On this day in 1966, the NFL & AFL formally announced plans to merge the two leagues. After the New York Jets lured Joe Namath to the AFL with the largest contract at the time in pro football history, the NFL’s hope that their rival league would be comprised of “second-hand” and washed-up NFL players was unrealistic. From that moment, the two leagues began competing over players, coaches, and fans.
It wasn’t until the New York Giants broke an unwritten rule between the two leagues–one league wouldn’t sign another league’s players. In 1966, the Giants signed place-kicker Pete Gogolak away from the AFL’s Buffalo Bills. The leagues realized neither could afford a bidding war between players, and talks about merging the leagues began.
Here’s a look back at how it all went down as originally presented on Full Color Football: The History of the American Football League: