Sunday, October 20, 2013

Best NFL Teams Ever, Continued: 1943-1969

This era of NFL history is oft forgotten, and it's a shame.  Football fans, for some reason, think of history as beginning with the Super Bowl.  But it just plain didn't.  And it's unfortunate that they think that way.  In this era, I'm going to start looking at best teams by decade, because I think that'll be more fun that just lumping everything together.  So, the first "decade" will be 1943-1949.  But that's only 7 years, you say.  Well, keep in mind that we covered 1940-1942 in the last post.  But even so, the 1943-1949 "decade" covers 11 seasons, because the AAFC days were four years long, meaning there were two seasons each year from 1946-1949.  So we're still covering 11 "years" in this group!  Without further ado, the best teams of 1943-1949:

1946 Cleveland Browns, 1.018
1949 Philadelphia Eagles, .922
1948 Chicago Bears, .896
1948 Philadelphia Eagles, .889
1948 San Francisco 49ers, .887
1947 Cleveland Browns, .879
1949 San Francisco 49ers, .869
1943 Chicago Bears, .868
1945 Philadelphia Eagles, .868
1949 Cleveland Browns, .828

As I'm sure you noticed, the Browns from three out of the four AAFC years made the list.  Also, in the last post, I said that no teams should have "won" more games than they played outside of the 1920-1942 era.  Well, obviously I was wrong, because the 1946 Browns so thoroughly dominated the competition that they deserve a spot in that group, as well.  Of course, it wasn't actually the NFL, so maybe you'll forgive my mistake.  Anyway, the Eagles had probably their best decade ever in the 1940s.  Which is why it's a real shame for Eagles fans that NFL fans so quickly forget this era of pro football.  You may also have noticed that teams 3-5 all played in the same year:  1948.  San Francisco, obviously was in a different league than the other two, so never played them.  The 'Niners didn't even make the playoffs in their league; despite having the better point differential, the 'Niners went 12-2, while Cleveland went undefeated, and got to play a Buffalo team that went 7-7 in the regular season for the title.  Cleveland won, and that San Francisco team was forgotten.  You'll also notice that the 1948 Cleveland team is the only AAFC Cleveland team not to make the top ten.  They were #11.  In the NFL in 1948, Philadelphia won the championship, but not over Chicago.  Much like in the AAFC, the Bears (10-2) didn't even win their division, so the Cardinals (11-1) were the losers to the Eagles.  That's just how it goes sometimes.

The 1950s:

1953 Cleveland Browns, .860
1951 Cleveland Browns, .840
1954 Cleveland Browns, .831
1958 Baltimore Colts, .828
1950 Cleveland Browns, .801
1956 Chicago Bears, .801
1950 Los Angeles Rams, .785
1952 Detroit Lions, .784
1954 Detroit Lions, .782
1953 Chicago Bears,  .765

Holy Cleveland!  Again, much like Philadelphia in the 1940s, Cleveland's Golden Age for pro football was the forgotten 1950s.  And that's a shame.  Cleveland won NFL titles in 1950, 1954, and 1955, and probably also had the best team in the league in 1951 and 1953.  In their first six years in the NFL, only Detroit in 1952 managed to beat them both head-to-head, and in cumulative points.  Detroit also won back-to-back titles in 1952 and 1953, and had a team just as good in 1954... but they were crushed 56-10 by the Browns.  Even so, this was the Lions' best decade.  And it's been forgotten.  You'll notice a theme:  for these teams who had their best years in these "forgotten" eras of the NFL's past, they haven't won a title since.  It's time to start celebrating history; we may not see a title in Cleveland or Detroit for a looooong time otherwise!

The 1960s:

Basically, the 1960s gets a break.  People kinda start to think of this as the "modern" game, mostly because the Lombardi Packers dominated the decade, both before and after the Super Bowl began.  This allows people to think of it as more or less the same game, so you'll sometimes see NFL "historians" reference the 1960s as being part of the "real" history of the NFL... even though there hadn't been any real changes between the game of the 1950s and the game of the 1960s.  Anyway, keep in mind that the 1960s includes 10 years of the AFL; therefore, there were 20 "seasons" in the 1960s.  So here's the list:

1968 Baltimore Colts, .949
1962 Green Bay Packers, .927
1968 Dallas Cowboys, .927
1969 Minnesota Vikings, .920
1961 Houston Oilers, .900
1967 Oakland Raiders, .872
1961 New York Giants, .865
1968 Oakland Raiders, .856
1966 Dallas Cowboys, .839
1967 Los Angeles Rams, .830
1964 Baltimore Colts, .829
1968 Kansas City Chiefs, .825
1967 Baltimore Colts, .820
1969 Kansas City Chiefs, .808
1966 Green Bay Packers, .783
1960 Cleveland Browns, .780
1961 Green Bay Packers, .779
1966 Kansas City Chiefs, .774
1963 New York Giants, .773
1963 Green Bay Packers, .765

I was extremely surprised by two things Packers-related.  First, I didn't realize that Lombardi's Packers had so frequently outperformed their point differentials.  It may have been luck.  It may have been something about the team.  I doubt you'd find another team as successful as they who so often outperformed superior teams.  Second, I was certain that the 1962 Packers would rank as the best team of the decade.  But it was, in fact, the infamous 1968 Colts (who famously lost to the Jets in Super Bowl III) who took the honor of "team of the decade."  This puts a whole new spin on the idea on just how big of an upset that game was.  The five teams above .900 are the most by any decade since 1943.  I wonder if that'll hold.

Another unfortunate side-effect of people forgetting the pre-Super-Bowl-era is that the great teams of the AFL, like the 1961 Oilers, are basically forgotten.  Also, one more Packers-related thing:  the team won 5 NFL titles in 7 years.  But their 4th best team of that stretch is one that didn't:  1963, the #20 team of the decade.

Well, that's it for post #2.  We'll see if I can fit in everything since 1970 in one post.  Catch you later.

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