What If The AFL And NFL Never Merged?

What If The AFL And NFL Never Merged? | Sports Takes & News | TooAthletic.com

There was once a time when American Football had two professional leagues, the NFL and the AFL; that is before the two leagues merged, creating the modern NFL most fans know today. For a while, however, one league was worried the other would knock it out of business and began merger talks with the other. One can only wonder what pro football would look like in the 21st century if the two leagues didn’t agree to pool their resources together over a half century ago. What would the sports world look like in 2021 if the AFL and NFL never merged?

The 1960’s were a time for turmoil in America with the sports world not immune, especially the National Football League, who faced a challenge for players, coaches, as well as fans and their money from the upstart American Football League. The two leagues offered football fans different styles of play, with the traditional ways of the NFL and their run-first offenses and overpowering defenses proving boring to new fans who embraced the passing offenses of the AFL. The style of play of the AFL was so appealing that by 1962 the new league in town was drawing a million fans to watch their game and had the NFL worried.

Three years later, as The History Channel reminds us, a young University of Alabama quarterback named Joe Namath was convinced to leave school and join the AFL’s New York Jets, the same year the league signed a television contract with NBC for the broadcasting rights of their games. The move sparked fear in the minds of those in the NFL, who previously felt the AFL would only be able to lure older players or those who weren’t good enough for their own league.

Many in the NFL, especially commissioner Pete Rozelle and Dallas Cowboys owner Tex Schramm knew that the “win at all cost” AFL lead by Al Davis would continue to compete with them for players and coaches and were willing to buy their talents in order to defeat the NFL at their own game. Despite the perception of some, the NFL, opened up secret negotiations to merge the two leagues, which took place in June 1966. All eight AFL teams were added to the NFL, forming the American Football Conference, with the original NFL teams becoming the National Football Conference, thus setting the league on the path it took 55 years ago.

Just the thought of commissioner Al Davis and having the Oakland Raiders be “America’s Team” inspires so many interesting and exciting thoughts. Perhaps it took a while longer than it should have, but the style of play that the modern NFL has (thanks to Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes) has its root in the AFC. Some might credit college football or the XFL for the style of games we see nowadays, but the AFL is there passing become cool and the appeal of high scoring football games were proven to be effective.

The NFL appears to have arrived where it was destined to go thanks to the merger with the AFL; but who would be credited for bringing about that change would be different. Perhaps if the AFL had stood alone and drove the NFL out of business, the history of football would be different, with the team of the 1970’s replaced by the Raiders, the former All-American Football Conference team, the San Francisco 49ers not becoming the team of the 1980’s, or Schramm’s Cowboys not emerging to be the team of the 1990’s.  The NFL has a rich history, but it is one clearly was written by those who saw a thread in the AFC and joined with them rather than be buried by them.  The result is that the game’s probably evolved slower than it has, proving different stars to emerge, and adding pages to its history there may not otherwise be there.  Perhaps we are better off with what he have now than what we could have seen with the AFL running the show; but I, for one, would have loved to have seen what the AFL, not NFL world would have looked like since 1966, because I think it would have been much more progressive and less corporate, the two things the NFL has been now for known and what has often gotten the league in trouble over the years. 

 


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What If The AFL And NFL Never Merged? | TooAthletic.com

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