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A History of Disrupted NFL Seasons

Only a few NFL seasons have experienced severe disruption

If and when the NFL takes the field this fall, it will arguably be the most unique season in league history. There will be no bubble, and if MLB's experience is any indicator, games may be postponed because of COVID-19 outbreaks. If that happens, the NFL will experience its most disrupted season ever.

 

The league has experienced a handful of herky-jerky seasons for self-inflicted reasons and circumstances beyond its control. Here is a brief history of them.

 

The early days (1920-52)

To say the first 30 years of the NFL were touch and go is a bit of understatement. A total of 49 franchises, including 10 of the league's 12 founding members, folded between 1920 and 1952. Five of these teams won NFL titles. While these closures didn't necessarily lead to disrupted seasons, they did cause continuous instability.

 

World War II (1942-45)

In addition to losing a number of players to service during WWII, several franchises had to adjust to make ends meet. The Cleveland Rams did not field a team in 1943, while the Philadelphia Eagles merged with the Pittsburgh Steelers to temporarily form the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh Steagles. In 1944, the Steelers merged with the Chicago Cardinals, and in 1945, two now-defunct franchises, the Brooklyn Tigers and Boston Yanks, combined for one season.

 

Players' strike No. 1 (1982)

A 57-day players strike early in the season prompted the league to reduce its schedule from 16 games to nine and turn the playoffs into a 16-team tournament. In the NFC, the Washington Redskins went 8-1, cruised through the playoffs, and scored 17 unanswered second-half points to beat the Miami Dolphins 27-17 in Super Bowl XVII.

 

Players' strike No. 2 (1987)

The players went on strike again five years later, impacting Weeks 3 through 6. The owners canceled the third game and used replacement players for the next three. The Redskins won all three games with the replacements en route to winning the franchise's second Super Bowl.

 

9/11 (2001)

The September 11 attacks prompted the NFL to postpone the upcoming week two games to Week 17 and went two weeks without playing. This meant that the Super Bowl was played in February for the first time in its history. However, it is now played in February every season because of the bye week and mandatory two weeks between conference championships and the Super Bowl.

 

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports' Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.

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