 

1963

 

1964

 

 

1972

 

 

1980

 

 

1997