This is a list of National Football League (NFL) champions before the 1970 AFL–NFL merger. From 1920–1932, the league champion was determined by a team's win–loss percentage, with ties omitted. In 1932, because of a tie in the final standings, a playoff game was played to determine the championship.
In 1933, the NFL played its first official championship game. On July 8, 1933, the NFL was divided into two divisions, which were renamed as conferences after 1949, and the winners of each division/conference played each other to determine the league champion. This format would remain through the 1966 season. Any ties in the regular season standings resulted in a playoff game, while the winner of the other conference stood idle. This last occurred in 1965.
In 1967, the then-16-team NFL split each conference into two divisions of four teams each. From 1967–69, the division winners met in a conference championship game. The two conference champions then played for the NFL championship. Starting with the 1966 season, the NFL champion played the American Football League champion in what would become the Super Bowl.
Since the completion of the merger in 1970, the Super Bowl has served as the NFL championship game. Unlike the Super Bowl, which is contested at a site selected years in advance, NFL championship games from 1933 to 1969 took place at the home field of one of the competing teams. Home field was not determined by record but alternated between the conferences: the East hosted the even-numbered seasons and the West the odds.
Starting with the 1934 game, the winning team received the Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy, which had replaced the Brunswick-Balke Collender Cup, the league's original championship trophy that had gone missing 13 years earlier. The trophy was named after Ed Thorp, a noted referee, rules expert, and sporting goods dealer. Thorp died in 1934, and a large, traveling trophy was made that year, passed along from champion to champion each season with each championship team's name inscribed on it (just like its predecessor). Teams would also receive a replica trophy. The trophy was last awarded to the Minnesota Vikings in 1969. It is now missing.
NFL Championships 1920-1932 (pre-playoffs era)
The number in parentheses indicates the number of championships the franchise has won.
|1920||Akron Pros[n 2]||0||3||1.000|
|1921||Chicago Staleys[n 3]||9||1||1||.900|
|1923||Canton Bulldogs (2)|
|1924||Cleveland Bulldogs[n 4]|
|1925||Chicago Cardinals[n 5]|
|1926||Frankford Yellow Jackets|
|1927||New York Giants|
|1928||Providence Steam Roller|
|1929||Green Bay Packers|
|1930||Green Bay Packers (2)|
|1931||Green Bay Packers (3)|
|1932||Chicago Bears (2)[n 6]|
- From 1920–71, the NFL did not officially include tie games in the winning percentage.
- No official standings were maintained for the 1920 season, and the championship was awarded to the Akron Pros in a league meeting on April 30, 1921. Clubs played schedules that included games against non-league opponents. The Buffalo All-Americans and Decatur Staleys disputed the title but lost.
- The Buffalo All-Americans disputed the title but lost. The Chicago Staleys were renamed the Chicago Bears in 1922.
- The NFL considers the Canton Bulldogs and the Cleveland Bulldogs to be separate franchises. The Chicago Bears disputed the title but lost.
- The Chicago Cardinals were named the 1925 NFL Champions as a result of the league's controversial ruling concerning the Pottsville Maroons.
- At the end of the 1932 season the Chicago Bears and Portsmouth Spartans finished regularly scheduled games tied for first place. The Bears won a playoff game, which counted in the standings, 9–0.
NFL Championships 1933-1965
The number in parentheses indicates the number of championships the franchise has won and the number of times a particular location has hosted the game.
|Eastern/American Division/Conference*||Western/National Division/Conference†|
- In 1950, 1951, and 1952, the league's two divisions (Eastern and Western) were renamed the American and National Conferences, respectively. In 1953, the conferences were renamed the Eastern and Western Conferences.
- The site at Wisconsin State Fair Park where the Packers played two games a year was the infield of The Milwaukee Mile.
NFL Championships 1966-1969 (Super Bowl era-pre merger)
In 1966, NFL and AFL agreed to merge and play an ultimate championship game between the two leagues entitled NFL-AFL World Championship game. The merger however didn't formally take place until 1970, because of this the NFL championship game unofficially became an additional qualifying round in the playoffs as there was still one more game to play in the season for the winner. Officially these four NFL championship games were still main championship in the league but with creation of NFL-AFL World Championship game that eventually would be known as Super Bowl. Inclusion of these four AFL-NFL Championship games is problematical in overall listing of most Most World Championships/league championships, therefore they are generally not included in the overall records.
After the merger the NFL Championship game was replaced/retooled as/with NFC Championship game.'
Since these NFL Championships are generally not included in overall World Championship/league Championship list, there is no number given in parentheses counting them).
|Eastern Conference*||Western Conference†|
|Season||Date||Winning Team||Score||Losing Team||Location||Attendance||Television|
|1966||Green Bay Packers†||34-27||Dallas Cowboys*||Cotton Bowl||61,946||CBS|
|1967||Green Bay Packers†||21-17||Dallas Cowboys*||Lambeau Field||50,861||CBS|
|1968||Baltimore Colts†||34-0||Cleveland Browns*||Cleveland Municipal Stadium||78,410||CBS|
|1969||Minnesota Vikings†||27-7||Cleveland Browns*||Metropolitan Stadium||46,503||CBS|
Championship Game appearances 1933–1969
|Eastern/American Division/Conference - *||Western/National Division/Conference - †|
|14||New York Giants*||3||11||.214|
|10||Green Bay Packers†||8||2||.800|
|5||Cleveland / Los Angeles Rams†||2||3||.400|
- The Cleveland Browns made six straight appearances in the NFL championship game (1950–55). The Chicago Bears made four straight (1940–43).
- The Green Bay Packers won 3 straight championships twice (1929–31 and 1965–67), becoming the only team to date to do so, and the most overall championships with 13.
- The Philadelphia Eagles are the only team to win back-to-back championships by shutouts, defeating the Chicago Cardinals, 7–0, in 1948 — in a blizzard — and the Los Angeles Rams, 14–0, in 1949 - in a rainstorm in Southern California.
- In 1960, the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Green Bay Packers, by a score of 17–13, thereby becoming the only team to defeat Vince Lombardi and his Packers in the playoffs.
- The Browns lost 3 straight (1951–53) as did the New York Giants (1961–63).
- The Boston Redskins were the host team for the 1936 championship game, but team owner George Preston Marshall sold the game site to the Polo Grounds in New York City. The Redskins moved south to Washington following the game.
- In the 37 NFL Championship games played, the teams from the Western Division / National / Western Conference won 25 of the games, to the Eastern Division / American / Eastern Conference teams' total of 12.
- The home team was 25–12 (.676).
- Host Stadiums
- Cleveland Municipal Stadium hosted 6 games (1 with the Rams and 5 with the Browns)
- Wrigley Field hosted 5 (all with the Bears)
- Polo Grounds hosted 5 (4 with the Giants and the 1936 game moved by the Redskins)
- First and last points scored
- 1933: first points were scored by Chicago's Jack Manders a field goal. The first touchdown was scored by New York on a touchdown pass from Harry Newman to Morris "Red" Badrgo.
- 1969: last field goal was scored on a 3rd quarter kick by Minnesota's Fred Cox. The last points scored was on a Cleveland touchdown pass from Bill Nelsen to Gary Collins with the extra point scored by Don Cockroft.
- Winning and losing player shares
- 1933 – Each Chicago player received $210.34 and each New York player received $140.22.
- After the 1970 AFL–NFL merger and the emergence of the Super Bowl, all NFL league championship games prior to merger are listed along with the NFC conference championship games in the NFL's official records.
- A third-place game was played during the 1960s. The Playoff Bowl was played in January in Miami. The NFL officially classifies these ten games (and statistics) as exhibitions, not playoff games.
- NFC Championship game
- List of Super Bowl champions
- National Football League championships history
- NFL lore
- "NFL Champions, 1920-2007". Pro Football Hall of Fame. http://www.profootballhof.com/history/general/champions.jsp. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
- "The First Playoff Game". Pro Football Hall of Fame. http://www.profootballhof.com/history/decades/1930s/first_playoff_game.jsp. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
- "NFL's First Trophy Included In NFL Films Production". Packers.com. Green Bay Packers. March 12, 2007. http://www.packers.com/news/stories/2007/03/12/1/. Retrieved 2009-04-03.[dead link]