Eras of NFL Football

Eras of NFL Football

Postby Oszuscik » Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:00 am

Would anyone be kind enough to break down the eras of NFL football for me? I've heard the "Iron Man" Era and the "Modern" Era of football referenced before. I know there's been significant shifts in the rule book that have drastically altered play, such as the passing rules of 1978, and recently in 2009 the rule changes that protect quarterbacks and defenseless receivers. Do these points in time represent a change? I've read people jokingly referring to our current era of football as the "Madden" Era. Just wondering if there's an official or universal timeline of these eras that NFL historians generally accept?

Thank you!
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Re: Eras of NFL Football

Postby sheajets » Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:46 am

I don't really go by decades but yes more by landmark events and rule changes that alter the complexion of the game. 1960 would be such a year. 1994 another one. 1978

I truly miss a more balanced NFL. It's too much of a video game flagfest today. They went way overboard with the roughing the passer rules. Not every pinky that grazes a helmet needs to be called while trying to bat down a pass. They've also allowed so much offensive holding now to give QB's more time to make things happen.

So many catastrophic collision occurred because why...because these receivers were allowed to run free full speed. You couldn't slow them down a little, grab them a little, knock em at the line. Maybe if we allowed more sticky secondary play we wouldn't have as many defenseless receiver knockout blows.

The next big era dividing line may be when the kickoff is eliminated (along with whatever other rule changes they bring into the fold) The reason why there are so many phantom flags on anything returned is that the NFL wants to corrupt that play so much that when they finally do eliminate it, we'll just say "well there's always flags so big deal" in reality a lot of these blocks in the back and holds are totally bogus or have zero impact on the play but refs are told to be especially eagle eyed about it
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Re: Eras of NFL Football

Postby JuggernautJ » Fri Oct 11, 2019 1:12 pm

Oszuscik wrote:Just wondering if there's an official or universal timeline of these eras that NFL historians generally accept?

Thank you!


In short, "No."
You are free to divide football history into whatever segments you desire for any of a myriad of reasons that would be applicable.

Some say the "Modern Era" began with the Super Bowl. Others with the '78 rules changes. Still others might consider it to begin with the end of World War II/the birth of the AAFC...

Still others (myself included) would argue "Why limit yourself to two eras?"
However you want to think of it is fine with (most of) us. Whatever helps your understanding of the game is acceptable.

On the other hand, if you want to make an argument that the "modern" passing game began with Sammy Baugh or Arnie Herber you'd probably best have some rational to back up your discussion....


(You're welcome! And also, welcome to the boards!!)
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Re: Eras of NFL Football

Postby TanksAndSpartans » Fri Oct 11, 2019 3:55 pm

Agree with what others have said so far.

Based on my own interests, I'm curious about the "Iron Man" era (or whatever you want to call it). It may have ended with the season free substitution was allowed. The other possible end point would be when the majority of teams had switched from single-wing type formations to the modern T. So somewhere in the '40s, but not sure which year would be best - would be interested in hearing others opinions.
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Re: Eras of NFL Football

Postby Rupert Patrick » Fri Oct 11, 2019 4:37 pm

TanksAndSpartans wrote:Agree with what others have said so far.

Based on my own interests, I'm curious about the "Iron Man" era (or whatever you want to call it). It may have ended with the season free substitution was allowed. The other possible end point would be when the majority of teams had switched from single-wing type formations to the modern T. So somewhere in the '40s, but not sure which year would be best - would be interested in hearing others opinions.


Free substitution started for good in 1950, so there would be a dividing line there. I think 1933 is also a dividing line, as you had the league form into divisions and mandate a league championship game. I don't think 1960 is that important other than for the start of the AFL, which is important in itself, so I guess we can add it. 1970 is definitely a dividing line as far as the realignment as the AFL and NFL merge into a single league; a much more important dividing line of eras than 1966 for the Super Bowl in my opinion. 1993 is very, very important due to Free Agency starting in pro football. I also think 2002 is another important dividing line due to the last expansion (ever?) the realignment and a number of subtle changes to the game we now take for granted (last year Super Bowl was held in January, season starting on Thursday night, to name a few).

I would name the eras as such:

1920-32 The Small Town Era
1933-49 The Depression and War Era
1950-59 The Romantic Era
1960-69 The War Between the Leagues Era
1970-77 The Defensive Era
1978-92 The Passing Era
1993-2001 The Free Agency Era
2002-18 The Twitter Era
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Re: Eras of NFL Football

Postby RyanChristiansen » Sat Oct 12, 2019 9:15 am

Wow. That's a big question that would require quite a long article to answer.

It's useful and informative to see how the NFL thinks about this topic as it relates to rules changes over the years.

https://operations.nfl.com/the-rules/evolution-of-the-nfl-rules/

And to see how the NFLPA thinks about this topic from an employee perspective.

https://www.nflpa.com/about/history

And to keep things in context by looking at the expansion timeline.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_National_Football_League

You also have to consider the professional leagues that rose and fell alongside the NFL over the years.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_defunct_professional_sports_leagues#Professional_football

As well as the individual teams.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_defunct_National_Football_League_franchises

And if you're going to be holistic about things, you need to include Canadian football.
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Re: Eras of NFL Football

Postby Rupert Patrick » Sat Oct 12, 2019 1:01 pm

In one of his books, Bill James did this with Baseball, where he drew the lines with different eras. I think it was in the book "Fools Rush In", which was writings from his website that dealt with baseball and other things. As you could guess, he did this systematically, and took hundreds of factors into consideration (including the starts and ends of the careers of the 20 greatest players and seasons when new teams or new stadiums entered the league and stuff like that ) and weighed all of the factors and came up with aggregate sums for each season, and the highest seasons where were the lines needed to be drawn. I found it from his site:

https://www.billjamesonline.com/dividin ... into_eras/
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Re: Eras of NFL Football

Postby JohnR » Sat Oct 12, 2019 2:14 pm

1950-1959 Romantic Era? How did you come up w/ that? What about the Platoon Era? Or...the TV Era.
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Re: Eras of NFL Football

Postby TodMaher » Sat Oct 12, 2019 3:24 pm

David Neft, etc. in The Football Encyclopedia had:

1892-1919 "From Heffelfinger to Thorpe, Pro Football Before the NFL"
1920-1932 "Surviving With a Different Game"
1933-1945 "Divide, Bring in the Goalposts and Conquer"
1946-1959 "Beginning and Ending with Confrontation"
1960-1969 "FROM 12 to 26"
1970-1979 "Big Dollars - Big Problems"
1980-1993 "New Challenges, New Triumphs"
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Re: Eras of NFL Football

Postby Rupert Patrick » Sat Oct 12, 2019 3:53 pm

JohnR wrote:1950-1959 Romantic Era? How did you come up w/ that? What about the Platoon Era? Or...the TV Era.


I came up with that name because that's the era that a lot of sportswriters talked and wrote so romantically about, how great the game was, it was the Golden Era, the era of Unitas and Jim Brown and Sam Huff and the "Greatest Game Ever Played"; much in the same way the baseball writers have waxed poetically to the tune of about 34,000 books about how great the baseball of the 1940's and 50's of DiMaggio and Mantle and Ted Williams and Jackie Robinson was, if you lived in the greater New York or Boston areas, of course.
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