NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1920s
The National Football League's All-Decade Teams have been determined by the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee selected the All-Decade Team of the 1920s retroactively in 1969 in celebration of the NFL’s first 50 seasons.
Many of the stars of the NFL’s first decade helped build the foundation from which it has grown into this country’s most popular league. The term “Pro Bowl” hadn’t been invented yet so that could not be used as a measurement of a player’s success. The selection of all-pro teams was not very sophisticated but gives us some thought as to how players were viewed during the time they played. A writer from the Rock Island (IL) Argus chose the first All-Pro team in 1920. The Buffalo Evening News picked a team in 1921. The following season, two player-coaches, George Halas and Guy Chamberlin, picked the team. Then in 1923, the Green Bay Post-Gazette, which happened to have some of the most extensive NFL coverage during that time, starting naming an All-Pro Team.
Regardless, much research and time has been spent by historians through the years to measure the greatness of players from the NFL’s early years. As such, the Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee tabbed this group as the All-Decade Team of the 1920s.
Helpful Tool. Unless you’re a real aficionado of NFL history, you may notice some strange names of teams listed below. To help, here is a page that lists the complete rundown of every NFL franchise since the league was founded in 1920. See page>>>
Pro Career: 1919, 1922-23 Canton Bulldogs; 1920-21 Decatur/Chicago Staleys; 1924 Cleveland Bulldogs; 1925-26 Frankford Yellowjackets; 1927-28 Chicago Cardinals. HOF: 1965
Perhaps better known as a coach, Chamberlin was also a premier end during his playing days. In all, as a player-coach he won four league titles during the decade; two with the Canton Bulldogs, one with Cleveland Bulldogs, and one with the Frankford Yellowjackets. Earned all-league honors four times. A knee injury ended this future Hall of Famer’s playing career in 1929.
Pro Career: 1926 Milwaukee Badgers; 1927-1934 Green Bay Packers
A 6'3", 200-pound end who played one season with the Milwaukee Badgers and the remainder of his nine-season career with the Green Bay Packers. He earned All-NFL honors four times in the 1920s and continued his success into the '30s when he was named first- or second-team All-NFL, 1930-33.
Pro Career: 1920-1983 Decatur/Chicago Staleys-Chicago Bears. HOF: 1963
The legendary "Papa Bear" Halas was better known as a coach and owner of the Chicago Bears, first known as the Decatur Staleys. He spent nine seasons as a player and was a dominant end during the league’s infancy. In a 1923 game against the Oorang Indians, Halas picked up a fumble by Jim Thorpe and returned it 98 yards for a TD. That remained a NFL record until 1972. Halas’s No. 7 has been retired by the Bears.
Pro Career: 1920-22 Rock Island Independents; 1922-27 Chicago Bears. HOF: 1964
Played end in college but due to his size, 6’2”, 192 pounds, was converted to tackle in the new pro league. He is a footnote in NFL history as being the first player to be dealt. Rock Island sent him to the Bears in exchange for $100. His versatility helped the Bears become one of the league’s powerhouses in the ‘20s.
WILBUR (PETE) HENRY
College: Washington & Jefferson
Pro Career: 1920-23, 1925-26 Canton Bulldogs; 1927 New York Giants; 1927-28 Pottsville Maroons. HOF: 1963
At 245 pounds, Henry was a huge player for his day. However, it was his ability to kick that brought his greatest fame. He was one of the most noted dropkick specialists of his era. Henry was such a big name star that his signing with the Bulldogs in 1920 attracted front page headlines while the formation of the NFL (then known as the American Professional Football Association) was relegated to page 3 of the Canton newspaper.
College: Centenary, Geneva
Pro Career: 1927-28, 1936 New York Giants; 1929-1933, 1935 Green Bay Packers; 1936 Pittsburgh Pirates. HOF: 1963
Fast, strong, and one of the most feared players of his day, Hubbard made a huge impact on the game in the late 1920s. He started his career with the Giants and then helped the Packers become the first team to win three straight league titles. Later in life he became a baseball umpire and today is the only man to be enshrined in both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Pro Career: 1924-25 Kansas City Cowboys; 1925 Cleveland Bulldogs; 1926-1953 New York Giants. HOF: 1966
Although his career was defined by a long and successful tenure as the head coach of the New York Giants, Owen was a noted player in the 1920s. He was a defensive star and served as captain of the Giants first championship team in 1927.
College: Notre Dame
Pro Career: 1922, 1923-25 Chicago Bears; 1923 Cleveland Bulldogs
After playing for Knute Rockne at Notre Dame, Anderson joined George Halas and the Bears and became one of the finest lineman of the NFL’s early years. After a four-season, 39-game playing career, he returned to Notre Dame as an assistant coach. He was named the Irish’s head coach following Rockne’s tragic death in 1931. Anderson later spent many seasons as a Bears assistant coach. He also served as Chicago’s co-head coach briefly when Halas served in World War II.
College: St. Thomas of Minnesota
Pro Career: 1926-27 Duluth Eskimos; 1928 Pottsville Maroons; 1929-33 Chicago Cardinals; 1934 Chicago Bears; 1935-36 Green Bay Packers; 1937-39 Pittsburgh Pirates. HOF: 1966.
Kiesling’s combined 34-year tenure in the NFL as a player, head coach, and assistant coach is what earned him a place in Canton. At 249 pounds, Walt was an overpowering guard who had a great athletic talent that almost provided him a career in baseball. His playing career included stops with several NFL teams like the famous Duluth Eskimos in the 1920s. His finest years as a player came during his tenure with the Cardinals.
College: Penn State
Pro Career: 1926 New York Yankees (AFL); 1927-28 New York Yankees; 1929-35, 1937 Green Bay Packers. HOF: 1964
The first guard elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Michalske was a key figure in turning Green Bay into “Titletown, U.S.A.” He was a two-way star who utilized his great speed on the offensive line to offset opponents. On defense, he was noted as a devastating blitzer. In all, he was named All-NFL seven times during his career.
College: Notre Dame
Pro Career: 1920-21, 1923-32 Decatur/Chicago Staleys-Chicago Bears. HOF: 1964
A colorful but at times mean-spirited personality, Trafton’s college days were cut short after Knute Rockne learned he was playing semi-pro football. By far, the most dominant center of the NFL’s first decade. Trafton is recognized as the first NFL center to snap the ball with one hand. He was also a force on the defensive side of the ball for the Bears.
College: Washington of St. Louis
Pro Career: 1920 Decatur Staleys; 1921-22 Rock Island Independents; 1922-24 Milwaukee Badgers; 1925-26 Detroit Panthers; 1927-1930 Providence Steam Roller; 1940-42, 1946-48 Chicago Cardinals. HOF: 1964
Perhaps better known as a coach and later owner, Jimmy Conzelman was one of the most gifted athletes in the NFL during the 1920s. He served as a player-coach for four different NFL teams before a knee injury ended his playing career in 1929. Later in life, he was as noted for being a business executive, songwriter, editor, and orator than for his prior football career.
JOHN (PADDY) DRISCOLL
Pro Career: 1919 Hammond Pros; 1920, 1926-29 Decatur Staleys/Chicago Bears; 1920-25 Chicago Cardinals. HOF: 1965
One of the greatest players of the 1920s, Driscoll was a threat on offense and defense but it was skilled kicking and punting that stymied opponents. He set the then-scoring record with 27 points on four touchdowns and three extra points in a game against the Rochester Jeffersons in 1923. He was named All-NFL six times during his Hall of Fame career.
HAROLD "RED" GRANGE
Pro Career: 1925, 1929-1934 Chicago Bears; 1926 New York Yankees (AFL); 1927 New York Yankees. HOF: 1963.
The NFL’s biggest name star put the league on the map with his historic signing in 1925. His debut on Thanksgiving Day drew the NFL’s largest ever crowd of 36,000. His famous “barnstorming tour” after the season attracted unheard of crowds of more than 70,000 fans. A knee injury sidelined the “Galloping Ghost” for the entire 1928 season. When he returned, his greatest contribution came on the defensive side of the ball. His memorable tackle in the NFL’s first championship game in 1933 preserved a Bears victory.
College: Carlisle, Georgia Tech
Pro Career: 1919-1920 Canton Bulldogs; 1921 Cleveland Indians; 1922-23 Oorang Indians; 1924 Rock Island Independents; 1924-25 Kansas City Cowboys; 1927 New York Giants. HOF: 1966
His career was slightly overshadowed by long-time teammate, the legendary Jim Thorpe. But nevertheless, Guyon’s speed and moves earned him recognition as one of the NFL’s most exciting players during the decade. An injury while playing baseball ended his pro football career but not before he played a vital role in the New York Giants’ first NFL title in 1927.
EARL (CURLY) LAMBEAU
College: Notre Dame
Pro Career: 1919-1949 Green Bay Packers; 1950-51 Chicago Cardinals; 1952-53 Washington Redskins. HOF: 1963
Obviously, it was the fact that he founded the Packers and his coaching success that brought him his greatest fame and the reason why the Green Bay stadium carries his name. Lesser known is the fact that Curly Lambeau was one of the NFL’s finest players in the 1920s. He possessed great passing skill which explains why he received fame for implementing a potent passing attack through his long coaching career that followed his playing days.
Pro Career: 1915-17, 1919-1920, 1926 Canton Bulldogs; 1921 Cleveland Indians; 1922-23 Oorang Indians; 1924 Rock Island Independents; 1925 New York Giants; 1928 Chicago Cardinals. HOF: 1963
Although his finest days as a football player preceded the formation of the National Football League, there is no argument that Jim Thorpe’s reputation as the “world’s greatest athlete” was a major reason for the NFL’s successful start. The league’s first President continued to entertain football fans with his athletic prowess on the gridiron.
Pro Career: 1926-27 Duluth Eskimos; 1929-1931 Chicago Cardinals. HOF: 1963
Nevers, at times, was in a class by himself. A true superstar, he was lured from baseball to play in the NFL. He earned election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame despite a brief five-year career that included being named All-NFL each year. His 40 points on Thanksgiving Day 1929 remains the oldest record in the NFL Record Book today.