As the NFL celebrates its 100th season, I wanted to go about the history of certain big-time eras regarding the game and its helmet and jersey aesthetics, some of which you can purchase through the team stores whose links you’ll find on the right-hand side of this article. The first of which I wanted to cover was the Hall of Fame Game history, since the big game takes place one week before the official first week of preseason.
Playing in the big game this season are the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons in a pre-season rematch of Super Bowl XXXIII, which I’ll be writing about toward the end of the NFL season.
But how did everything come about from the inaugural game in 1962 pitting the New York Giants versus the St. Louis…yes, the St. Louis Cardinals?
Well, from a helmet perspective, I’m going to show updated versions of the old helmets from yesterday all the way until next week’s game, where Denver and Atlanta take the field once again at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
Here’s a little fun fact before I go on: Yours Truly was born just down the street from the sacred site. Yeah, I just had to throw that in there!
And to think my family had to move back to the Pittsburgh region…yikes! Nah, I can’t really complain; love the Pittsburgh area.
New York Giants: 21
St. Louis Cardinals: 21
First Hall of Fame Game in NFL history was also the first featuring two division rivals as well as the game’s first tie. The Giants were in the midst of playing in three straight NFL Championship Games between 1961 and 1963 while the Cardinals were looking to find their rhythm having moved to St. Louis from Chicago just two seasons prior.
Cleveland Browns: 7
Pittsburgh Steelers: 16
Second Hall of Fame Game featured two division rivals, both of whom would migrate to the AFC upon Browns’ owner Art Modell’s request to have an in-state rivalry with the Cincinnati Bengals (owned by his former employee, Paul Brown). Modell also invited Steelers’ owner Art Rooney to join Cleveland in the new AFC Central so the two franchises could continue their rivalry, which is now the oldest one in the AFC. The Browns and Steelers are also the two oldest AFC franchises, with the Steelers debuting in 1933 and the Browns, 1946, making their official NFL debut in 1950.
Baltimore Colts: 48
Pittsburgh Steelers: 17
The third Hall of Fame Game featured two NFL teams that would both join the AFC in 1970 along with Cleveland. The Colts would later move to Indianapolis in 1984. Ironically, the Browns would later dissolve in 1995 after a proposed relocation from Art Modell and an expansion franchise known as the Baltimore Ravens (whose proposed origins began in 1993 under a different ownership group). Since 1996, the Steelers and their fan base would consider the new Baltimore Ravens as the spiritual successor to the Browns, considering Baltimore to be their biggest rival. The Steelers would become the first franchise to play in multiple Hall of Fame Games.
Detroit Lions: 20
Washington Redskins: 3
First Hall of Fame Game to be played with two teams to amass losing regular season records. The Lions finished the year at 6-7-1 while the Redskins finished at 6-8.
1965 also marked the first appearance for both franchises, the first appearance for a future NFC Central franchise, and the third appearance for an NFC East franchise.
No Game Played
Cleveland Browns: 13
Philadelphia Eagles: 28
Rematch of the Browns’ inaugural regular season game in 1950. The Browns won the 1949 AAFC Championship, their fourth AAFC Championship overall. Each year, they challenged the NFL Champions to play a World Championship Game. Each season, the NFL Champions refused to play the Browns until 1950. The game’s set up was really a ploy for the Eagles to expose the Browns as being champions of the “minor leagues.” However, the Browns went on to win the game 35-10. Later, the Browns would win the 1950 NFL Championship, one of few teams to win a professional sports league championship in their debut season in the NFL.
Dallas Cowboys: 24
Chicago Bears: 30
Game played between one of the NFL’s most historical franchises of the era (Bears) and one of the NFL’s newer franchises, who would go on to become one of the most well-known brands in the world within the next ten seasons. This marked the one-year mark before the debut of Cowboys’ quarterback Rodger Staubach.
Green Bay Packers: 38
Atlanta Falcons: 24
First Hall of Fame Game featuring a former Super Bowl participant, as the Packers won both Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II. It would be the Packers’ second season removed from winning back to back Super Bowls and the early seasons of the franchise’s ‘Dark Ages,’ which would occur until a Man Named Favre took over the team’s reins in 1992.
Ironically, Brett Favre would be drafted by the Falcons in the 2nd round of the 1991 NFL Draft. For the Falcons, Favre threw four passes, completing two of them….to the other team. As a Falcon, he went 0 for 4 with 2 interceptions.
New Orleans Saints: 14
Minnesota Vikings: 13
First Hall of Fame Game where both participating franchises had been in existence for ten seasons or fewer. Despite their young age, the two teams were heading in different directions, with the Vikings appearing in four Super Bowls from 1969 to 1976, becoming one of the most successful teams of the decade while the Saints wouldn’t sniff a winning season until 1987.
Houston Oilers: 6
Los Angeles Rams: 17
First Hall of Fame Game played between an AFC and NFC franchise. The Oilers would be the first former AFL team to play in the Hall of Fame Game. The Rams and Oilers would each possess dominant teams throughout the 1970s, however neither would win a Super Bowl, with the Oilers often playing second fiddle to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Rams, despite their seven straight NFC West Championships between 1973 and 1979, making just one Super Bowl appearance with a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XIV.
Kansas City Chiefs: 23
New York Giants: 17
First Hall of Fame Game featuring a Super Bowl Champion from the original AFL (Baltimore Colts would win Super Bowl V over the Dallas Cowboys) and fourth Super Bowl Champion overall, as the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV.
San Francisco 49ers: 20
New England Patriots: 17
First of two Hall of Fame Games featuring the two franchises. Twenty-eight seasons later, the two teams would meet again featuring rookie quarterbacks that included the debut of Tom Brady, a sixth-round draft pick from the University of Michigan.
However, in 1973 things were different. Neither team had won a league championship, but starting in the 1980s, things would change as the 49ers became the Team of the Decade behind Joe Montana. In 2001, the Patriots would embark on a dynasty of their own, with San Francisco Bay Area native Tom Brady leading the charge to six Super Bowl Championships in eighteen seasons.
Buffalo Bills: 13
St. Louis Cardinals: 21
Each team made the playoffs for their own respective conferences for the first time in franchise history. It would be the Cardinals’ first postseason appearance since 1948. The Bills made the playoffs for the first time since their loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1966 AFL Championship Game.
Washington Redskins: 17
Cincinnati Bengals: 9
Final season for legendary coach Paul Brown, who coached the Cleveland Browns from 1946 to 1962, and the Cincinnati Bengals from 1968 to 1975. Brown is responsible for founding the Bengals and was given authority over the Cleveland Browns, who named their franchise after Brown. Before coaching the Browns, Paul Brown also served as the head coach for Ohio State.
Denver Broncos: 10
Detroit Lions: 7
Final season for John Ralston as head coach of the Broncos and the final season of the Broncos’ playoff drought, where they would play in the Super Bowl the following season. Also the final season for Lions’ coach Rick Forzano.
Chicago Bears: 20
New York Jets: 6
1977 marked the first year for the Jets without quarterback Joe Namath who went on to play for the Los Angeles Rams. 1977 also marked the final season for Chicago Bears’ coach Jack Pardee, who went on to coach the Washington Redskins the following season before ending up in Houston in the 1990s.
Miami Dolphins: 3
Philadelphia Eagles: 17
A matchup featuring a legendary coach in Don Shula playing a future legendary coach in Dick Vermeil. While Shula routinely made the Dolphins contenders, Vermeil was busy turning around a struggling Philadelphia Eagles franchise. Vince Papale, the subject of the movie ‘Invincible’ was also part of this Eagles team.
Dallas Cowboys: 13
Oakland Raiders: 20
Final Hall of Fame Game of the 1970s was notable for each team’s spats with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs. Dallas played Pittsburgh in two Super Bowls in the 1970s while the Raiders met the Steelers five times in the playoffs throughout the decade. First season for the Raiders without John Madden as head coach. Madden served as head coach of the Raiders between 1969 and 1978, winning the Super Bowl in 1976 and leading the Raiders to seven AFC West Championships. He never coached the Raiders to a losing record.
San Diego Chargers: 0
Green Bay Packers: 0
Only Hall of Fame Game to end 0-0. First tie since the inaugural game in 1962. It was a game featuring two teams headed in different directions; whereas Dan Fouts led the Chargers to repeat AFC West Championships and playoff appearances, the Packers were still in their post-Vince Lombardi Dark Ages. Though they found limited success in the 1980s, the team would struggle until 1992.
Atlanta Falcons: 10
Cleveland Browns: 24
Unique situation, marking a meaningless precursor to a very meaningful Week Seventeen Game between Cleveland and Atlanta in 2002, which had playoff implications where the winner of the game would make the playoffs (with help) in their respective conferences. Both teams would end up making the playoffs with help from the New York Jets, who defeated the Green Bay Packers, which eliminated the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots while a New Orleans Saints loss saved the Falcons.
Baltimore Colts: 14
Minnesota Vikings: 30
Final Hall of Fame Game for the Baltimore Colts, who moved to Indianapolis, Indiana in 1984 and final Hall of Fame Game for a Baltimore-based team until 2018. The game also featured a matchup between two teams of the old NFL Western Conference. This game also featured the two final NFL Champions prior to the 1970 AFL-NFL Merger, as the Colts won in 1968 and the Vikings followed in 1969. Both, however would lose in the Super Bowl.
New Orleans Saints: 14
Pittsburgh Steelers: 27
Marked the first of two Hall of Fame Game matchups between the two teams. Each team were headed in opposite directions as the Saints would see their first taste of team success in the late-1980s while the Steelers slumped into the Dark Ages for the first time since the 1960s.
Seatle Seahawks: 38
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 0
Hall of Fame Game debuts for both teams who joined the NFL in 1976; the Seahawks were members of the NFC West before switching to the AFC West between 1977 and 2001. The Seahawks would return to the NFC in 2002. The Buccaneers debuted as members of the AFC West before migrating to the NFC Central between 1977 and 2001 before moving to the NFC South in 2002. Each team had seen some success in the playoffs up to this point with the Seahawks earning a trip to the 1983 AFC Championship Game while the Buccaneers played in the 1979 NFC Championship Game.
New York Giants: 21
Houston Oilers: 20
This marked the final time the Houston Oilers would play in the Hall of Fame Game. The Oilers would move to Memphis, Tennessee in 1997 before finding a permanent home in Nashville as the Tennessee Titans. The Titans would return to the Hall of Fame Game in 2009 donning Houston Oiler throwbacks for the first time in team history as the Tennessee Titans. The team would, however, be known as the Tennessee Oilers for two seasons while their new stadium in Nashville was being built before rebranding as the Titans.
New England Patriots: 21
St. Louis Cardinals: 16
The Patriots were coming off a Super Bowl loss. This would also mark the beginning of the Cardinals’ final season in St. Louis, as they would move to Phoenix, Arizona prior to 1987. Both teams would see Super Bowl appearances in the 21st century: The Patriots returned to the Big Game in 1996 before winning their first in 2001 while the Cardinals made their lone Super Bowl appearance in 2008.
San Francisco 49ers: 20
Kansas City Chiefs: 7
This game featured two franchises the great Joe Montana would dress up for. Montana played for the 49ers between 1979 and 1992 before shifting gears to Kansas City, playing for the Chiefs from 1993 to 1994. He’s often regarded as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, winning four Super Bowls with the 49ers while leading the Chiefs to their final playoff victory in franchise history in 1993 before breaking the drought in 2015, ironically against the Houston Texans, whose predecessors, the Houston Oilers, were the last team the Chiefs defeated in the playoffs until 2015.
Cincinnati Bengals: 14
Los Angeles Rams: 7
The Bengals would go on to play in the Super Bowl in a losing effort to the San Francisco 49ers while the Rams were stuck playing in San Francisco’s shadow. The Rams would ultimately suffer a loss in the playoffs at the 49ers’ hands the next season in 1989 before watching their division rivals win their fourth Super Bowl of the decade.
Washington Redskins: 31
Buffalo Bills: 6
“Pre-match” to Super Bowl XXVI, which featured the Buffalo Bills losing to the Redskins, which would mark Redskins’ coach Joe Gibbs’ second Super Bowl victory. Ironically enough, 1989 was the last season before the Bills became the first team in NFL history to play in four consecutive Super Bowls from 1990 to 1993. To add even more irony, the Bills would lose all four appearances, each to an NFC East team (Giants in 1990, Redskins in 1991, and Cowboys in 1992 and 1993.
Cleveland Browns: 0
Chicago Bears: 13
This game marked the beginning of the Browns’ 30-season drought without a division championship (AFC Central and AFC North, which absorbed the Central in 2002). As the 1990s commenced, it marked the beginning of a set of Dark Ages for two of the NFL’s most storied franchise. The Bears wouldn’t see steady success again until the middle 2000s while the Browns failed to find hope until 2018.
Detroit Lions: 14
Denver Broncos: 3
1991 marked the only season since 1957 that the Lions would win a playoff game, defeating the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Divisional playoffs by a score of 38-6. They went 12-4 and won the NFC Central that year, winning the Central one more time in 1993. Since 1993, they have neither won the NFC Central nor NFC North, and since 1991, they are on yet another playoff drought, winning just one playoff game in 60+ seasons.
New York Jets: 41
Philadelphia Eagles: 14
This game marked the second season for Eagles’ coach Rich Kotite, who would be fired following the 1994 season only to coach the Jets from 1995 to 1996. Kotite would coach the Jets to a 4-28 record in two seasons. To date, each team had been to just a single Super Bowl, with the Jets winning Super Bowl III while the Eagles lost Super Bowl XV to the Oakland Raiders.
Green Bay Packers: 3
Los Angeles Raiders: 19
Rematch of Super Bowl II. It would be the Raiders’ final Hall of Fame Game while based in Los Angeles. Both teams had won a combined five Super Bowls as of 1993, with the Packers tacking on two more in 1996 and 2010. The Raiders later made an appearance in 2002, losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. An interesting note is that this matchup would’ve pitted Brett Favre against Todd Marinovich, whom the Raiders drafted over Favre in 1991, had Marinovich not been suspended for the entire 1993 season.
San Diego Chargers: 17
Atlanta Falcons: 21
The San Diego Chargers played in the very first (Hall of Fame), and very last (Super Bowl XXIX) games of the season other than the NFL Pro Bowl. However by 1998, the Chargers would fall into a Dark Age while the Falcons finished the ’98 regular season at 14-2 and earned their first Super Bowl appearance in a loss to Denver.
Carolina Panthers: 20
Jacksonville Jaguars: 14
Debut game for both franchises, who were founded in late-1993, beginning play in 1995. In an ironic turn of events, the Jaguars and Panthers found themselves in their respective Conference Championship Games just one year later in 1996, in both franchise’s second season of existence. While both teams lost, the Panthers found themselves in the Super Bowl in 2003 and again in 2015 while the Jaguars were an AFC Finalist in 2017 in a narrow loss to the Patriots, the same team who defeated the Jaguars in the 1996 AFC Championship Game.
Indianapolis Colts: 10
New Orleans Saints: 3
“Pre-Match” of Super Bowl XLIV, where the Saints would defeat the Colts 31-17 in 2009; Super Bowl XLIV marked the first Super Bowl appearance for the New Orleans Saints. In a bizarre fact, Archie Manning was a member of the Saints between 1971 and 1982 while two seasons later, the Colts would select Peyton Manning at number one overall in 1998.
Minnesota Vikings: 28
Seattle Seahawks: 26
Warren Moon’s first game as a Seahawk, facing his former team. Moon would win a division championship with each team, despite failing to reach the same success he saw earlier in his career with the Houston Oilers. This would also be the Seahawks’ final Hall of Fame Game appearance before moving to the NFC West in 2002.
Pittsburgh Steelers: 6
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 30
This matchup two teams headed in the opposite directions over the next five seasons. Ironically, the perennial losers of the area would hoist the Lombardi Trophy to cap off 2002 while in 2003, the Steelers would suffer their worst record in over a decade. However by 2008, the Steelers would be crowned Super Bowl Champions while the Buccaneers commenced a playoff drought.
Dallas Cowboys: 17
Cleveland Browns: 20
The Browns’ first season since the Baltimore Ravens absorbed their roster prior to the 1996 season while the Browns were subsequently considered to have suspended operations from 1996 to 1998. while the Browns returned to the NFL, the Cowboys’ dynasty of the 1990s had come to an end with the subsequent injury and retirement of Michael Irvin while Troy Aikman would retire the following season.
New England Patriots: 20
San Francisco 49ers: 0
Tom Brady’s debut, as well as Giovanni Carmazzi, one of six quarterbacks taken before Brady (199th overall) in the 2000 NFL Draft, also known as the Brady Six. Brady debuted as a backup, completing 1 of 3 passes. Brady would go on to win six Super Bowl Championships among other accomplishments while Carmazzi never played a regular season game. This game set the tone for the 2000s, as the Patriots would win three Super Bowls in four seasons while the 49ers returned to the Dark Ages following the 2002 season.
St. Louis Rams: 17
Miami Dolphins: 10
Final season for the Greatest Show on Turf while quarterback Kurt Warner’s reign as one of the NFL’s elite players would take a freefall following 2001. The Rams would play in the Super Bowl in 2001 against Brady’s Patriots. The Dolphins, on the other hand, were still adjusting to life without Marino. Having heralded one of the NFL’s most successful franchises since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the dreaded Dark Ages approached, which the team still hasn’t recovered from.
Houston Texans: 17
New York Giants: 24
Texans’ debut season as an NFL franchise. The expansion Texans made up the NFL’s 32nd franchise, having been founded in 1999, but had received three seasons to prepare and build a front office. Despite such preparations, the new AFC South would be dominated throughout the decade by the Indianapolis Colts, where Houston wouldn’t see a division championship until 2011.
Green Bay Packers: 0
Kansas City Chiefs: 9
AFL-NFL World Championship Game (Super Bowl I) rematch. The Packers were on the verge of entering a mini-Dark Age, which in turn would lead to the drafting of Aaron Rodgers two seasons later. The Chiefs became NFL darlings in 2003, starting the season at 9-0 and finishing 13-3. However, their playoff woes continued and the team failed to win in the Divisional Round of the 2003 season.
Denver Broncos: 17
Washington Redskins: 20
Super Bowl XXII rematch. Since the Redskins’ three Super Bowl wins between 1982 and 1991, they suffered through lean seasons, if not a Dark Age of their own. 2004 marked the captain of the team’s Super Bowl decade, Joe Gibbs, who was lured out of retirement after the firing of Steve Spurrier the year prior.
Chicago Bears: 27
Miami Dolphins: 24
Two legendary franchises sporting dominance in different eras go at it in the Hall of Fame Game. While both teams experienced their own, unique dry spells, it would be the Bears who would later play in Super Bowl XLI the following season, losing to Miami’s ex-division rival, the Indianapolis Colts.
Oakland Raiders: 16
Philadelphia Eagles: 10
Super Bowl XV rematch. Also, the Raiders’ first Hall of Fame Game since returning to Oakland in 1995. It would be a time where one team faced the dreaded Dark Ages while another had become Super Bowl contenders for the greater part of the decade.
New Orleans Saints: 7
Pittsburgh Steelers: 20
NFL coaches don’t last in today’s league, but in Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin, who is now entering his 13th season with Pittsburgh as of 2019, and Sean Payton, entering his 13th with New Orleans as of 2019 (Payton was suspended all of 2012 due to Bountygate), the Steelers and Saints are obvious exceptions. Each coach has racked up one Super Bowl title during their tenures.
Indianapolis Colts: 16
Washington Redskins: 30
A former pre-merger rivalry here. No one was against the Baltimore Colts more than former Redskins’ owner George Preston Marshall. While the Colts have since switched conferences and moved to Indianapolis in 1984, such a rivalry has cooled, but it’s always fun to wonder what could’ve been.
Buffalo Bills: 18
Tennesee Titans: 21
Throwback uniforms worn to commemorate the AFL’s 50th Anniversary. The Bills wore their standing bison throwbacks while the Titans played as the Houston Oilers. While the Bills routinely (thank goodness) wore their throwback uniforms as alternates, the Titans would play as the Oilers for the first time since 1998 while their fellow chartered AFL member, the New York Jets, would play as the New York Titans on throwback weekends.
Dallas Cowboys: 16
Cincinnati Bengals: 7
This one featured two teams on Super Bowl droughts, while the latter was on a two-decade drought without a win in the playoffs. While each team had seen their successes in the 2000s, neither went any further than the Divisional Playoffs, a trend that continued throughout the 2010s.
Game canceled due to NFL Lockout
Arizona Cardinals: 10
New Orleans Saints: 17
First Hall of Fame Game for the Cardinals since their move to Arizona in 1987 to become the Phoenix Cardinals. It also marked the Saints’ third Hall of Fame Game in two decades. Each team saw the least amount of success of any NFL team until the 2000s in terms of winning percentage and playoff wins. By the end of the 2000s, both played in the Super Bowl, with the Saints winning Super Bowl XLIV. First appearance by two NFC teams in the Hall of Fame Game since the AFL-NFL Merger.
Miami Dolphins: 20
Dallas Cowboys: 24
Super Bowl VI rematch was also a game that featured two teams coached by the legendary Jimmy Johnson, who was the architect of the Dallas Cowboys dynasty from 1989 to 1993, but the dynasty itself lasted until 1998 or 1999, depending on who’s telling the story. Some say the Cowboys dynasty lasted from 1991 to 1996-7. This also marked the Dolphins new helmet debut.
New York Giants: 17
Buffalo Bills: 13
Super Bowl: XXV rematch. While this game wasn’t reminiscent of Wide Right, nor did it pit legendary coaches Bill Parcells and Marv Levy, it served as a thrilling kick-off to the 2014 NFL season nonetheless. While some may question why I find preseason thrilling, it’s something only a die-hard NFL fan would understand.
Pittsburgh Steelers: 3
Minnesota Vikings: 14
Super Bowl IX rematch pitting two teams against one another who have a combined ten Super Bowl appearances. Both made major strides in the 1970s with the Steelers’ Steel Curtain dynasty along with Minnesota’s Purple People Eaters.
Canceled due to poor field conditions
Arizona Cardinals: 17
Dallas Cowboys: 20
Former division rivals whose success had gone in opposite directions. While the Cardinals saw a Super Bowl appearance along with an NFC Championship appearance in 2015, it still hasn’t matched the Cowboys’ eight Super Bowl appearances and five Super Bowl rings, tied for the most of any NFC team. This game is also notable in that all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith played his first thirteen seasons with the Cowboys before finishing his career in Arizona.
Chicago Bears: 16
Baltimore Ravens: 17
2018 marked the first time the Ravens have played in the Hall of Fame Game. The Ravens were also the 32nd and final franchise to date to have played in the game, giving each NFL team at least one Hall of Fame Game appearance.
Super Bowl XXXIII rematch. Each team had also made a Super Bowl appearance in the 2010s, with the Broncos taking Super Bowl 50 while the Falcons barely lost Super Bowl LI.