Eighty-eight years ago Thursday, the NFL finalized a plan to get smaller.
A lot smaller.
The plan, which was led by Commissioner Joe Carr, was to contract some of the struggling clubs to improve the league’s financial health, as the NFL’s Record and Fact Book points out. “The Man Who Built The National Football League,” a biography of Carr, notes contraction discussions began earlier in the winter, were formalized on April 23, 1927 and executed in July.
When the 1927 season began, a leaner-and-meaner NFL was in place. The league, which fielded 22 teams the previous year, now had just 12 clubs — 10 holdovers and two teams that were not in the NFL in 1926.
Moreover, a dozen teams had exited stage left, never to play again in the NFL. Ultimately, the Akron Indians, Brooklyn Lions, Canton Bulldogs, Columbus Tigers, Detroit Panthers, Hammond Pros, Hartford Blues, Kansas City Cowboys, Los Angeles Buccaneers, Louisville Colonels, Milwaukee Badgers and Racine Tornadoes disappeared from the NFL for good.
For eight cities — Akron, Canton, Columbus, Hammond, Hartford, Louisville, Milwaukee and Racine — this was the end of having an NFL team within its boundaries.
So what happened to the 12 teams that remained in the NFL in 1927?
Within five years, eight of the clubs — the Buffalo Rangers, Cleveland Bulldogs, Dayton Triangles, Duluth Eskimos, Frankford Yellow Jackets, New York Yankees, Pottsville Maroons and Providence Steam Roller — were gone.
However, the Chicago Bears, Chicago Cardinals, Green Bay Packers and New York Giants were still around, just as they are today, with only the Cardinals (now in Arizona) having changed markets.