1950 NFL season
The 1950 NFL season was the 31st regular season of the National Football League. The merger with the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) expanded the league to 13 teams. Meanwhile, television brought a new era to the game. The Los Angeles Rams became the first NFL team to have all of its games – both home and away – televised. The Washington Redskins became the second team to put their games on TV. Other teams arranged to have selected games televised.
The AAFC–NFL merger
The NFL and the AAFC merged prior to the season, announced on December 9, 1949. Three AAFC teams — Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, and Baltimore Colts — joined the NFL intact. The players of the former AAFC New York Yankees team were divided up between the New York Giants and the New York Bulldogs (who changed their name to New York Yanks), the Los Angeles Dons and Los Angeles Rams merged, and a portion of the AAFC Buffalo Bills was absorbed into the Browns organization. A special draft was then held by the league's 13 teams to allocate the rest of the AAFC players.
The 13 teams were realigned into the American and National conferences, which lasted for three seasons. The merged league briefly flirted with the name "National-American Football League", but restored the name "National Football League" a few months later. Under the alignment, both conferences had a team in New York and Chicago. The "American Conference" (formerly the Eastern Division) had six teams including the Giants and the Cardinals, and the "National Conference" (the old Western Division) had seven teams including the Yanks and the Bears, as well as the Baltimore Colts.
Baltimore was declared a "swing team" and played one game against each of the other 12 NFL clubs. The original intent of the merger was to have the popular Cleveland Browns serve as this team for two years to equally help gate receipts throughout the league, however, this was refused point blank by Paul Brown. Over a 13-week season, one team was idle each week while the other 12 met in the six scheduled games. Each team played a home-and-away game against the other five teams in their conference, one game outside the conference, and one game against Baltimore over the course of a 12-game schedule.
The league also established the Pro Bowl in the 1950 season. Though the league had attempted an all-star game annually between 1938 and 1942, it had cancelled the game because of World War II and did not revive it when the war ended. Unlike the previous all-star game format, which pitted the league's most recent champion against the league's best all-stars, the Pro Bowl would pit two all-star teams, one from each conference, against each other.
Also, the 1950 season saw the first game played outside the United States when the New York Giants played the Ottawa Rough Riders of the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union in an exhibition match on August 12. The Giants and Rough Riders would repeat the feat in 1951; the Giants handily won both games.
Major rule changes
- The free substitution rule (any or all of the players may be replaced by substitutes after any play) was restored on a permanent basis. This change paved the way for player specialization in pro football, including three separate units for each team: offensive team, defensive team, and special teams.
- If a backwards pass or fumble goes out of bounds before it is recovered, the team that had control of the ball last maintains possession.
Regular season highlights
- Week One The opening game of the 1950 NFL season was a matchup between the defending champions of the AAFC and the NFL, the Cleveland Browns and the Philadelphia Eagles, respectively. The teams had never met prior to September 16, 1950, and a crowd of 71,237 turned out in Philadelphia. The Browns won 35–10. The First Fifty Years, a 1969 book that chronicles the first half-century of the NFL, listed the game as one of "Ten [Games] That Mattered" in bringing nationwide prestige to the league.
- In Week Three (October 1), the New York Giants handed the Browns their first shutout ever, winning 6–0 in Cleveland while grounding Otto Graham's passing attack.
- In Week Five (October 15), the Steelers beat the Giants 17–6 at the Polo Grounds, knocking them out of the American Conference lead. The other New York team, the Yanks, had a share of the lead in the National Conference after a 29–24 win in Yankee Stadium over the 49ers, but only 5,740 fans turned out to watch.
- The Browns-Giants rematch took place on October 22 in Week Six in New York, and the Giants won again, 17–13. In the west, the Colts scored four touchdowns against the Rams, but the Rams had ten in a 70–27 blowout.
- Los Angeles had a 65–24 win over Detroit in Week Seven (October 29), which saw the Eagles reclaim the lead in their conference with a 35–3 win over Washington and the Giants' 17–3 loss to the Cardinals. In the other New York-Chicago game, the Yanks raised their record to 6–1–0 with a 38–27 win over the Bears.
- The Yanks were idle in Week Eight (November 6), in which field goals played a prominent role. Pittsburgh's Joe Geri booted all the points in the Steelers' 9–7 win over the Eagles, and the Giants' Ray Poole made a 40-yard kick with 0:04 left to beat Washington 24–21. The Browns regained the lead of the American conference in a 10–7 win over the Cards, with the margin being a Lou Groza field goal.
- In Week Nine (November 13), the New York Yanks lost their rematch with the Bears, 28–20, putting both teams at 6–2, while the Rams took the lead in the National with a 45–7 win over Green Bay. Meanwhile, former AAFC teams Cleveland and San Francisco met for the first time in the NFL, with the Browns winning 34–17 to stay in front in the American.
- A crowd of 42,673 turned out at Yankee Stadium to watch the New York Yanks, who lost to the Rams 43–35 in Week Ten (November 20), as L.A. and Cleveland kept their leads.
- The big game of Week Eleven on November 27 was in Chicago, where the Bears took a 24–0 lead over the Rams on the way to a 24–14 win, and a half game lead (8–2 vs. 8–3) over them in the National Conference. Cleveland had a bye week, and the Giants 7–3 win over the Eagles tied them with the Browns in the American, with 8–2 records.
- On December 3, 1950, all six of the Week Twelve games had significance. Taunted as a team that couldn't win a game without passing, the Cleveland Browns won again against the Eagles, 13–7, this time without Otto Graham attempting a pass. There were 17 punt returns, 12 by Philadelphia, both records. In New York, George Taliaferro had a record 8 kickoff returns for the Yanks in a 51–7 loss to the Giants. Both the Browns and Giants stayed tied in the American Conference with records of 9–2–0. Bill Dudley of Washington returned a punt 96 yards for a touchdown in a 24–7 win over the Steelers. In the National Conference, Cloyce Box of Detroit had 302 yards receiving, one yard short of the NFL record, in a 45–21 win over Baltimore. Tom Fears had an NFL record 18 pass receptions for the Rams in a 51–14 win over Green Bay and a 9–3–0 record to lead the division. Meanwhile, the Bears were upset by the crosstown Cardinals, 20–10, dropping them to 8–3–0, a half game behind L.A.
- In the final week, Week Thirteen, the Browns, Giants and Bears were all in must-win situations, while the Rams had finished their season at 9–3–0. The Bears, at 8–3–0, were tied 3–3 with the Lions after three quarters. George Blanda booted a 22-yard field goal and Chicago held on for a 6–3 win to give them a 9–3–0 record and a tie for the National Conference title with the Rams. The Browns and Giants were both at 9–2–0, and both were playing on the road. Cleveland handled Washington 45–21, while the Giants had to fight off numerous drives by Philadelphia to protect a 9–7 win. With ties for first place in both conferences, the NFL title game had to be delayed a week while an unprecedented four team playoff took place. The Giants and Browns would meet in Cleveland, while the Bears and the Rams would meet in Los Angeles.
|1||3 teams (Bears, Det, NYY)||1–0–0||3 teams (Cle, NYG, Was)||1–0–0|
|2||Tie: (Bears, Lions)||2–0–0||CLEVELAND BROWNS||2–0–0|
|3||4 teams (Bears, Det, GB, LA)||2–1–0||NEW YORK GIANTS||2–0–0|
|4||3 teams (Bears, Det, NYY)||3–1–0||NEW YORK GIANTS||3–0–0|
|5||Tie: (Bears, Yanks)||4–1–0||CLEVELAND BROWNS||4–1–0|
|6||NEW YORK YANKS||5–1–0||Tie: (Giants, Phi)||4–1–0|
|7||NEW YORK YANKS||6–1–0||PHILADELPHIA EAGLES||5–1–0|
|8||NEW YORK YANKS||6–1–0||CLEVELAND BROWNS||6–2–0|
|9||LOS ANGELES RAMS||7–2–0||CLEVELAND BROWNS||7–2–0|
|10||LOS ANGELES RAMS||8–2–0||CLEVELAND BROWNS||8–2–0|
|11||CHICAGO BEARS||8–2–0||Tie: (Browns, Giants)||8–2–0|
|12||LOS ANGELES RAMS||9–3–0||Tie: (Browns, Giants)||9–2–0|
|13||Tie: (Bears, Rams)||9–3–0||Tie: (Browns, Giants)||10–2–0|
W = Wins, L = Losses, PCT= Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against
|New York Giants||10||2||.833||268||150|
|Los Angeles Rams||9||3||.750||466||309|
|New York Yanks||7||5||.583||366||367|
|Green Bay Packers||3||9||.250||244||406|
|San Francisco 49ers||3||9||.250||213||300|
See: 1950 NFL playoffs
The only scheduled playoff game was the championship game. The two conference playoffs were tiebreakers.
- Home team in capitals
American Conference Playoff Game
- CLEVELAND 8, N.Y. Giants 3
National Conference Playoff Game
- LOS ANGELES 24, Chi. Bears 14
NFL Championship Game
- CLEVELAND 30, Los Angeles 28
|Receiving||Tom Fears||Los Angeles||1116|
NFL Records set or tied in 1950
- Most Points per Game, Season (Min 10 games), 38.83
- Los Angeles Rams: (466 points in 12 games)
- Most Games Scoring 50+ Points, Season, 3
- Most Points, Single Team, One Quarter, 41 (tied)
- Most Points, Both Teams, Third Quarter, 48
- Fewest Field Goals, Season (Since 1932), 0 (tied)
- "Pro football leagues agree to merge;". Milwaukee Journal. December 10, 1949. p. 8.
- "Four-year pro grid war ends! NFL, AAC merge". Milwaukee Sentinel. December 10, 1949. p. 4, part 2.
- The First Fifty Years: A Celebration of the National Football League in its Fiftieth Season, Simon and Schuster, Inc., Copyright 1969, ASIN: B0018NJUO0
- Pro-Football-Reference.com: In a single season, from 1940 to 2011, in the regular season, requiring Points For >= 50, sorted by most games in season matching criteria.
- NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 1-932994-36-X)
- NFL History 1941–1950 (Last accessed July 24, 2013)
- 1950 season in details
- Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)