The Ultimate List of NFL Expansion Teams Since 1960

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Football is one of the biggest sports on the planet and since the early days of the NFL many decades ago now, there has been demand from areas that don’t have a team to get one. These are called expansion teams and while there hasn’t been one in more than 20 years, there are currently talks from league owners to expand again, perhaps even to "international" cities such as London or Toronto.

With talk going on about which cities would be best suited for an expansion team, we decided to take a look back at the history of expansion teams in the league since 1960, which is when "America's Team" joined the party. The Dallas Cowboys were joining a league that featured the following teams: The St. Louis Cardinals (who had just moved from Chicago), Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Redskins (now the Commanders), Baltimore Colts, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers.

All facts from Pro Football Reference.

1960: The Dallas Cowboys

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Although it’s debated, the Dallas Texans, who had just one NFL season and are considered to be one of the worst teams in history, are not an expansion team. However, their time in the league did lead to the birth of the Cowboys.

Although they’ve since become the most successful franchise in the league and are worth an estimated $6.5 billion today, like many expansion teams, the Cowboys struggled in their first season. In fact, they failed to win a game at all. It took them until 1965 to win half their games and in the following two years, they won the Eastern Conference titles.

All in all, the team’s first decade in the league was good, but not great. This changed in the 70s, though, when they made five Super Bowl appearances, winning two.

1961: Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings aren’t Minnesota, or even Minneapolis’ first NFL team. In actuality, the Minneapolis Marines/Red Jackets played in the league throughout the 1920s and 1930s. After that though, it took until 1959 for the area to get a team again, when Bill Boyer, H.P. Skoglund and Max Winter were awarded a new franchise. This was originally to be in the rival AFL, but NFL pressure meant they’d get the franchise.

This of course turned out to be the Vikings. As far as expansion teams go, the Vikings did about as well as possible, producing ticket sales of 26,000 in their first season, filling up the Metropolitan Stadium at about an 85% average. The team has one of the highest winning percentages in the league and can boast the third-most playoff appearances since the merger in 1970.

1966: Atlanta Falcons

In 1965, the AFL wanted to expand to Atlanta. Rankin Smith, who was EVP at the Life Insurance Company of Georgia, was awarded a franchise. The NFL heard about this though and made him an offer which he took. He paid $8.5 million at the time, which is about $75 million in today’s money. He also secured rights to Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, where the team played their first 26 seasons.

The Falcons played their first season in ’66 and in their first 12 years, they had just two winning seasons.

1967: New Orleans Saints

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On November 1st 1966, it was announced that the NFL had awarded New Orleans with an NFL team. This was All Saints’ Day, but the team was named the Saints after ‘When The Saints Go Marching In,’ a classic for Jazz bands to perform.

The Saints are infamous for having one of the least successful runs in league history. It took the "'Aints" 20 years to have a winning season and a further 13 years to get their first playoff win. That only made their 2009 Super Bowl win even sweeter, because of the long history and the fact that to this day, it is their sole Super Bowl appearance.

In 1970, the rival AFL and NFL merged. None of the teams from the AFL are considered "expansion" teams in the true sense of the word, but it sure did change the shape of the NFL. The teams that joined the NFL for the 1970 season were the Boston (now New England) Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Houston Oilers (now Tennessee Titans), Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders and San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers.

That's how things stood until NFL expansion resumed in...

1976: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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The Buccaneers are one of the more successful expansion teams in the league, especially with some of their records. The team is the first post-merger expansion team to a win a division title, win a playoff game and host a conference championship.

In their early history though, the struggles were apparent. Tampa Bay didn’t win a game until the 13th week of their second season, meaning at one point, they had an 0-26 record. Florida is a great market for the NFL, though, and Bucs fans have generally stood behind the team...which also won a Super Bowl with Tom Brady in 2021.

1976: Seattle Seahawks

The same year as the Buccaneers, the Seattle Seahawks also joined the league. The process started in June of 1972, when Seattle Professional Football Inc. announced its intention to acquire an NFL franchise. Two years later, they got what they wanted. The team was introduced and the name was voted for by the public.

The Seahawks are of course famous for their incredible fans, largely because they’re the only team in the Pacific Northwest and get support from places like Oregon, Utah and Idaho in addition to Seattle.

1995: Carolina Panthers

In 1987, entrepreneur and Carolina native Jerry Richardson announced his bid for a Carolina NFL team. He drew inspiration from George Shinn, who bid for the Charlotte Hornets. To show that fan support would be worth it, Richardson set up games Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill and Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. An application was officially filed in 1991 and 1993, the Carolina Panthers were part of the NFL.

The team’s first season was 1995, were they finished with a 7-9 record, the best inaugural season ever from an expansion team. They made their first Super Bowl appearance in 2003, in what many feel is one of the better games of all time.

1995: Jacksonville Jaguars

Despite the Panthers being named as a team a couple of years earlier than the Jacksonville Jaguars, both teams played their first season in 1995 and are considered expansion siblings.

The Jaguars are one of four NFL franchises that haven’t played in the Super Bowl, but that doesn’t automatically mean that their time in the league has been a failure. In fact, in the team’s second, third, fourth and fifth seasons, they qualified for the playoffs, an incredible feat for such a young team, especially one with in-state competition.

In 1999, the Cleveland Browns, who had lost their team (but not history) when then-owner Art Modell moved the franchise to Baltimore and became the Ravens in 1996, were "reinstated," and began play again, picking up a franchise history that dates to 1946.

2002: Houston Texans

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In 1997, the aforementioned Houston Oilers had relocated to Tennessee where they became the Titans. Houston became a favorite to get a new team and Bob McNair, who had previously failed in his bid for the city to get an NHL team, formed Houston NFL Holdings with Steve Patterson. In 1999, the NFL awarded the team to Houston for $700 million, the equivalent of $1.17 billion today.

The Texans played their first season in 2002, more than 20 years ago. The team struggled until Gary Kubiak became the head coach in 2006. The team began going .500 and entering the playoffs and just last season proved they are ready to compete for a long time thanks to dynamic quarterback CJ Stroud.

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