While we could fill pages with what is different about the NFL today compared to 40 years ago, during this time of the year one noticeable difference is how preseason games are handled by the teams and viewed by fans and the media.
Exhibition games have been part of football history since the very beginning of the NFL. For many years, some of the NFL teams would play exhibition games against non-league teams. From the 1930s through the mid-1970s, the NL Champion played an annual exhibition game against a team of college all-stars who were beginning their rookie season.
Preseason exhibition games amongst league teams became more standard in the 1950s and have continued in similar fashion for the last 60+ years.
Because low player salaries meant that many players had offseason jobs, for many years the preseason schedule was seen as crucial to helping players get in shape and prepare for the upcoming season.
It was not uncommon for starters to play a majority of the time during preseason and often how a team performed during the preseason was seen as a precursor towards whether they would be successful in the regular season.
In some cases, the preseason also served as an opportunity for teams to exact revenge for previous results.
After the Kansas City Chiefs lost the first Super Bowl to the Green Bay Packers and Green Bay Coach Vince Lombardi commented that the Chiefs would be an average team in the NFL, Chiefs coach Hank Stram used the next preseason as an opportunity to exact some frustration and send a message to the NFL.
Because the NFL-AFL merger called for exhibition games between the two leagues, the Chiefs treated their 1967 exhibition game against the Chicago Bears like an act of war. The Chiefs pummeled the Bears 66-24 to let the NFL know that the AFL was filled with more than just second tier teams. Read the rest of this entry →