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Sacco Sez: Broncos among most stable teams


This is one of the most exciting periods in Denver Broncos history, with the official purchase of the team by the Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group.

Anyone who watched the historic press conference from Broncos headquarters had to be very impressed by the group, which is taking over a team that has been one of the most stable in the National Football League.

The Broncos are the only team in the AFC West that has not moved to another city, which is rather remarkable considering the unstable early history of the team.

The other three members of the division moved from Dallas to Kansas City, from Los Angeles to San Diego and then back to Los Angeles, and from Oakland to Los Angeles to Oakland to Las Vegas.

Movement of franchises and changes of names is not uncommon in sports leagues, of course, and the NFL has been no different going way back to its inception.

Way back when, a century ago, it was actually more common than one might think for pro football teams to take on the same name as major league baseball teams in their respective cities.

So back in the days of the Dayton Triangles, there were also the Brooklyn Dodgers, who later became the Tigers, who later merged with a team known as the Boston Yanks and became the football version of the New York Yankees and even played at Yankee Stadium. That Yanks team had actually also been formed from a team known as the Boston Yanks, and then the Yanks became the New York Bulldogs from 1950-51.

Cincinnati was once in pro football as the Reds, but they were less stable than the old truck driven by the Joads in "The Grapes of Wrath," and when they could not finish their second season in 1934, they were replaced by a team in St. Louis, the Gunners. But they were gunned down at the end of the year.

As crazy as it seems, there were three different versions of the Cleveland Indians in the NFL. They played in, and flopped in, 1921, 1924 and 1931.

There were also Detroit Tigers and Washington Senators in bygone times.

One of the reasons for this, of course, is that teams did not cost much money, so many tried and failed also on the way.

But even as we got into a more modern era, cities and teams had some interesting histories. And not all of them were failed franchises.

The Decatur Staleys moved to Chicago and became the Bears, and they have stayed in Chicago as the Bears as the prototypical pro football team. Team owner George Halas actually chose the blue and orange colors for the Bears because those were the colors of his alma mater, the University of Illinois.

The Bears are one of the two oldest current franchises, along with the Cardinals, who played in Racine, Chicago, St. Louis and now Arizona.

One of the other long-standing teams, the Packers started in Green Bay, they never moved, despite playing three games a year in Milwaukee for a period of time.

Broncos fans think of our former coach when the name Dan Reeves is spoken, but there was a Dan Reeves before our own.

He owned the Cleveland Rams and his team became the only one in sports history to move the season after winning a title, going from Cleveland to Los Angeles to avoid competition with the Cleveland Browns of the All-America Football Conference.

Reeves actually became the first big-time sports team to open up the West Coast, and he is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Of course, his Rams moved from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to Anaheim, then to St. Louis, and now back to Los Angeles.

And the team with which he was reluctant to compete, the Cleveland Browns — they eventually moved to Baltimore as the Ravens, kind of taking the place of a legendary team, the Baltimore Colts.

The Colts were star-crossed from the beginning, I always felt. They officially didn't start until 1953, but their roots are also in the AAFC and being one of three teams to move into the NFL. They then achieved legendary status in Baltimore but eventually broke new ground as the NFL team in Indianapolis — paving the way for the Browns' move to Baltimore.

If the reader is still following along, hang with us for a bit more.

The Tennessee Titans are not the first Titans in pro football. The New York Jets began life as the Titans, but it was the Houston Oilers who moved to Tennessee to create that franchise.

The Houston Texans are not the first Texans in the Lone Star state, as that distinction belonged to Dallas in 1952. And then in 1960, the team that is now the Kansas City Chiefs started play also as the Texans in the AFL before moving in 1963.

Most people might think that the Cowboys, Seahawks and Buccaneers have always belonged to Dallas, Seattle and Tampa Bay, right?

Not so fast.

Kansas City had a team named the Cowboys in 1925 and 1926, and the Miami Seahawks were founding members of the AAFC but were one of the worst teams in pro history before mercifully folding. The Miami Seahawks were not to be confused with the team of Russell Wilson's era.

And the Buccaneers were one of the most unusual teams in this whole pantheon. They were a road team for all of the 1926 season, known as the Los Angeles Buccaneers, and they only played that one season, all games on the road.

And by the way, can you name the only NFL team that won the Super Bowl and played an entire season of road games?

That was the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders. After moving to Los Angeles in 1982, the Raiders did not have enough time to finish the move with new team headquarters and practice fields. So they continued to live and practice in Alameda for the entire season, then flew to every game — home and away, as they had to go to Los Angeles for their home games. And they won the Super Bowl.

I think that would be very difficult to match, but in the words of their team owner, Al Davis, "Just win, baby!" And so they did.

So the next time you hear or read about a team changing its city or its name, just note that it has happened many times before!

Research for this article was done with use of the NFL Record and Fact Book, which lists every team and every season of play.

Special thanks is also given to Lee Elder, the executive director of the Professional Football Researchers Association. Mr. Elder wrote a fine article for "Coffin Corner," the official magazine of the PFRA, and planted the seed for this research.

Each one of those teams, whether with the stability of the Bears or one of the many one-and-done franchises, is a thread in the tapestry of pro football, and those of us who love the game should have appreciation for the many moves that are part of the fabric of today's NFL.

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