orrections/clarifications: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the largest TV market without an NFL franchise.
1. In college, the Notre Dame sports information director convinced future Washington Redskins quarterback and NFL MVP Joe Theismann to change the pronunciation of his name from “THEEZ-min” to “THIGHS-min” so it would rhyme with Heisman. The new Mr. Thighsman would not win his Heisman, finishing second to Jim Plunkett.
2. The largest point spread in NFL history came when the Denver Broncos were favored by 26.5 over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2 of 2013. The Jags covered, falling 35-19.
3. Of the 11 games since 1987 that had point spreads of 20+, the favorite has only covered twice, though no underdogs won straight up. The Philadelphia Eagles, 24.5-point dogs to the eventual 16-0 New England Patriots, came closest, leading 28-24 entering the fourth quarter before a Patriots touchdown gave them a 31-28 victory.
4. Since no once could agree on the realignment of the NFC after the AFL/NFL merger, the five best plans were put into a vase and Pete Rozelle’s secretary selected one at random.
5. The Baltimore Colts made an 80-cent long-distance call to sign Johnny Unitas as a free agent.
6. The Arizona Cardinals had the longest postseason victory drought in NFL history (1947 to 1998).
7. There have been games played on every day of the week in the modern NFL. The one Tuesday game was due to a Pennsylvania blizzard. The single Wednesday game was because the NFL moved the Washington-New York Thursday night season opener so it wouldn’t overlap with John McCain’s speech at the Republican convention. The Friday games were either Christmas or New Year’s related, with at least one of those (a Kansas City-Miami matchup in 2005) occurring after being moved up a few days because of a hurricane forecast.
8. Walter Payton only won one NFL rushing title in his career.
9. There have been 14 different rushing champions in the past 17years. There were 14 different champions in the 27 years before that.
10. Those NFL rushing champions have included a wide array of men: Supreme Court Justice, actor, Rhodes Scholar, the man who scored the most famous touchdown in NFL history, a guy played on film by Billy Dee Williams, a player suspended for nearly an entire NFL season and O.J. Simpson.
11. It took the New Orleans Saints 32 years to win their first playoff game. The two expansion teams of 1995 (Carolina and Jacksonville) played for their conference championship in their second years of existence.
12. Since 1988, every team in the NFL has played in a conference championship game (with the exception of the 13-year-old Houston Texans).
13. Since his last interception at Lambeau Field, Aaron Rodgers has thrown 48 touchdowns.
14. Bill Belichick would need 10 consecutive 12-win seasons to pass Don Shula on the list for most coaching victories. Belichick will be 73 years old in 10 years.
15. Pete Rozelle was voted NFL commissioner on the 23rd ballot.
16. The commissioner made the controversial decision to play games two days after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, based on advice from JFK’s press secretary, Pierre Salinger. He said Robert F. Kennedy told him his brother would have wanted the games to go on. None of the games were aired, as television was providing wall-to-wall coverage of the assassination and its aftermath. Just after the early games kicked off, Lee Harvey Oswald was shot in the parking garage of the Dallas police headquarters while JFK’s horse-drawn caisson was led through the streets of Washington. Rozelle would call playing those games his biggest regret. His successor, Paul Tagliabue, would not make the same mistake after 9/11.
17. CBS paid $4.65 million in 1962 for the first exclusive rights to broadcast NFL games. (In its current deal, Fox pays a reported $1.15 billion per year for its NFC package.) But that didn’t cover the NFL championship, which NBC acquired for just under $1 million or about 1/4th the cost of what it’ll take to buy a 30-second ad at Super Bowl 50.
18. Ed Sabol was the oldest Hall of Fame inductee. At 94 years old, he was 60 years older than the youngest, Gale Sayers.
19. Julio Jones has three more catches through three weeks of the NFL season (34) than anyone else in history and is on pace for 181 catches this season, which is only 38 ahead of the NFL record, which should tell you something about Marvin Harrison’s remarkable 2002.
20. The NFL and the Chicago Bears were named on the same day. Both changed on June 24, 1922, the NFL from the American Professional Football Association and the Bears from the Chicago Staleys.
21. There have been more penalties called in the first three weeks of the 2015 NFL season than in the first three weeks of any other season in history.
22. Sammy Baugh once led the NFL in passing, punting and defensive interceptions in the same season.
23. The 2000 Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens had a five-game stretch in which they didn’t score a touchdown and their only points were field goals by Matt Stover (14 in all). The team went 2-3 in that run of offensive ineptitude, but only lost one other game all season, setting an NFL record with 165 points allowed and almost scoring as many points in Super Bowl XXXV (34) as they did in that historic five-game stretch (42).
24. Despite a recent onslaught, Baugh still holds the record for single-season punting average at 51.4, set in 1940. After no one else averaged more than 50 yards per punt in the first 86 years of the league, six players have done so in the past seven years.
25. Of the 55 players who have played in an NFL game in their 40s, 41 were quarterbacks, kickers or punters. Beyond the 1920s, the oldest position player who wasn’t a QB, K or P was 43-year-old Ray Brown, who played guard for the Washington Redskins in 2005.
26. The Chicago Bears have the most retired numbers of any NFL team with 13.
27. Five teams don’t have any players’ numbers retired. Three are due to a lack of history: Baltimore, Houston and Jacksonville. The other two are because the teams don’t “believe” in such honor: Dallas and Oakland.
28. College juniors weren’t eligible for the NFL draft until 1990.
29. Oakland’s last playoff game was Super Bowl XXXVII. Tampa’s last playoff win was Super Bowl XXXVII.
30. In his eighth NFL start, Adrian Peterson set the record for most rushing yards in a single game with 296. Remarkably, Peterson went into halftime with a pedestrian 43 yards on 13 carries (3.3 ypc). But in the second half, he carried 17 times for 253 yards (14.88 ypc), a yardage total that would tie for ninth all time in a single game.
31. Art Monk held the single-season reception record (106) for eight years. Since it was broken in 1992, it has been surpassed 40 more times.
32. In 1992, the NFL experimented with two bye weeks.
33. After two years at Memorial Stadium, the Baltimore Ravens moved to its new digs, which was called “NFL Stadium at Camden Yards” for one season before PSINet bought naming rights.
34. Jerry Rice and Brett Favre are the only non-kickers to play in more than 300 games.
35. The defensive player with the highest total is Darrell Green, who played in 295 games.
36. Franchises in Houston have experienced the worst single-season drop-offs in NFL history. The 1993 Oilers followed up a 12-4 season with a 2-14 turn in 1994 that included QB starts by Billy Joe Tolliver, Cody Carlson and Bucky Richardson, names that evoke, well, a 2-14 season. Then, in 2012 and 2013, the Texans pulled the same trick, including the quarterback name thing. Case Keenum went 0-8 in ’13.
37. The Seattle Seahawks were originally owned by the Nordstrom family — yes, the same family who owned the upscale department store. When the Seahawks won the Super Bowl in 2014, the team classily presented John Nordstrom with a Super Bowl ring.
38. Emmitt Smith still won the rushing title in 1993, the year he held out the first two games of the season in a contract dispute.
39. Team names that have existed in the NFL include the All-Americans, Celts, Reds, Panhandles, Triangles, Heralds, Eskimos, Yellowjackets, Colonels, Marines, Tornadoes, Maroons, Jeffersons, Gunners, Stapes and Maroons.
40. There have been six trades in the NFL with 10 or more players. The biggest? Like you have to ask:
41. When the Seahawks were created, a “name the team” contest received 20,365 entries and 1,742 different names. How do that many different names exist? Were people sending in stuff like “Frank” and “Dave?”
42. Steve Young is the only left-handed quarterback in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
43. The Super Bowl trophy was renamed for Vince Lombardi exactly one week after he died in September 1970 at the young age of 57. Andy Reid and Marvin Lewis are 57 years old right now, which is bizarre to think about.
44. Before 1975, offensive holding was a 15-yard penalty.
45. The coldest Super Bowl was at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, when the Cowboys and Dolphins kicked off Super Bowl VI with the mercury at 39 degrees.
46. The hottest Super Bowl would take place one year later, when the Dolphins capped their perfect season with a Super Bowl VII victory over the Redskins in 84-degree Los Angeles heat.
47. Take that, Favre. George Halas retired as coach of the Chicago Bears four times in total.
48. John Elway was responsible for 90 of the Broncos’ 98 yards during “The Drive.” He was 6-9 for 70 yards through the air and scrambled twice for 20 yards.
49. Football officially surpassed baseball as “America’s Pastime” in 1965, when more people named it their favorite sport in the long-running Harris Poll on the subject.
50. Andrew Luck already has more playoff passing yards than two-time Super Bowl champion Bart Starr.
51. In 1979, the Washington Redskins and Chicago Bears had one of the wildest final-day playoff battles ever. Washington needed a win over Dallas to clinch a playoff berth. If they didn’t get that, all they’d need was to not lose a point differential of 33 points over the Chicago Bears, who were playing the Vikings. Improbably, Chicago took care of its job all by themselves, winning 42-6 in an early game, meaning the point differential tiebreak was over and the Redskins were in and win-and-in situation. Washington got out to a 17-0 lead in its game, then led 34-21 with 6:53 left, seemingly clinching a berth and ending the Bears season in the process. But Roger Staubach single-handedly got Chicago to the playoffs, leading a comeback that ended with a touchdown pass to Calvin Hill (Grant’s dad) with 39 seconds left. The Bears were in, the Redskins were out.
52. Tom Brady has twice as many playoff passing yards (7,345) than the third-ranked active player on that list — Drew Brees (3,539). Only Peyton Manning comes close to Brady with his 6,800 yards.
53. Teams only began winning home-field advantage for the playoffs in 1975. Before, the sport switched off sites for the playoffs based on division placement, much like baseball and the World Series before that All-Star game tie.
54. Former Washington Redskins kicker Mark Moseley has any many NFL MVP awards as John Elway, Dan Marino, Marshall Faulk, Walter Payton, O.J. Simpson, Barry Sanders, Lawrence Taylor, Emmitt Smith and Terry Bradshaw. He’s only one behind Tom Brady.