The 1944 NFL season was the 25th regular season of the United States National Football League. The Boston Yanks joined the league as an expansion team. Also, the Brooklyn Dodgers changed their name to Brooklyn Tigers. Meanwhile, both the Cleveland Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles resumed their traditional operations. But the Pittsburgh Steelers then merged with the Chicago Cardinals for this one season due to player shortages as a result of World War II. The combined team, known as Card-Pitt, played half of their home games in each city. Card-Pitt set the 20th century record for lowest punting average by an NFL team with 32.7 yards per punt.
The season is notable in that it featured two winless teams (the only such case in NFL history after the league stabilized from its earlier years of revolving door membership when winless teams were much more common) as both Brooklyn and Card-Pitt went on to finish 0–10. Since 1944, only four teams have gone winless in the NFL for an entire season: the 1960 Dallas Cowboys (0–11–1), the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0–14), the 1982 Baltimore Colts (0–8–1), and the 2008 Detroit Lions (0–16). In the case of the Colts, the season was shortened due to a league-wide players strike, while the Cowboys and Buccaneers were both expansion teams the year they went winless.
The season ended when the Green Bay Packers defeated the New York Giants in the NFL Championship Game.
Major rule changes
- The free substitution rule is modified so that substitutes do not have to report to the officials before a play.
- Communication between the players and coaches on the field is permitted as long as the coaches are in the designated areas along the sidelines, and that they do not cause a delay in the game.
- If the offensive team commits pass interference in their opponent's end zone, it is just a distance penalty and no longer an automatic touchback.
Each team played ten games over thirteen weeks. The Brooklyn Tigers lost seven of their games by a touchdown or less. On October 29, they had 14–7 lead over Boston at halftime, before losing 17–14 in Week Seven. The same week, Card-Pitt's 42–20 loss at Washington eliminated it from playoff contention. Card-Pitt had actually taken a 28–23 lead over the Rams in its first game, played September 24 at Pittsburgh, before falling 30–28; its only other lead was a 7–0 in a game at Chicago against the Packers, which it eventually lost 35–20.
The Western Division race was no contest, as the Packers won their first six games and stayed ahead of all challengers. In the Eastern Division, Washington (5–0–1) and Philadelphia (4–0–2) were both unbeaten after nine weeks. The teams met in Washington in Week Ten (November 26), and the Eagles won 37–7, putting them at 5–0–2, with the Redskins and Giants a half game back at 5–1–1. The Eagles lost, while the Giants and Redskins won, in Week Eleven, putting New York and Washington in the lead at 6–1–1. In Week Twelve, a crowd of 47,457 turned out at New York's Polo Grounds to watch the Giants and Redksins. Washington had a 13–10 lead before falling 16–13. In Week Thirteen, the Eagles beat the Rams 26–13, giving them a 7–1–2 finish, then waited to see how the 7–1–1 Giants would fare in their rematch at Washington. The Giants beat the Skins 31–0, capturing the division and the right to host the championship.
W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, PCT= Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against
Note: The NFL did not officially count tie games in the standings until 1972
NFL Championship Game
Green Bay 14, N.Y. Giants 7, at Polo Grounds, New York City, December 17, 1944
- ^ Kiss Em Goodbye: An ESPN Treasury of failed, forgotten, and departed teams, p.69, Dennis Purdy, Ballantine Books, New York, 2010, ISBN 978-0-345-52012-8