List of defunct National Football League franchises

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The following is a list and brief history of American football franchises that at one time played in the National Football League (NFL). The NFL was known as the American Professional Football Association (APFA) in 1920 and 1921. Note that the list represents NFL franchises that no longer exist, not franchises/teams that relocated. However, during the 1920s it is hard to tell if some teams changed nicknames from year to year or if each nickname represented a new franchise. It was also not uncommon for two or more teams to have the same nickname during the same season. No NFL franchise has folded since 1952. The Buccaneers, Colts, Cowboys, Giants, Lions, Panthers, and Texans franchises listed on this page are not the current franchises of those names. A defunct team, in this case, refers to a team which has had the rights to have a team returned to the NFL (or league collective at the time). Massillon Tigers attended the meetings in 1920, but never fielded a team in 1920.

Six defunct teams won an APFA/NFL championship: 1920 Akron Pros, 1922 and 1923 Canton Bulldogs, 1924 Cleveland Bulldogs, 1926 Frankford Yellow Jackets and 1928 Providence Steam Roller.





Rejected franchises[edit]

These are all teams that applied to join the NFL but were refused entry. Some existed only as proposals, but others had full organizations. Unless otherwise noted, each team folded after their unsuccessful bid to join the NFL.

  • Massillon Tigers (1920). Vernon Maginnis had acquired the rights to the Tigers name and had planned on using it for his traveling team in the NFL that year. Because of Maginnis's poor track record, Ralph Hay, owner of the Tigers' bitter rivals the Canton Bulldogs, declared himself owner of the Tigers name, immediately announced his Tigers would not play in 1920, and (in his capacity as Temporary Secretary of the league) prohibited any team in the league from scheduling games against Maginnis's Tigers.
  • Syracuse Pros (1921) A member of New York's pro circuit claimed membership in the league during the 1921 season, but no other evidence has emerged that they were ever recognized as a member. At one point in 1991, the Professional Football Researchers Association recognized Syracuse's claim as legitimate; neither the PFRA nor the NFL have recognized the team in the 21st century.
  • Union Quakers of Philadelphia (1922) An independent team that was not allowed into the league because of Pennsylvania's blue laws which would have prohibited the team from hosting Sunday home games. The Quakers, after four seasons of dormancy, would be reactivated as an AFL team.
  • Youngstown Patricians (1922) A member of the Ohio League; the Patricians had a 1922 schedule laid out. The Patricians had been unable to pull a team together since the 1917 season ended, and 1922 was no exception, with the team canceling its season before it began.
  • Los Angeles Bulldogs (1936) Approved[citation needed] as a probational franchise with the intention of becoming a full-fledged member in 1937. However, the Cleveland Rams were admitted in their place, due to travel cost concerns. The Bulldogs would go on to play in other leagues until 1948, while the Rams, coincidentally, would move to Los Angeles themselves in 1946.
  • Pennsylvania Keystoners (1940) Proposed merger of the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Pirates that was rejected by league ownership. A temporary merger was instituted in 1943 due to player shortages as a result of World War II.
  • Buffalo Bills (AAFC) (1950) Members of the All-America Football Conference. Four NFL owners blocked Buffalo's entry into the NFL. Current Bills franchise is unrelated other than in name.
  • Seattle Sea Lions and Seattle Kings (1971-72). Two related early proposals to bring an NFL franchise to Seattle, either by relocating the Buffalo Bills or by the expansion process; Hugh McElhenny, Hall of Famer and a partial heir to the Tabasco fortune, was closely tied to the proposal. The NFL eventually chose a different Seattle proposal, the Seattle Seahawks, instead.
  • Orlando Suns (1974). The Suns ownership group, led by Rommie Loudd, was one of the bidders on Central Florida's proposed NFL franchise; the NFL chose the Tampa Bay Buccaneers instead. The Suns played as the Florida Blazers in the World Football League.
  • Memphis Grizzlies (1975) Members of the World Football League. Unsuccessfully sued NFL to attempt to force admission (see: Mid-South Grizzlies v. NFL).
  • Arizona Firebirds (1986). The first attempt to bring an NFL franchise to the Copper State went as far as hiring Bart Starr away from his head coach position with the Green Bay Packers to serve in the same role with the Firebirds, and also included former American Football League commissioner Joe Foss as a co-owner along with Robert Whitlow.[2] Whitlow's bid was acknowledged as credible by commissioner Pete Rozelle and planned to build its stadium on the Gila River Indian Reservation.[3] The expansion bid never passed, though the Cardinals would relocate from St. Louis to Arizona in 1988.
  • New Jersey Generals (1986). Members of the United States Football League. Owner Donald Trump was among those seeking to force a merger of the USFL and the NFL, but the attempt failed.
  • Baltimore Bombers (1993). Proposed expansion team.
  • Memphis Hound Dogs (1993). Proposed expansion team. Later played as Memphis Mad Dogs in CFL USA in 1995.
  • St. Louis Stallions (1993). Proposed as both an expansion team and as a potential relocation of the New England Patriots.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Team List". Web. Database Football. Archived from the original on 6 October 2013. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
  2. ^ "Bart Starr a coach again - but without a team". Tuscaloosa News. January 14, 1984. p. 11.
  3. ^ "The Arizona Firebirds, a group seeking to bring a NFL franchise". UPI. January 13, 1984. p. 1.