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1939 NFL season

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1939 National Football League season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 10 – December 10, 1939
East ChampionsNew York Giants
West ChampionsGreen Bay Packers
Championship Game
ChampionsGreen Bay Packers
1939 NFL season is located in USA Midwest and Northeast
NFL teams: West, East

The 1939 NFL season was the 20th regular season of the National Football League. Before the season, NFL president Joseph Carr died, and Carl Storck was named to replace him.

An NFL game was televised for the first time when NBC broadcast the October 22 Philadelphia Eagles at Brooklyn Dodgers game at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn (the Dodgers won 23-14). The experimental broadcast was broadcast only to viewers in New York and Albany; regular broadcasting of NFL games would not begin until 1951.

The season ended when the Green Bay Packers defeated the New York Giants in the NFL Championship Game.

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  • NFL Weekly Highlights (1951)
  • Chicago Bears at Cleveland Rams Oct. 6, 1940


Season history


The 1939 NFL Draft was held on December 9, 1938 at New York City's New Yorker Hotel. A total of 22 rounds of selections were made, with only the five lowest-finishing teams allowed to select players in rounds 2 and 4 as a means of building parity. Only the five highest-finishing teams were allowed to select players in the final two rounds so that each team had the same number of potential rookies for the coming season.

Thus, a total of 20 players were chosen by each of the 10 teams in the 1939 draft.

With the first pick, the Chicago Cardinals selected center Ki Aldrich from Texas Christian University (TCU). The Chicago Bears picked future Hall of Fame quarterback Sid Luckman of Columbia University with the second overall selection. Winner of the 1938 Heisman Award, quarterback Davey O'Brien of TCU, was selected with the fourth pick of Round 1 by the Philadelphia Eagles.


A total of 55 regular season contests were held by the National Football League during the 1939 season, with each of the league's ten teams playing an 11-game schedule.[1] For the fourth consecutive year, the league set a new record for total attendance of 1,280,332 recorded for the regular season.[1] An additional 32,279 people attended the 1939 league championship playoff game, for a 56-game total of 1,312,611 — an increase of 12.3% over the previous year.[1]

Another 262,678 made their way to one of the nine all-star games held during the year.[1]

The New York Giants led the league in attendance, with 233,301 fans attending one of the team's six home dates — an average of 38,884 people per contest.[1] The Detroit Lions were the second leading draw, with a total attendance of 185,061 for their six home games (30,844 average), with the Washington Redskins in third place, with a six-game home attendance of 164,509 (27,418 average).[1]

Three teams failed to break the 100,000 mark for the year, with the Pittsburgh Pirates the league's poorest draw, seating only 58,686 fans for five home dates — an average of just 11,737 fans per game.[2]

The biggest crowd of the year was recorded on December 3 at the Polo Grounds in New York City, when a crowd of 62,543 assembled to see the Giants do battle against the visiting Redskins.[2]

Division races

Though both the Giants and the Packers finished a game ahead of their closest division rivals, both clinched their divisions on December 3, the final day of the 11-game regular season. The New York Giants and Washington Redskins had played to a 0–0 tie earlier in the season, and both had 8–1–1 records when they met at New York's Polo Grounds before a crowd of 62,404. The Giants did not reach the end zone, but three field goals were enough for a controversial 9–7 win and the division title, in which a disputed missed Washington field goal in the final seconds was the deciding factor.

The Western Division race was between the Lions, Bears and Packers. Detroit was unbeaten after four games, but on October 22, Green Bay beat them 26–7 to give both teams records of 4–1–0. The same day, the 4–1 Bears lost 13-16 to the Giants to fall to 4–2.

On November 5, Week 9 of the season, the Lions beat the Giants 18–14, while the Bears beat the Packers 30–27, giving Detroit the lead at 6–1–0. The next week (November 12), the Bears beat the Lions 23–13, and the Packers beat the Eagles 23–16, tying Detroit and Green Bay at 6–2–0, half a game ahead of the 6–3–0 Bears. On November 19, the Lions lost to the Rams, 3-14, while the Packers and Bears both won. On November 26, the Bears closed their season at 8–3–0 after a 48–7 win over the Cardinals, while the Packers edged the Rams, 7–6 to reach 8–2–0. Green Bay was behind 7–3 at halftime in its season ender at Detroit, and a loss would have forced a playoff for the Western Division, but Clarke Hinkle's touchdown in the final quarter gave the Packers a 12–7 win and the division title.

NFL Championship Game

Green Bay 27, N.Y. Giants 0, at State Fair Park, West Allis, Wisconsin, December 10, 1939


Final standings

NFL Eastern Division
New York Giants 9 1 1 .900 7–0–1 168 85 W4
Washington Redskins 8 2 1 .800 6–1–1 242 94 L1
Brooklyn Dodgers 4 6 1 .400 3–4–1 108 219 L3
Pittsburgh Pirates 1 9 1 .100 1–7 114 216 W1
Philadelphia Eagles 1 9 1 .100 1–6–1 105 200 L2

Note: Tie games were not officially counted in the standings until 1972.

NFL Western Division
Green Bay Packers 9 2 0 .818 6–2 233 153 W4
Chicago Bears 8 3 0 .727 6–2 298 157 W4
Detroit Lions 6 5 0 .545 4–4 145 150 L4
Cleveland Rams 5 5 1 .500 4–4 195 164 W1
Chicago Cardinals 1 10 0 .091 0–8 84 254 L8

Statistical leaders

Statistic Name Team Yards
Passing Davey O'Brien Philadelphia 1324
Rushing Bill Osmanski Chicago Bears 699
Receiving Don Hutson Green Bay 846


Joe F. Carr Trophy (Most Valuable Player)   Parker Hall, Halfback, Cleveland


Major rule changes

  • The penalty for an ineligible receiver who touches a forward pass is 15 yards and a loss of down.
  • The penalty for an ineligible receiver who is downfield prior to a forward pass being thrown is 15 yards and a loss of down.
  • If a kickoff goes out of bounds after only being touched by members of the receiving team, the receiving team takes possession of the ball at that inbounds spot.

Coaching changes

Stadium changes

The Cleveland Rams moved from Shaw Stadium to Cleveland Municipal Stadium


  1. ^ a b c d e f Carl L. Storck (ed.), Official Guide of the National Football League, 1940. New York: American Sports Publishing Co., 1940; p. 47.
  2. ^ a b Storck (ed.), Official Guide of the National Football League, 1940, p. 48.

Further reading

  • NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 1-932994-36-X)
  • NFL History 1931–1940 Archived May 10, 2020, at the Wayback Machine (Last accessed December 4, 2005)
  • Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)
This page was last edited on 15 October 2023, at 17:07
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