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Interesting read on expansion teams in the NFL

Discussion in 'Houston Texans' started by Htownhero, Sep 5, 2002.

  1. Htownhero

    Htownhero Member

    Jun 29, 2000
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    link to story

    Second coming?
    by Don Banks, Sports Illustrated

    HOUSTON -- If history is any indication, Texans fans should be braced for a bummer Sunday night when the despised Dallas Cowboys come to town to help celebrate the return of NFL football to Houston after a five-year absence.

    Chances are, only Cowboys fans will be celebrating afterward. In 10 out of 11 cases, an NFL or AFL expansion team has lost its opener, with only the 1961 Minnesota Vikings bucking that trend. Here's a historical review of pro football's previous 11 expansion teams, dating from 1960 on:

    1960 -- America's Team to-be debuted with a competitive 35-28 loss to Pittsburgh, before an estimated crowd of 30,000 at the Cotton Bowl. In a nod perhaps to the Texas mid-day heat, even as late as Sept. 24, the game was played on a Saturday night. The highlight for the Cowboys came on their first ever scoring play, a 76-yard pass from quarterback Eddie LaBaron to Jim Doran. But Pittsburgh quarterback Bobby Layne led a fourth-quarter Steelers rally.

    The Cowboys came even closer to winning the next week, falling 27-25 at home to Philadelphia. But those games were the beginnings of what would be a 10-game franchise-opening losing streak. Only a 31-31 tie against the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium in early December kept Dallas from being a total first-year failure at 0-11-1.

    1961 -- The Vikings remain the only NFL or AFL expansion team to win their opening game, and the only NFL expansion team to have a winning record at any point in their inaugural season. Minnesota trounced heavily favored Chicago 37-13 on Sept. 17 at Metropolitan Stadium, getting an eye-opening performance out of rookie quarterback Fran Tarkenton, its third-round pick. Coming off the bench to start his Hall of Fame career, Tarkenton completed 17-of-23, for 250 yards and four touchdowns.

    Kicker Mike Mercer scored the first regular-season points in team history, with a 12-yard field goal (now there's a real NFL dinosaur), and Tarkenton's 14-yard scoring pass to Bob Schnelker provided the franchise's first touchdown. Alas, the Vikings' mojo didn't last. They followed up that win with seven consecutive losses, and finished with what became an expansion team's standard record in the 1960's -- 3-11.

    1966 -- The Falcons played host to the fearsome Los Angeles Rams before 54,418 at the spanking new Atlanta Stadium, losing 19-14 on Sept. 11. After the George Allen-coached Rams built a 16-0 lead, largely behind quarterback Roman Gabriel's 294 passing yards, the Falcons rallied to get as close as 16-14. It was the first of Atlanta's nine losses to open the season.

    The Falcons did get reasonably hot at the end of the season, winning three of their last five games. No. 1 came at Yankee Stadium, in a 27-16 defeat of the woeful Allie Sherman-led Giants. Though they gave up an average of more than 31 points per game that year, the Falcons had the modest distinction of being the first expansion team not to finish in last place. Their 3-11 mark was good for seventh in the eight-team Eastern Conference, ahead of the 1-12-1 Giants.

    1966 -- The AFL's first expansion team finished its first year looking a lot like an NFL expansion team, meaning they were 3-11. Dolphins running back Joe Auer got things started on a big-play note, running the opening kickoff back 95 yards for a touchdown in Miami's regular-season opener at home against Oakland. But only 26,776 fans were on hand in the Orange Bowl to see the Raiders record a 23-14 win.

    Miami started that season with five consecutive losses, then won a two in a row, starting with a 24-7 home win against Denver. The Dolphins in 1966 were very thankful there was an AFL team in Houston. Miami swept the two-game season series against the Oilers, for 66.7 percent of its win total. Even before the Dolphins began play that season, the AFL-NFL merger was announced, effective in 1970.

    1967 -- Expectations couldn't have been higher when the Saints made their Sept. 17 regular-season debut against the Los Angeles Rams before 80,879 at Tulane Stadium. After all, New Orleans won five out of its six exhibition games, the best expansion-team preseason performance ever. When rookie running back John Gilliam returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown, the Saints franchise looked ready to go marching into the NFL.

    But the Rams steadied themselves and came back to post a 27-13 victory that day, starting a seven-game slide for New Orleans. The Saints managed to win three of their last seven games to finish 3-11, a mini-streak that began with a 31-24 home conquest of Philadelphia in Week 8. You know the rest of the story. It took New Orleans 20 years to post a winning record, and until 2000 to win a playoff game. One strange footnote: The Saints schedule in 1967 included two three-game home stands, and two three-game road trips, all within 14 weeks.

    1968 -- The creation of the Bengals gave the AFL it's 10th and final franchise, even though Cincinnati played in just the final two seasons of the once-renegade league. Pro football's final expansion team of the 1960s finished its first season the same way as the previous four, with a record of 3-11. The Bengals became the first expansion team to open on the road, losing 29-13 at San Diego.

    But Cincinnati bounced back, winning its next two games, both at home, against Denver and Buffalo. After that 2-1 start, Cincinnati lost 10 of its next 11. Until Carolina and Jacksonville came along in 1995, the Bengals were the fastest expansion team to get to the playoff, making it as the AFC Central champion at 8-6 in 1970.

    1976 -- If ever there was a harbinger of things to come, it was the Bucs' first regular-season game, a 20-0 loss at Houston. It was the first time that an expansion team had been shut out in its opener, and for good measure, the Bucs followed it up with a 23-0 loss at home to San Diego in Week 2. All told, the 1976 Bucs were blanked five times, and held under 20 points in 13 of their 14 games.

    They also remain the only team to go through an NFL season without winning or tying a game (0-14). Tampa Bay's first points in 1976 didn't come until a 14-9 third-week loss at home against Buffalo. The Bucs didn't register their first regular-season touchdown until Week 4, in a 42-17 loss at Baltimore. Forget the quarterback who was at the wheel of that offensive juggernaut? Yep, modern-day offensive genius Steve Spurrier, now Washington's head coach.

    1976 -- The Seahawks came agonizingly close to victory in their first regular-season game. Only an interception in the end zone perserved St. Louis' 30-24 victory at the Kingdome. That game debuted the considerable comeback talents of Seattle quarterback Jim Zorn, who would go on to be the franchise's No. 1 passer for its opening seven seasons.

    Seattle lost its first five games in 1976, but then got on the board by virtue of its 13-10 "Expansion Bowl" victory at Tampa Bay in Week 6. Former Colts linebacker Mike Curtis blocked a Bucs field goal attempt in the final minute to avoid overtime and wrap up the win. A November win at home against Altanta rounded out Seattle's 2-12 first-year effort. But by year three, in 1978, the Seahawks went 9-7, which was then a record for the expansion team fastest to that victory plateau.

    1995 -- The Panthers set an expansion record for wins - more than doubling the previous standard of three victories - with their 7-9 record, and they did it despite losing their first five games. But there were signs right from the start that head coach Dom Caper's Carolina squad wasn't going to be your father's expansion team. The visiting Panthers extended the Falcons into overtime before losing 23-20 on opening day.

    After starting 0-5, Carolina reeled off four consecutive wins, the first of which came at home, 26-15, against the New York Jets. But remember, "home" games for Carolina that season were played in South Carolina, at Clemson University. The highlight of the season for the Panthers came Nov. 5 at San Francisco, when they upset the 49ers 13-7 to win their expansion-record fourth in a row, and become the first expansion team in history to defeat a defending Super Bowl champion.

    1995 -- The Jaguars couldn't match the first-year fireworks of their fellow expansion cats in Carolina, but they did manage to beat the Panthers to the winner's circle for the first time -- by two weeks. Jacksonville lost its first game 10-3 to visiting Houston, in the regular-season debut of the newly renovated Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. But the Jags got their revenge four weeks later, upsetting the Oilers 17-16 at the Astrodome.

    The Week 5 win was the third-fastest in NFL expansion history, and the fastest road victory ever. One week later, the Jaguars earned their first home win, a 20-16 upset of Pittsburgh. It remains the only time in league history that an expansion team has beaten a team that went on to play in the Super Bowl the same season. Jacksonville finished 4-12, then, like Carolina, advanced to its conference title game in its second season.

    1999 -- The Texans won't have much to live up to in terms of recent expansion-season history. Cleveland made the worst debut in expansion history in 1999, losing their inagural game 43-0 to the visiting Steelers. The game's pivotal moment came early, on roughly the day the schedule came out.

    The Browns in 1999 wound up scoring a league-low 217 points, while allowing a league-worst 437 points. After an 0-7 start, they won 21-16 on Halloween in New Orleans, courtesy of a last-second Hail Mary touchdown pass from quarterback Tim Couch to receiver Kevin Johnson. Cleveland finished 2-14 in 1999, and 3-13 in 2000, as Chris Palmer became the quickest-fired expansion team head coach.
  2. Roc Paint

    Roc Paint Contributing Member

    Aug 12, 2001
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    bummer my ass..

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