1921 IN REVIEW
After going 19-2-1 as an independent team, the Green Bay Packers joined the American Professional Football Association (renamed the National Football League in 1922). J.E. Clair of Acme Packing Company was granted the franchise for Green Bay on August 27. Their first win in the APFA came on Sunday, October 23 when they defeated the Minneapolis Marines, 7-6, at Hagemeister Park in Green Bay. In that game, Curly Lambeau threw the first forward pass in Packer history (an incompletion intended for Lyle "Cowboy" Wheeler). Buff Wagner would record the first reception, an 18-yard pass from Curly Lambeau. FB Art Schmaehl would run four yards for the first Green Bay touchdown. Lambeau would drop kick the first extra point in Packer history. The following week, October 30, Green Bay would lose its first league game ever, dropping a 13-3 decision to the Rock Island Independents at Hagemeister Park. In that game, Lambeau would attempt and make the first field goal in team history, connecting from 25 yards on a drop kick. The first touchdown pass in Green Bay history would come on November 13 in a 14-7 win over the visiting Hammond Pros. Lambeau tossed a 35-yard score off a fake kick to Bill DuMoe. Two weeks later, the famous Packer-Bear series would be launched at Chicago, with the Packers losing a 20-0 decision to Chicago Staleys, who changed name to Bears in 1922. After the season, Green Bay nearly lost its franchise, as it was found to have used two active Notre Dame players in the game with the Staleys and a non-league game against Chicago Supremes after 1921 season. Upset at teams using illegal players, the APFA made an example of the Packers and stripped Green Bay of the team on January 28, 1922. John Clair surrendered the franchise at the meeting. The NFL owners would reinstate the Packers at a June 24 meeting in Canton, after Lambeau apologized and paid the $250 franchise fee, making him team's new owner.
THE STALEY SWINDLE
The Staley Swindle is a term used, primarily by sports fans from Buffalo, New York, to describe the loss of the Buffalo All-Americans 1921 APFA Championship title to the Chicago Staleys (later renamed the Chicago Bears). The controversy began at the conclusion of the 1921 season, when the All-Americans finished the season with the best record in the American Professional Football Association (renamed the National Football League in 1922). However after losing an "exhibition" game to the Staleys on December 4, 1921, the All-Americans lost their title to Chicago. The Buffalo All-Americans finished 1921 with a 9-0-2 record, meanwhile Chicago captured second-place with their only loss coming against Buffalo on Thanksgiving. The Staleys refused to play any road games that season except for their Thanksgiving game against the then-undefeated All-Americans who also had played all of their games at home. Chicago owner, George Halas, then challenged the All-Americans to a rematch. Buffalo owner, Frank McNeil, having already scheduled the team's last game for December 3 against the Akron Pros, agreed on the condition that it be considered only a "post-season exhibition match" and not be counted in the standings. McNeil also made a point of telling the Buffalo media that the two games were exhibitions and would have no bearing on the team's claim to the AFPA title. He then scheduled the game against the Staleys the day after the team's final game against Akron. Therefore after a game, scheduled for December 3 against the tough Akron Pros, McNeil's team would take an all-night train to Chicago to play the Staleys the next day.
The All-Americans defeated the Pros. They then boarded a train for Chicago, worn out and in no real condition to play the Staleys. The All-Americans then lost to the Staleys, 10-7. Meanwhile McNeil still believed his team was the AFPA's 1921 champion, and even invested in tiny gold footballs for his players to commemorate the achievement. After all, at the time, Buffalo was still 9-1-2, and Chicago was still 8-1 -- a half-game behind Buffalo in the standings (Buffalo played more games earlier in the season). If the season ended that day, Buffalo would still have won the league title. Chicago, however, saw their opportunity, and swiftly scheduled two games in December: one against the Canton Bulldogs, and the other against their crosstown rivals, the Chicago Cardinals. Winning both would have propelled Chicago to 10-1, a half-game ahead of Buffalo and assuring the team of the championship. The Staleys defeated Canton, 10-0, on December 11, but managed only to reach a scoreless tie with the Cardinals on December 18. Thus, the two teams were now tied at 9-1 (ties did not count in the APFA standings at the time). Halas decided to declare that the title belonged to Chicago and began to persuade the other owners in the league to give his Staleys the title. Halas based his claim for the championship on his belief that the second game of the Buffalo-Chicago series mattered more than the first. He also pointed out that the aggregate score of the two games was 16-14 in favor of the Staleys. McNeil insisted that the Buffalo was the champions and maintained that the last two games his team played were merely exhibitions. (Notably, both the All-Americans and the Staleys disputed the previous year's title, but were both overruled and the Brunswick-Balke Collender Cup went to the Akron Pros.) The league then instituted the first-ever tiebreaker for the championship. The new rule stated that a rematch counts more than a first matchup, which handed the championship to Chicago. The rule has since been discontinued by the NFL, largely due to the playoff system that was developed in the early 1930s. However the league was also forced to place a finite end to the season after the incident. In 1924, when Chicago attempted to do the same thing with a post-season match against the Cleveland Bulldogs, the league disallowed it, allowed the Bulldogs to keep their title, and banned the use of postseason championship games. In their decision, based on a generally accepted (but now obsolete) rule that if two teams play each other more than once in a season, the second game counts more than the first, the executive committee followed established tradition. Had Buffalo not played the last game (or if it had not been counted as per Buffalo's wishes), they would have had an undefeated season and won the title. Meanwhile McNeil eventually went to his grave trying to get the league's decision overturned. Buffalo never again reached the level of success they did in the 1918-1921 period; the franchise barely stayed over .500 for the next three seasons, after which the team fell to the bottom of the league in the standings for most of the rest of the decade, suspending operations in 1927 and folding in 1929.