Divisions - The Original Eight AFL Teams

Eastern Division

  • Boston Patriots

    (now New England Patriots)

    Boston Patriots LogoProfessional football arrived in New England on November 22, 1959, when a group of local businessmen, led by former public relations executive William H.Sullivan, Jr. was awarded the eighth and final franchise in the new American Football League.

    Billy Sullivan Jr., a Boston businessman with a strong sports promotional background, secured an American Football League franchise on November 22, 1959. In keeping with the New England heritage, the nickname "Patriots" was selected by a panel of Boston sportswriters in a contest to name the team. The Boston team was involved in two significant "firsts" in 1960. The Patriots defeated the Buffalo Bills in the first AFL pre-season game on July 30. On September 9, the Patriots lost to the Denver Broncos 13-10 in the first-ever AFL regular-season game. During the Patriots' first decade, finding a suitable playing home in the Boston area was almost as urgent as putting a competitive team on the field. The Patriots played at Boston University Field in the 1960 and 1961 and at Harvard in 1962 and again in 1970. From 1963 to 1969, the Patriots played at Fenway Park, the Red Sox baseball stadium. Then in 1971, two significant things happened. The team changed its name to New England Patriots and moved to a new 60,764-seat stadium in the town of Foxboro, about 25 miles south of Boston. After two name changes, the Stadium is now called Foxboro Stadium.

    excerpted from the Pro Football Hall of Fame

  • Buffalo Bills

    Bufallo Bills LogoThe Buffalo Bills began their pro football life as the seventh team to be admitted to the new American Football League. The franchise was awarded to Ralph C. Wilson on October 28, 1959. During their more than three decades in the AFL and, beginning in 1970, the merged National Football League, the Bills have experienced extended periods of both championship dominance and second-division frustration. Penn State QB Richie Lucas was selected as Buffalo’s first draft choice. The Team is named Bills by President Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Garrard “Buster” Ramsey named first head coach of the Bills. Dick Gallagher chosen as general manager.

    The Bills' first brush with success came in their fourth season in 1963 when they tied for the AFL Eastern division crown but lost to the Boston Patriots in a playoff. But in 1964 and 1965, they not only won their division but defeated the San Diego Chargers each year for the AFL championship. Head Coach Lou Saban, who was named AFL Coach of the Year each year, departed after the 1965 season.

    excerpted from the Pro Football Hall of Fame

  • Houston Oilers

    (now Tennessee Titans)

    Houston Oilers LogoFranchise Owner-President K. S. "Bud" Adams Jr. was one of the founding fathers of the American Football League in 1959. In August of that year Adams, announces Houston’s entry into the American Football League. Later that same month the AFL formally organized with six cities: Los Angeles, New York, Denver, Dallas, Houston and Minneapolis-St Paul. In 1960, Adams hires Lou Rymkus to coach his team in Houston known as the Oilers. Adams names the team Oilers “for sentimental and social reasons, in that it is the largest part of the economy and workforce in Texas, as many cities were found on oil.” Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon from Louisiana State was the first big-name signing of both the Oilers and the AFL. The Oilers are able to win a major victory for the AFL by signing Cannon. They also introduce a strong veteran influence by signing QB George Blanda.

    The Oilers were the AFL's first champions, winning back-to-back titles in 1960 and 1961. After starting their season with a 37-22 win over the Raiders in Oakland the Oilers came home to Jeppesen Stadium where they defeated the Los Angles Chargers 38-28. The Oilers would go on to finish with a 10-4 record, easily winning the Eastern Division, as Lou Rymkus earns Coach of the Year honors. In the first ever AFL Championship Game, the Oilers defeat the Chargers 24-16 before 32,000 at Jeppesen Stadium. Leading the way for the Oilers is Billy Cannon who is named the game's MVP, and George Blanda who passes for 301 yards. The Oilers missed a third straight championship in 1962 when they lost 20-17 to the Dallas Texans. At the time, the historic six-quarter contest was the longest professional football game ever played -- 77 minutes, 54 seconds. They won four AFL Eastern division championships in that league's 10-year existence. The Oilers/Titans have qualified for post-season action a total of 18 times in the club's history with AFL playoff appearances coming in 1960, 1961, 1962, 1967 and 1969. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the franchise reached the playoffs 10 times while in Houston. Included are three straight in 1979, 1980, 1981 and a seven-year string starting in 1987.

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  • New York Titans

    (now New York Jets )

    NY Titans LogoThe history of the New York franchise in the American Football League is the story of two distinct organizations, the Titans and the Jets. Interlocking the two in continuity is the player personnel which went with the franchise in the ownership change from Harry Wismer to a five-man group headed by David "Sonny" Werblin in February 1963. On August 14th, 1959 the first organizational meeting held in Chicago under the leadership of Lamar Hunt of Dallas. Charter franchise granted to NY and Harry Wismer. In November of 1959. For the first AFL draft, New York took George Izo, QB Notre Dame. In December of 1959 Wismer hires Sammy Baugh as the first coach of the N.Y. Titans at $28,000 a year. Don Maynard, flanker from Texas Western, becomes the first Titan to sign a contract. He came as a free agent from Canada. In 1960 Wismer completes five-year pact with ABC to televise AFL games. First year fee was $1,785,000. September 11th, 1960 Titans open play at Polo Grounds, beating Buffalo in the rain 27-3. Attendance was 10,200 (5,727 paid). The three-year reign of Wismer, who was granted a charter AFL franchise in 1959, was fraught with controversy. The on-the-field happenings of the Titans were often overlooked, even in victory, as Wismer moved from feud to feud with the thoughtlessness of one playing Russian roulette with all chambers loaded. In spite of it all, the Titans had reasonable success on the field but they were a box office disaster. Werblin's group purchased the bankrupt franchise for $1,000,000, changed the team name to Jets and hired Weeb Ewbank as head coach. In 1964, the Jets moved from the antiquated Polo Grounds to newly-constructed Shea Stadium, where the Jets set an AFL attendance mark of 45,665 in the season opener against the Denver Broncos.NY Jets Logo

    Ewbank, who had enjoyed championship success with the Baltimore Colts in the 1950s, patiently began a building program that received a major transfusion on January 2, 1965 when Werblin signed Alabama quarterback Joe Namath to a rumored $400,000 contract. The signing of the highly-regarded Namath proved to be a major factor in the eventual end of the AFL-NFL pro football war of the 1960s.

    The 1968 season was the culmination of the New York AFL hopes as the Jets, under the guidance of Ewbank and the play of Namath, Don Maynard and a host of other major contributors, raced to the AFL East title with an 11-3 record. They defeated the Oakland Raiders 27-23 in the AFL championship and then stunned the entire sports world with a 16-7 victory over the overwhelmingly-favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. It is considered to be one of the two most pivotal games ever toward building fan enthusiasm for pro football.

    excerpted from the Pro Football Hall of Fame

    For even more on the titans click here

    For a great book on the subject see Bill Ryczek's, Crash of the Titans

Western Division

  • Dallas Texans

    (now Kansas City Chiefs )

    Dallas Texan LogoA 26-year-old Texan, frustrated by his unsuccessful attempts to gain a pro football franchise in the National Football League, embarked on an alternate course that was to drastically change the face of pro football forever. The young man was Lamar Hunt, who founded the American Football League with six original cities -- Dallas, New York, Houston, Denver, Los Angeles and Minneapolis (Buffalo and Boston were added and Oakland replaced Minneapolis). Lamar Hunt was the cornerstone, the integrity of the league. Without him, there would have been no AFL.

    Hunt named his team the Dallas Texans and hired Hank Stram, an assistant coach at the University of Miami, Florida, as his head coach. Located in his hometown where he would face direct competition from the NFL's newest expansion team, the Dallas Cowboys, the Texans began their inaugural season in the Cotton Bowl, with a strong home-state identity in quarterback Cotton Davidson (Baylor), fullback Jack Spikes (TCU), and running back Abner Haynes (North Texas State). Haynes, who was named the league's Player of the Year, led the league in rushing with 875 yards and touchdowns with nine. The Texans had a flashy, high scoring club, and only three close losses kept them from challenging for the division title, as they finished 2nd with an 8-6 record. The Texans averaged 24,500 for their home games, the highest average in the league.

    Stram rewarded Hunt with his first championship in 1962, when the Texans, bolstered by the addition of quarterback Len Dawson and rookie fullback Curtis McClinton, swept to the Western Division title with a spectacular eleven-win and three-loss season. Stram was named "Coach of the Year," Dawson, "Player of the Year," and McClinton, "Rookie of the Year." The Texans' foe in the 1962 championship game was the Houston Oilers,qv who were bidding for a pro football record of three straight championships. Behind by seventeen points, Houston tied the score by the end of the regulation sixty minutes, and the stage was set for one of the most exciting endings in sports history. The Texans and Oilers struggled through a fifth fifteen-minute period and were two minutes and fifty-four seconds into a record-breaking "sixth quarter" when rookie Tommy Brooker KC Chiefs Logokicked a twenty-five-yard field goal to give the Texans a 20 to 17 victory in the longest football game ever played. The Texans were champions, but all was not peace and tranquility in Dallas. The rival National Football League had placed a team, the Dallas Cowboys,qv there in 1960 to compete with the Texans. The fans were torn between two camps-the Texans and the Cowboys. In 1963 Lamar Hunt moved his team to Kansas City, Missouri.

    for more info and pics go here

  • Denver Broncos

    Broncos LogoBob Howsam, a successful minor league baseball owner who built Bears Stadium in the 1940s, was awarded an AFL charter franchise on August 14, 1959. Severely limited financially, Howsam clothed his first team in used uniforms from the defunct Copper Bowl in Tucson, Ariz. Making the uniforms particularly joke-worthy were the vertically-striped socks that completed the Broncos' dress. Two years later, when Jack Faulkner took over as head coach and general manager, the socks were destroyed in a public burning ceremony.

    November 22, 1959, Denver's first pick is Roger LeClerc, center, Trinity. Dean Griffing named general manager and Frank Filchock named first head coach of the Broncos. January 30, 1960 - Denver placed in AFL's western division with Dallas, Oakland and Los Angeles. During the summer of 1960 the first Bronco training camp opens at Colorado School of Mines. After losing all five pre-season games, the Broncos become the first AFL victor when they defeat the Patriots in Boston in history's first AFL game, 13-10. Attendance - 21,597. On October 2, 1960 the Broncos play their first home game in Bears Stadium, defeat Oakland, 31-24, before crowd of 18, 372. Offensive End Lionel Taylor, Defensive Tackle Bud McFadin and Safety Goose Gonsoulin all named to first official all-AFL team in December of 1960.

    While Denver's on-the-field experience during the 10 years of the AFL could be described as bleak, the Broncos did have some bright moments. Winning the first-ever AFL game over the Boston Patriots. On August 5, 1967, they scored the first win ever for an AFL team against an NFL opponent with a 13-7 triumph over the Detroit Lions. But at the end of the AFL's decade, Denver's 39-97-4 record was the worst for any of the original eight AFL teams.

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  • Los Angeles Chargers

    (now San Diego Chargers)

    Chargers LogoThe Chargers were born on August 14, 1959, when Barron Hilton, a 32-year-old hotel executive, was awarded a franchise for Los Angeles in the new American Football League. Barron Hilton agreed after his general manager, Frank Ready picked the Chargers name when he purchased an AFL franchise for Los Angeles. “I liked it because they were yelling ‘charge’ and sounding the bugle at Dodgers Stadium and at USC games.” In their first game on September 10th they overcome a 20-7 in the 4th Quarter to beat the Dallas Texans 21-20 before 17,724 fans at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

    Even though they won the AFL Western division championship in 1960, the Los Angeles Chargers received meager fan support so Hilton, buoyed by the encouragement of San Diego sports editor Jack Murphy, moved his team 120 miles south to San Diego in 1961. Historic Balboa Stadium was expanded to 34,000 capacity to accommodate the Chargers. In San Diego, the Chargers, spurred by coach Sid Gillman, developed into one of the true glamour teams of any decade. Gillman's first teams were high-scoring, crowd-pleasing juggernauts that won divisional championships five of the AFL's first six years and the AFL title with a 51-10 win over Boston in 1963. Such stars as wide receiver Lance Alworth, running backs Keith Lincoln and Paul Lowe and quarterback John Hadl not only made the Chargers a winning team, they also provided image, impetus and respect for the entire AFL that was fighting a life-and-death struggle with the established and well-financed NFL.

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  • Oakland Raiders

    Raiders LogoThe American Football League was formally organized on August 14, 1959. However, the Oakland Raiders did not become the eighth member of the new league until January 1960, when they were selected as a replacement for the Minneapolis franchise, which defected to the NFL. A major initial stumbling block was the lack of an adequate stadium in Oakland. Until the 54,616 capacity Oakland Coliseum was opened in 1966, the Raiders had to play in Kezar Stadium and Candlestick Park across the bay in San Francisco and in a temporary stadium, Frank Youell Field, in Oakland. Oakland's record for the first three years was a miserable 9-33-0. Average home attendance was just under 11,000. The team spent its first three seasons changing stadiums and recording losing records. Al Davis, a former assistant coach for the San Diego Chargers, was hired as head coach and general manager in 1963. He reorganized the Raiders, and the team improved to a 10-4 win-loss record. Four years later, the club captured the 1967 AFL title under head coach John Rauch. Quarterback Daryle Lamonica won the first of his two passing titles as Oakland advanced to the Super Bowl to face the NFL-champion Green Bay Packers. Green Bay won 33-14, but the Raiders had established themselves as an AFL power. The Raiders reached the AFL Championship Game under Rauch in 1968 and again in 1969, this time under former Raiders assistant coach John Madden, who had taken over the head coaching duties. Madden was named AFL coach of the year in 1969 when, at age 32, he was the AFL’s youngest coach.

    From a 1-13 mark in 1962, Oakland improved to 10-4 in 1963 and Davis was named the AFL Coach of the Year. Since that time, the Raiders' destiny has been the exclusive responsibility of Davis, who left the team only briefly for a short term as AFL commissioner in 1966. After the AFL-NFL merger was completed, Davis returned to the Raiders as managing general partner and immediately transformed the Oakland franchise into one of pro football's premier organizations. Starting in 1965, the Raiders posted winning records 19 of the next 20 years. During that period, they won 12 divisional championships, the 1967 AFL championship, AFC championships in 1976, 1980 and 1983 and victories in Super Bowls XI, XV and XVIII.

    The Raiders are the only original AFL team to win a Super Bowl since Kansas City won Super Bowl IV. They also are the only AFC team to win a Super Bowl since the Steelers won Super Bowl XIV and they are the only team, NFL or AFL, to play in the Super Bowl in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

    The Raiders were professional football’s most consistent team from the mid-1960s through the present, reaching the playoffs 15 times and earning four NFL or American Football League (AFL) titles in 19 seasons. As AFL champions, they played in the second Super Bowl, in 1968, and lost to the Green Bay Packers. During John Madden’s ten years as head coach (1969-1978), Oakland played in seven league or conference championship games and won one Super Bowl, in 1977. From 1980 to 1993 the team reached the postseason eight times, winning the Super Bowl in 1981 and 1984. The Raiders are the only team that appeared in at least one Super Bowl each decade during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. In the 30-year period dating back to when Davis took over in 1963 up through 1992, the Raiders' winning record of .661 with 285 victories, 146 losses and 11 ties ranks as the best among all major sports teams. The Raiders also have dominated the Monday Night Football series with 30 victories (more than any other team) and a tie in 41 appearances.

    While Davis stresses "Commitment to Excellence" for his entire organization, some of the Raiders' unprecedented success can be attributed to outstanding individual players and coaches who have worn the Silver and Black. In addition to Davis himself, nine players -- Jim Otto, George Blanda, Willie Brown, Gene Upshaw, Art Shell, Fred Biletnikoff, Ted Hendricks, Mike Haynes and Howie Long -- have been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Five Raider coaches have been named either AFL or NFL Coach of the Year. In addition to Davis, they are John Rauch, John Madden, Tom Flores and Shell. The Raiders made headlines of a different nature when they moved from the Oakland Coliseum to the more spacious Los Angeles Coliseum in 1982. After 12 seasons in Southern California, the team moved back to their original city.

    excerpted from the Pro Football Hall of Fame

    more on the Raiders, Click to this very cool Raider page

The league expanded to Miami in 1966 and Cincinnati in 1968.

  • Miami Dolphins

    Dolphins LogoNo pro football club in history ever advanced more quickly from the first-year dregs every expansion team faces to the ultimate achievement in its sport than the Miami Dolphins did in the six-year period between 1967 and 1972. In 1967, they began their pro football life as the ninth member of the American Football League. Six years later, Miami became the only National Football League team ever to record a perfect season. The 1972 Miami Dolphins won the AFC Eastern division and AFC championships and then defeated the Washington Redskins 14-7 in Super Bowl VII to complete an unblemished 17-0-0 record.

    The Dolphins, who were founded by Joseph Robbie, also got off to a perfect start in the first game of their first AFL season when running back Joe Auer returned the opening kickoff for a 95-yard touchdown against the Oakland Raiders. But the Miami team returned to reality even before the end of its first game. Oakland rallied to win and the Dolphins finished their first season with a 4-10 record.

    George Wilson was the Dolphins' first coach. He finished his four-year AFL tenure after the 1969 season with a 15-39-2 record. But those were not wasted years for the Dolphins because they were steadily adding new talent -- quarterback Bob Griese in 1967, running back Larry Csonka in 1968 and guard Larry Little in 1969 -- that would eventually turn them into winners.

    excerpted from the Pro Football Hall of Fame

    More info on the 'Fins here

  • Cincinnati Bengals

    Bengals LogoPlanning for the Cincinnati Bengals franchise began three full years before the team began playing in the American Football League in 1968. Paul Brown, who had enjoyed exceptional success as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns for 17 seasons before departing in 1962, had the urge to get back into pro football. In 1965, he met with then-Governor Jim Rhodes and the two agreed the state could accommodate a second pro football team.

    A year later in 1966, Cincinnati's city council approved the construction of 60,389-seat Riverfront Stadium, which was scheduled for completion by 1970. The next year, a group headed by Brown was awarded an American Football League franchise that would begin play in 1968. Brown named his team the Bengals in recognition of previous Cincinnati pro football franchises with the same name in the 1930s and 1940s. Brown himself returned to the coaching ranks on the Bengals sidelines for the first eight years. He retired after the 1975 season but continued to serve as general manager until his death in 1991. Mike Brown then succeeded his father as general manager.

    The 1968 Bengals won their first two home games in 28,000-seat Nippert Stadium against Denver and Buffalo and finished with a 3-11 record, the most an expansion team of the 1960s recorded. Cincinnati improved enough in 1969 that Brown was named the AFL Coach of the Year. In 1970, they captured the AFC Central division title and thus became the first expansion team to win a championship of any kind in just three years.

    excerpted from the Pro Football Hall of Fame