Which NFL Teams Are the Oldest?

The NFL is celebrating its 100th season, which involves a lot of history among stadiums, fans, and teams. But how many of the NFL’s original teams are still in existence? And when it comes to the rest of the teams, which are the oldest? In honor of the NFL’s centennial, let’s see how the five oldest NFL franchises have transformed over the years. 

5. Detroit Lions

Ever heard of the Portsmouth Spartans? They were founded in 1929, and they one day became known as the Detroit Lions. In 1934, the team moved from Portsmouth, Ohio to Detroit, Michigan and assumed its current name. While the team has largely struggled in the Super Bowl era, the Lions were somewhat successful prior to it.

Detroit won four NFL championships (1935, 1952, 1952, and 1957). The franchise has also celebrated some legendary players like quarterback Bobby Layne, running back Barry Sanders, and wide receiver Calvin Johnson

4. New York Giants

Established in 1925, the Giants have had the same name for its entire existence. The team was founded by businessman Tim Mara. His son Wellington went on to own the team from 1959 until he passed away. The Giants have won four Super Bowl championships. In addition, they won four NFL championships in 1927, 1934, 1938, and 1956. 

For a time, the team was officially known as the “New York Football Giants” because MLB had a third baseball team in New York City that shared the name. That club moved to San Francisco, but the nickname New York Football Giants has stuck with many diehard fans to this day. 

3. Green Bay Packers

If you count NFL championships along with Super Bowls, the Packers are the NFL’s single winningest team with 13 NFL titles. They’re also one of the league’s oldest teams, founded in 1919 by pro football player and coach Curly Lambeau. While the team won several championships early on, they achieved the greatest success under coach Vince Lombardi in the 1960s.

Green Bay remains the smallest market to house an NFL team, though its fans are some of the most loyal. It’s also the NFL’s only publicly-owned team.

2. Chicago Bears

Like the Lions, the Bears began in a different city with a different name. The team was founded in 1920, known then as the Decatur Staleys. One of only two charter NFL members that still exist, the Bears have played over 1,000 games in franchise history. Their first coach, owner, and player was George Halas. He continued to be a part of the franchise until his death in 1983, and his family still owns the team. 

1. Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals, as they’re known now, have only had this name since 1994. But the franchise is the league’s oldest team. They’ve gone through many permutations, including: 

  • Chicago Cardinals: 1920-1943, 1945-1958
  • Card-Pitt: 1944 (the Cardinals and Steelers merged due to World War II)
  • St. Louis Cardinals: 1960-1987
  • Phoenix Cardinals: 1988-1993
  • Arizona Cardinals: 1994-now

The Cardinals were first established in 1898. Here’s how they came into existence, per Pro Football Hall of Fame

A charter member of the National Football League, the Cardinals trace their history back to 1898 when Chris O’Brien formed the Morgan Athletic Club. A few years later, he bought used jerseys from the University of Chicago. He described the faded maroon clothing as “Cardinal red” and the team, then playing at 61st and Racine Street, became the Racine Street Cardinals.

The team has yet to win a Super Bowl, but fans are hopeful coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray can turn their fortunes around.