American Football Wiki
1921 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 25– December 18, 1921
Champions Chicago Staleys
National Football League seasons
 < 1920 1922 > 

The 1921 NFL season was the 2nd regular season of the National Football League (then called the American Professional Football Association).

At the league meeting in Akron, Ohio on April 30 prior to the season, the Association was reorganized, with Joe Carr of the Columbus Panhandles named as president. The Association's headquarters was moved to Columbus, Ohio, and a league constitution and by-laws were drafted, giving teams territorial rights, restricting player movements, and developing membership criteria for the franchises. The league would play under the rules of college football, and official standings were issued for the first time so that there would be a clear champion. The most notable of changes was that only games played against league teams would count toward the standings; this had the dual effect of both encouraging independent teams (such as those from the Ohio League and the NYPFL) to join, but also caused those that did not join to fold within a few years, because NFL teams, particularly those competing for a championship, would be much less willing to play what were effectively exhibition games against teams that would not help them in the standings.

However, a number of teams had financial difficulties. Some of the teams that played during the previous season, including the Chicago Tigers, had disbanded. The Association did increase to 21 teams, but 4 of the new teams (Brickley's New York Giants, the Cincinnati Celts, the Tonawanda Kardex, and the Washington Senators) only lasted a single season. New York and Tonawanda were particularly short-lived: New York lasted two games in the league and Tonawanda a league-record one game before leaving or folding. The Muncie Flyers also disbanded after the season, and even though the Cleveland Tigers changed their name to the Cleveland Indians, it still did not help them from folding after the season too.

At one point, the Professional Football Researchers Association recognized a team by the name of the Syracuse Pros as joining and leaving the league in 1921, but the league has not recognized the claim, and the PFRA has backed off its assertion in more recent years. The Syracuse professional team in question, which had never used the name "Pros," did intend to play at least seven games against APFA teams, but only played three, and there is no records of the league ever admitting the team into the league, nor is there any record of the team leaving the league. The only word of the Syracuse team joining the league came from the team itself.

The other new teams were the Evansville Crimson Giants, the Green Bay Packers, the Minneapolis Marines, and the Louisville Brecks. Detroit Heralds became the Detroit Tigers. Detroit folded mid-season and its roster was absorbed by the Buffalo All-Americans.

The Staleys, who moved from Decatur, Illinois to Chicago before the season, were named the APFA Champions over the Buffalo All-Americans.

De facto championship game[]

For more details on this topic, see 1921 NFL Championship controversy.
1921 de facto championship
1 2 3 4 Total
Buffalo All-Americans 0
Chicago Staleys 0
Date December 4, 1921
Stadium Cubs Park
Location Chicago, Illinois

The Chicago Staleys (to be renamed the Chicago Bears after the end of the season), led by wide receiver George Halas, and the Buffalo All-Americans, led by quarterback Tommy Hughitt, were the two top teams in the league; each playing all of their games at home, Buffalo and Chicago amassed 6–0 records in league play. On Thanksgiving 1921, Buffalo played one of its only road games of the season, in Chicago, and prevailed 7–6. Chicago demanded a rematch.

The All-Americans agreed to rematch the Staleys on December 4, again in Chicago, on the condition that the game would be considered a "post-season" exhibition game not to be counted in the standings; had it not, Buffalo would have had an undefeated season and won the title. (Buffalo had played, and defeated, the Akron Pros just one day prior.) This was a fairly common custom of the time; both New York and Ohio's pre-NFL circuits put their marquee games on Thanksgiving weekend and cleaned up with mostly token opposition in the following weeks. Chicago defeated Buffalo in the rematch by a score of 10–7. Halas rebutted that the second game was played on December 4th (well before teams in Illinois typically stopped playing games in those days), and the Staleys played two more games against top opponents, the Canton Bulldogs and Chicago Cardinals after the second Buffalo game (though, at the time of the Buffalo-Chicago matchup, Chicago had played three fewer games than Buffalo).

The league counted the All-Americans game in the standings, against Buffalo's wishes, resulting in Buffalo (9–1–2) and Chicago (9–1–1) being tied atop the standings. The league then implemented the first ever tiebreaker: a rule, now considered archaic and removed from league rulebooks, that states that if two teams play multiple times in a season, the last game between the two teams carries more weight. Thus, the Chicago victory actually counted more in the standings, giving Chicago the championship. Buffalo sports fans have been known to refer to this, justly or unjustly, as the "Staley Swindle," and have cited it as the first evidence of a sports curse on the city.

Final standings[]

W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, PCT= Winning Percentage

Note: Tie games were not officially counted in the standings until 1972

Team W L T PCT
Chicago Staleys 9 1 1 .900
Buffalo All-Americans 9 1 2 .900
Akron Pros 8 3 1 .727
Canton Bulldogs 5 2 3 .714
Rock Island Independents 4 2 1 .667
Evansville Crimson Giants 3 2 0 .600
Green Bay Packers 3 2 1 .600
Dayton Triangles 4 4 1 .500
Chicago Cardinals 3 3 2 .500
Rochester Jeffersons 2 3 0 .400
Cleveland Indians 3 5 0 .375
Washington Senators 1 2 0 .334
Cincinnati Celts 1 3 0 .250
Hammond Pros 1 3 1 .250
Minneapolis Marines 1 3 0 .250
Detroit Tigers 1 5 1 .167
Columbus Panhandles 1 8 0 .111
Tonawanda Kardex 0 1 0 .000
Muncie Flyers 0 2 0 .000
Louisville Brecks 0 2 0 .000
New York Brickley Giants 0 2 0 .000


Template:1921 NFL season by team

NFL seasons

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