NFL History 101: When Did Each Franchise First Make The Playoffs?

Given that the Houston Texans have now made the playoffs after entering the NFL as an expansion team in 2002, I thought I would take a look around the league to see how long it took other franchises to make their first trip to the playoffs.

It is important to note that there are some notes about the AFL, AAFC, and other leagues teams may have joined prior to the NFL. I also included pre-Super Bowl NFL playoff appearances (1919-1965), but those "playoffs" were mostly championship games, given how few teams played back then. Also of note, these are playoff appearances and not division championships - some teams have not won a division championship since long before the pre-Texans days.

Now jump for a history lesson!

Buffalo Bills: Began play in 1960. Made four AFL Playoff appearances, including their inaugural birth in 1963 and the 1966 AFL Championship game for the right to go to Super Bowl I. Made Super Bowl era playoffs in 1974.
Miami Dolphins: Began play in 1966, made playoffs in 1970.
New England Patriots: Began play in 1960. Made one AFL Playoff appearance in 1963. Made Super Bowl era playoffs in 1976.
New York Jets: Began play in 1960. Made two AFL Playoff appearances in 1968 and 1969. Made Super Bowl era playoffs in 1981.

Baltimore Ravens: Began play in 1996, made playoffs in 2000.
Cincinnati Bengals: Began play in 1968, made playoffs in 1970.
Cleveland Browns: Played in AAFC from 1946-1949 and won all four AAFC Championships. Joined NFL in 1950 and made NFL playoffs in 1950 (pre-Super Bowl) and 1967 (post-Super Bowl). Re-entered NFL in 1999, made playoffs in 2002.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Began play in 1933, made NFL playoffs once in the pre-Super Bowl era in 1933. In the Super Bowl era, they made their first playoff appearance in 1972.

Houston Texans: Began play in 2002, made playoffs in 2011.
Indianapolis Colts: Began play in 1953, made NFL playoffs in 1958 (pre-Super Bowl) and 1968 (Super Bowl era).
Jacksonville Jaguars: Began play in 1995, made playoffs in 1996.
Tennessee Titans: Began play in 1960. Made five AFL playoff appearances, including 1960 and 1967. Made Super Bowl era playoffs in 1978.

Denver Broncos: Began play in 1960, made playoffs in 1977.
Kansas City Chiefs: Began play in 1960. Made four AFL playoff appearances, including 1962’s inaugural appearance and two Super Bowl trips as AFL Champions. Made Super Bowl era playoffs in 1971.
Oakland Raiders: Began play in 1960. Made three AFL playoff appearances from 1967-1969. Made Super Bowl era playoffs in 1970.
San Diego Chargers: Began play in 1960. Made five AFL playoff appearances, including 1960’s inaugural championship game. Made Super Bowl era playoffs in 1979.

Dallas Cowboys: Began play in 1960, made playoffs in 1966.
New York Giants: Began play in 1925. Made 16 pre-Super Bowl playoffs, including 1933’s first appearance. Made Super Bowl era playoffs in 1981.
Philadelphia Eagles: Began play in 1933. Made four pre-Super Bowl playoffs, including 1947’s first appearance. Made Super Bowl era playoffs in 1978.
Washington Redskins: Began play in 1932. Made six pre-Super Bowl playoffs, including 1936’s first appearance. Made Super Bowl era playoffs in 1971.

Chicago Bears: Began play in 1919. Made 12 pre-Super Bowl playoffs, including 1932’s first appearance. Made Super Bowl era playoffs in 1977.
Detroit Lions: Began play in 1929. Made five pre-Super Bowl playoffs, including 1935’s first appearance. Made Super Bowl era playoffs in 1970.
Green Bay Packers: Began play in 1919. Made nine pre-Super Bowl playoffs, including 1936’s first appearance. The Super Bowl trophy is named after their head coach, so you figure out when they made the Super Bowl era playoffs.
Minnesota Vikings: Began play in 1961, made playoffs in 1968.

Atlanta Falcons: Began play in 1966, made playoffs in 1978.
Carolina Panthers: Began play in 1995, made playoffs in 1996.
New Orleans Saints: Began play in 1967, made playoffs in 1987.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Began play in 1976, made playoffs in 1979.

Arizona Cardinals: Began play in 1920. Made two pre-Super Bowl playoffs, including 1947’s inaugural appearance. Made Super Bowl era playoffs in 1974.
St. Louis Rams: Began play in 1936. Made six pre-Super Bowl playoffs, including 1945’s inaugural appearance. Made Super Bowl era playoffs in 1967.
San Francisco 49ers: Played in AAFC from 1946-1949 and made 1949 AAFC playoffs. Joined NFL in 1950 and made NFL playoffs in 1957 (pre-Super Bowl) and 1970 (post-Super Bowl).
Seattle Seahawks: Began play in 1976, made playoffs in 1983.

That decade-long drought doesn’t look too bad when compared to the whole, does it? It's also interesting to note that the more successful franchises (your New Englands, Pittsburghs, and San Franciscos) had long droughts. Hopefully, we really are following those kinds of blueprints to the promised land.

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