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Eighty-one years ago Tuesday, the NFL established its championship game

George Halas Getty Images

Imagine an NFL with no divisions and no end-of-season championship game to decide an annual league winner.

Such an NFL did exist in the league’s early days. But on this day 81 years ago, the league established two divisions and an end-of-season championship game, per the NFL’s Record and Fact Book.

According to the league, Bears owner George Halas and then-Boston Braves owner George Preston Marshall “pushed through” the divisional and title-game plans.

On December 17, 1933, the Bears won the first NFL Championship game, knocking off the visiting Giants 23-21 at Wrigley Field. The Bears had won the NFL’s Western Division, with the Giants capturing the Eastern Division.

By 1950, the NFL’s divisions had been rebranded as conferences. Seventeen years later, the NFL established two divisions within the conferences, with the Capitol and Century divisions in the Eastern Conference and the Coastal and Central divisions in the Western Conference. The league moved to a three-divisions-per-conference format after the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, with the four-division, two-conference setup coming into play 12 years ago.

The NFL Championship game, of course, has become the Super Bowl. From 1967-1969, there was an NFL Championship and a Super Bowl, with the winner of the former competing against the AFL winner in the latter.

A world with no Super Bowl? Yes, there was such a world.

Just imagine Week 17 in such a league.

Goodness.

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26 Responses to “Eighty-one years ago Tuesday, the NFL established its championship game”
  1. kansacity88 says: Jul 8, 2014 9:17 PM

    Big Papa Halas was the man back then!

  2. Gordon says: Jul 8, 2014 9:17 PM

    Papa Bear!

  3. cometkazie says: Jul 8, 2014 9:29 PM

    And so it goes . . .

  4. sdelmonte says: Jul 8, 2014 9:36 PM

    No playoffs is the norm in most soccer leagues. Though they also have relegation. Imagine sending the Raiders to the NCAA and bringing up the SEC champ, if you want to mess with your mind.

  5. raiderapologist says: Jul 8, 2014 9:36 PM

    If the Chargers had a team back then, they still wouldn’t have any hardware.

  6. apm says: Jul 8, 2014 9:41 PM

    The Pottsville Maroons were robbed!

  7. NoobTubeTV says: Jul 8, 2014 9:42 PM

    And the Browns won four of them. Johnny 8-Ball will take us back to the promised land!

  8. whatjusthapped says: Jul 8, 2014 9:45 PM

    The Vikings and their fans would enjoy a world without championships, then no one would remind them how they never won one.

  9. Carl Gerbschmidt says: Jul 8, 2014 9:47 PM

    How many championships have the Vikes won since then? We’ve won 10.

  10. thebiblestudent says: Jul 8, 2014 10:27 PM

    Wow. That’d make for some boring writing.

  11. bonnovi says: Jul 8, 2014 10:37 PM

    What’s the point in even starting a pro league without a championship game?

  12. pittspuke7 says: Jul 8, 2014 10:42 PM

    Because the steelers never won a championship in their first 40 years and had no playoff wins, they believe that nfl didn’t start until they won a Super Bowl. No they do not have the most championships

  13. doe22us says: Jul 8, 2014 10:45 PM

    Its called Evolution, things evolve. No biggie now drop the tissues.

  14. soisaid2 says: Jul 8, 2014 11:20 PM

    Boston braves became washington redskins. Is this okay?

  15. thegreatgabbert says: Jul 8, 2014 11:37 PM

    Tom Coughlin had a great game that year, and went on to become a successful head coach.

  16. bassslaper says: Jul 8, 2014 11:52 PM

    Superbowl/NFL Championship History since 1933:

    Green Bay Packers 13 Championships
    Chicago Bears 9 Championships
    New York Giants 8 Championships
    Pittsburgh Steelers 6 Championships
    Washington Redskins 5 Championships
    Dallas Cowboys 5 Championships
    San Francisco 49′ers 5 Championships
    Cleveland Browns 4 Championships
    Detroit Lions 4 Championships
    Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts 4 Championships

    3 teams from the NFC North in the top 10.
    (Vikings have 0 Championships)

  17. watermelon1 says: Jul 9, 2014 12:05 AM

    Doing away with divisions and conferences would make things so much better without changing anything such as teams in London or playing more than 16 games.

    No second meetings every year with weak division opponents

    16 different opponents for every single team. Each of the 32 teams would play eachother as often as every other year. Any possible playoff or Super Bowl match up due to playoffs done by overall record with no conferences or division automatic bids.

    THIS is the change the NFL (and all sports) need. Not the ridiculous nonsense goodell has been pushing.

  18. golynxgo says: Jul 9, 2014 3:24 AM

    54 of those years the Vikings have been in existence 1 NFL championship (but they lost the Superbowl) Big surprise !!!!!!
    History repeats itself so as their fan base and most of their trolls (not all some good fans) once again brag about their great QB ….not 1 NFL start are stating they have the best team with the best WR (if being ranked the 56th one last year is great and the Lombardi’s coming their way
    Yes they now will come back with their feeble and easily rebuked nonsense and insult people from Green Bay and Lambeau Field but when you have nothing that is what you have to cling to SKOLOL
    Paper Champs. can’t wait for you to say wait till next year …again

  19. jazsrt says: Jul 9, 2014 3:28 AM

    Proud to be a fan of a flagship team…

    The Chicago Bears.

  20. staffordsyear says: Jul 9, 2014 5:19 AM

    The Detroit Lions won 4 of these championship games, 1935 1952 1953 1957…Yes it was a long time ago but a lions fan needs to remind himself and perhaps others that this team was great at one time and has churned out more than a few HOFS from this time.

    Restore the Roar.

  21. glasselephantkungfu says: Jul 9, 2014 6:02 AM

    and yet we only count Superbowls as Championships

  22. Spymaster Belichick says: Jul 9, 2014 7:11 AM

    Six Lombardis. That’s all that matters.

  23. n0hopeleft says: Jul 9, 2014 7:26 AM

    A world without Superbowls isn’t that hard to imagine. Just ask Philly fans about that.

  24. rovadawg says: Jul 9, 2014 9:39 AM

    The Cleveland Browns have won EIGHT NFL Championships, including a run of winning seven championships in ten years.

    The appeared in thirteen NFL Championships.

    Both of these are league highs.

  25. bassslaper says: Jul 9, 2014 10:27 AM

    rovadawg says:
    Jul 9, 2014 9:39 AM
    The Cleveland Browns have won EIGHT NFL Championships, including a run of winning seven championships in ten years.

    ******************************************
    4 of the Brown’s wins are AAFC championship games.

    Not SB or NFL Championships, you’re wrong they have only won 4.

  26. respectgsh says: Jul 11, 2014 12:01 AM

    Many, many people are responsible for the NFL we enjoy today but NONE more than GSH.

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