All-America Football Conference - Legacy


Although the AAFC played only four years, it had a major, lasting impact on pro football. Of all the leagues that challenged the NFL, only the American Football League of the 1960s influenced the NFL more than the AAFC.

The Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, and original Baltimore Colts began in the AAFC.

Fifteen AAFC alumni are enshrined in pro football’s Hall of Fame.

The AAFC played a 14-game schedule more than a decade before the NFL, and played a major role in popularizing zone defenses in pro football.

The AAFC put the first pro football teams in Baltimore, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Miami. Indeed, the AAFC was a coast-to-coast league more than a decade before Major League Baseball. This brought about another innovation: AAFC teams traveled by air while NFL teams still traveled by train.

Black players were excluded from the NFL from 1934 to 1945. The AAFC helped reintegrate Professional Football in 1946 when Cleveland signed Marion Motley and Bill Willis. The NFL Rams, having been driven out of Cleveland by the AAFC Browns, signed Kenny Washington and Woody Strode only after the venue they sought to play in, the Los Angeles Coliseum, enforced its policy of integration.

The AAFC’s Paul Brown produced numerous innovations to the game on and off the field. Among them were year-round coaching staffs, precision pass patterns, the face mask, and the practice of coaches’ calling plays via “messenger guards”. He also was the first coach to have his staff film the opposition and have his team break down those game films in a classroom setting. In fact, the classroom setting and chalkboard analysis can also be attributed to him. His success with the Browns forced the rest of both leagues to adopt his methods. Many of his players and assistants eventually coached champions. Brown declined efforts to draft him to succeed Bert Bell as NFL commissioner, later founded the American Football League's Cincinnati Bengals, and later served on the NFL’s key Competition Committee until his death in 1991.

These and other AAFC innovations and personalities helped lay the groundwork for Professional Football's great success.

Finally, the Browns' NFL Championship in their first year in the NFL and their domination of that league for the next decade, in retrospect, seem to have been harbingers of another upstart league that like the AAFC was ridiculed and reviled by the NFL and its supporters, but would eventually be recognized as the genesis of modern Professional Football: the American Football League of 1960–1969.

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Famous quotes containing the word legacy:

    What is popularly called fame is nothing but an empty name and a legacy from paganism.
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