The AFL: A Brief History Lesson
I thought it might be a good idea to give a brief overview of the history of the American Football League (AFL) because it pertains to the history of my fictional NFL team, the San Antonio Armadillos. I am not going to go into any detail on how I will shoe-horn my team into this history, but I will say that in my story they are one of the original members of the AFL.
In the late 50’s several wealthy business men, most notably former Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, tried to buy an existing NFL team and/or convince the NFL to award them expansion franchises. When the NFL declined, the men got together and decided to form their own football league.
The AFL began play in 1960 with the Boston Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Dallas Texans, Denver Broncos, Houston Oilers, LA Chargers, NY Titans and Oakland Raiders. The Texans would later move to Kansas City and become the Chiefs, the Chargers would move to San Diego, and the Titans would be sold and name changed to the Jets.
In 1964 the AFL would sign a lucrative deal with NBC. The money allowed them to outbid the NFL for many of the top college prospects and to expand with the Miami Dolphins. The stealing of players from the rival league would escalate when Al Davis became the commissioner a couple years later.
Fearing the two leagues were doing more damage to each other than good, Cowboys GM Tex Schramm began secretly meeting with Lamar Hunt to negotiate a merger of the two leagues. The merger was officially announced June 8, 1966.
Before the two leagues became fully merged in 1970, the Cincinnati Bengals would become the AFL’s tenth team. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts would join the ten AFL teams to form the American Football Conference while the remaining NFL teams formed the National Football Conference.
The AFL’s impact on the NFL as we know it today was huge. They introduced teams to markets on the west coast that the NFL was ignoring. They were the first to put player’s names on the back of their jerseys and had the 2-pt conversion long before the NFL.
If you’d like to know more about the AFL, check out these two links:
Designing an NFL Team
I recently wrote to NFL guru Jim Considine asking him how a team chooses a style and design, here is his response:
I would be happy to give you some information on the uniforms worn by NFL teams. I was involved with the Ravens during their first 7 years in Baltimore. There was a tremendous amount of consternation during the process of picking the team colors. It seems like everyone disliked the team colors at first.
The first thing that occurred was to determine the name of the team. The Baltimore Sun conducted a fan survey. The Ravens was the popular choice. I suspect that the team colors may have been influenced by Poe’s dark and dreary story. At this point, the design of the uniform is in the hands of NFL properties.
Northwestern won the Big Ten for the first time in ages during the 1995 season. The black and purple colors were a departure from the teal colors that were popular at that time. My guess is that the color combination was influenced by this as well as the dark writings of Poe. No doubt, the choice was approved by focus groups. I believe that they presented options to the Modell’s and the upper-management of the football team.
The font used for the numbers on the jerseys proved difficult to read by the fans and broadcasters. The NFL “fattened” the characters in 1997, which are still used today.
In 1998, a lawsuit was filed against the Ravens and NFL properties for a trademark infringement. A fan created a logo, which is similar to the winged shield worn by the Ravens (1996, 1997, & 1998). The fan claimed he faxed the drawing to the Ravens. The fan claimed the Ravens used his design as the primary logo. Once the lawsuit was filed, NFL properties created new logos for the Baltimore Ravens. The logos are currently in use today. The NFL won the lawsuit.
One story comes to mind about the team logo. Art Modell really liked the Maryland state flag. (This is a combination of the family crest of Governor George Lord Calvert and the Saint George Cross). Art Modell liked it so much that they added it as a patch on the pants hip. It is also depicted on the field at M&T Bank Stadium. The Baltimore Orioles added a similar patch to their sleeve last season.
In addition to the control imposed by NFL properties with respect to the uniform, they also decide what color the seats will be in a new stadium. The color chosen is designed to blend in so that television viewers will not easily notice an empty seat. I doubt if this subterfuge stands up to the high definition pictures broadcast today. It was sufficient for the standard definition televisions in 1998.
Finally, speaking of high definition television, I used to ponder an old peculiarity of the Ravens uniforms. I could not figure out why the jerseys were purple but on television, they appeared to be blue. The RGB (red, green, blue) projection of the CRT (cathode ray tube) television could not portray the colors as seen by the naked eye.
1992 vs. 2012: St. Louis/LA, Tampa Bay, Tennessee/Houston, Washington
Jim Everett vs. Sam Bradford
Bradford was a hot property his rookie year, as he bounced back from a shoulder reconstruction surgery to lead the Rams to a 7-9 record, but he regressed in 2011, as did the Rams as a whole. Bradford is the last of a breed in a boring only-tangentially-football-related way, as he was the last number one pick before the new labor deal put a cap on rookie salaries. Bradford signed a 56 million dollar contract, an albatross of a deal that is a bigger cap hit than Cameron Newton and Andrew Luck’s deals combined. The Rams will have to ride with Bradford or die.
Jim Everett was a pro bowler, with two great recievers, stuck in a run-first offense run by John Robinson, who had a relatively long, relatively successful stint with the Rams. At times, his success was in spite of himself, and by the end, he was hapless, still trying to run the ball with Cleveland Gary and half-dead Curt Warner instead of chucking that puppy deep. 1991 was when the wheels came off and Robinson was left trying to drive the frame of an old Model T.
Everett was most fondly remembered for roughing up Jim Rome when Jim kept calling him a girl. There are worse things to be remembered for, but it’s worth mentioning that Chris Evert has more title in her sport than Jim Everett does in his. What’s more troubling, the man who makes a sexist insult, or the other man who responds angrily to the insult on its own terms? I always kind of liked Everett, so this is another win for 1992, but that very possibly won’t be how it’s seen ten, or even five years from now.
Vinny Testaverde vs. Josh Freeman
You might think a simple list of the top touchdown passers would be a simple shortcut to making your own personal top ten of all time. You know, for icebreakers at parties. You would be wrong to take this shortcut, because sitting at number ten, almost like he’s trying to photobomb a group shot of Hall of Famers, is Vinny Testaverde. Yes, that Vinny Testaverde. Two touchdowns ahead of that Joe Montana. No wonder people think that stats are useless; if you bought a computer and it set your hair on fire, would you turn that sucker on again in your life?
Josh Freeman looked like he might take the league by storm after his second year, but instead he has come in drips, drops and splatterings. Everyone got very excited about his abnormally low interception total as he only threw six for all of 2010, but that shot up the next year. The same thing happened in microcosm this year. Having thrown eight picks in his first thirteen games, Freeman then threw eight more picks in the next two games. Obviously low pick totals are good, but if that number is too low, expect it to snap back the next year. I’m giving this one to Freeman and 2012, because he has shown promise, and Vinny is possibly one of my least favorite Cowboys ever.
Warren Moon vs. Jake Locker
There’s been a very disheartening hiring season, with eight head coaching spots open, ten GM spots open, and not one going to a minority candidate. Writer Bomani Jones suggested this was a failure of the Rooney Rule, and very dishearteningly, a lot of people came out of the woodwork to criticize Jones, calling him a reverse racist, and the more civil among them replied with the truism “How about we just hire the best person, regardless of race?” Jones replied, “since when are we pretending that racism makes sense?” It’s a worthy point; people throw around the word meritocracy and congratulate themselves on being post-racial, but racism doesn’t follow market forces, the profit motive, or peak efficency. Just ask Warren Moon.
Warren Moon was a straight-ahead pocket passer of average build with a cannon for an arm. He was not very athletic, and while he could move a little in the pocket, he was by no means a running threat even by the standards of the late 1970s. After leading the Washington Huskies to a Rose Bowl bid, the only interest he got from NFL teams was from people who wanted to convert him into a reciever. Why on earth they thought Warren Moon had any buisness being a reciever is something we’ll never know. But Moon, in addition to knowing he would’ve been a dreadful reciever, was offended, and went north of the border, dominating the CFL for the next seven years before the Oilers, who had just hired his CFL coach from Edmonton, gave him a chance to be their franchise quarterback.
If Warren Moon is white in 1979, he gets taken in the first round. He doesn’t have to put up with any ridiculous notion that his future lay playing wideout. He doesn’t spend seven years playing in the CFL. He gets recognized immediately as a talent, and things progress as they did in our timeline, just a little earlier.
There is nothing interesting to say about Jake Locker, so I’ll just close with this: If you believe in reverse racism as a phenomena, close this tab right now and never come back. You are not allowed to read this tumblr. Go back to profootballtalk. Advantage: 1992
Mark Rypien vs. Robert Griffin III
This one looked a lot different two weeks ago.
Rypien was a solid player who had a wealth of targets to throw to, and ran a passing offense so precise and efficent that he was second in passing touchdowns in 1991 despite not even ranking in the top 10 in attempts for that same year. When Gibbs left, Rypien began to decline, and then the next year a knee injury took him out of comission. I wish I could figure out why that sentence sounded so familiar.
Oh, that’s right, I remember now. It sounds familiar because of two weeks ago, when Mike Shanahan put a gun to the side of Robert Griffin’s career’s head and pulled the trigger.
Everyone could see he was hurt, that he was not at 100%. He limped, literally limped for two quarters, as Seattle slowly chipped away at Washington’s 14-0 head start, and Shanahan did nothing. Didn’t sub him, didn’t even slow down the amount of pistol reads, something that couldn’t possibly be helping.
Rypien was not untalented, but he did benefit from the extremely well-organized Redskins drafting and scouting machine, which was two steps ahead of every other team, especially regarding offensive linemen. RGIII came into a team without a system, and gave them an excuse to not develop one. Like a horse thief, they rode him until he dropped, and we’ll see how things go from here, whether Griffin can recover and turn into a good quarterback, or if we just saw a new generation’s Greg Cook. Advantage:Push
There’s the gun and our winner is 2012 by a score of 16-14-2. A gritty, hard-fought win, but not a convincing one. Not really enough to say one way or another that one era is definitively better.