What happened: When he couldn’t procure funding for a new stadium, Browns owner Art Modell struck a secret deal with the city of Baltimore. The announcement of the new 'Baltimore Browns' for 1996 was made midway through the 1995 season. Fallout: After the move was revealed, the Browns lost six of their final seven games and faded from playoff contention. Modell left behind the Browns name for new ownership and rechristened his team the Baltimore Ravens. Modell may have saved his franchise financially with the move, but his legacy for moving a beloved team away from Cleveland is forever tarnished and a major reason he may never receive Pro Football Hall of Fame induction. As for the 'new' Browns, Cleveland still hasn’t won a playoff game since resuming operations in 1999.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY SportsAaron Doster
Baltimore Colts: Moved in 1984
What happened: Colts owner Bob Irsay began looking to relocate his team in 1983 while facing a stadium issue, declining attendance and ongoing squabbles with city leaders. One day after the Maryland state legislature began the process of trying to claim the Colts as part of eminent domain, Irsay quickly hired 14 Mayflower trucks to haul his team’s property to Indianapolis in the middle of the night. Fallout: Despite the scorched earth left behind. Irsay salvaged a strong financial future for the Colts that allowed his son Jim to take ownership of the team following his 1997 death. The downtown area of Indianapolis also boomed following the franchise’s arrival. Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell and Maryland politicians later used the same covert strategy to land what became the Baltimore Ravens in 1996.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsMark J. Rebilas
Houston Oilers: Moved in 1997
What happened: Oilers owner Bud Adams, who had threatened to move his team in the past without public funding for stadium renovations, finally pulled the trigger and reached agreement with Nashville city officials when Houston’s mayor wouldn’t support building a new facility to replace the aging Astrodome. The Oilers played the 1996 season as a lame-duck club in front of sparse crowds, prompting the departure from Houston one year earlier than initially planned. Fallout: The Tennessee Oilers played two seasons in different locales (the Liberty Bowl in Memphis and at Vanderbilt University) while a new stadium was being constructed in Nashville. Upon completion, the franchise was re-christened the Tennessee Titans in 1999.
Getty ImagesGrant Halverson
Oakland Raiders: Moved from Oakland to L.A. in 1982 and back to Oakland in 1995
What happened: After his attempt to relocate the Raiders to Los Angeles was vetoed by the NFL, owner Al Davis successfully sued to circumvent the league’s decision and bolted from Oakland. Davis then returned to the Bay Area after being given a sweetheart stadium deal by Alameda County officials. Fallout: The short-term benefits of playing in what is now known as O.co Coliseum are far outweighed by the headaches now inherited by Mark Davis following his father’s 2011 death. The facility is outdated and in disrepair with no solutions on the horizon, which is why Davis is angling for a return to Los Angeles after failed talks with Alameda officials.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
St. Louis Rams: Moved from Cleveland to L.A. in 1946 to St. Louis in 1995
What happened: The Rams became the NFL’s first West Coast team when receiving permission to make the cross-country leap from Cleveland. Because of attendance concerns, the franchise shifted to a smaller stadium in the nearby city of Anaheim in 1980. The Rams played there until owner Georgia Frontiere took the club to her hometown, filling the void created by the St. Louis Cardinals’ move to Arizona in 1988. Fallout: Because the city of St. Louis failed to fulfill leasing clauses related to renovations of the Edward R. Jones Dome or construction of a new stadium, the Rams are free to move pending NFL approval. The state of Missouri is staging a last-ditch effort to keep the Rams from bolting back to L.A.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY SportsJeff Curry
Arizona Cardinals: Moved from Chicago to St. Louis in 1960 to the Phoenix area in 1988
What happened: Faced with financial problems in the late 1950s, the NFL allowed the Cardinals’ move to St. Louis to block the upstart American Football League from gaining a foothold in the market. The Cardinals then picked up stakes for Phoenix after being unable to get stadium funding, turning down other overtures made by Jacksonville, Memphis and Baltimore. Fallout: When making the move from St. Louis, Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill was under the impression that his team would be playing at a newly constructed stadium in downtown Phoenix within a few years. That facility (University of Phoenix Stadium) didn’t open until 18 years after the franchise arrived and was instead built in the suburb of Glendale.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY SportsRon Chenoy
San Diego Chargers: Moved in 1961
What happened: The Chargers made their 1960 AFL debut in Los Angeles sharing a stadium with the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, who were a far more popular draw. A newspaper columnist in San Diego (Jack Murphy) successfully lobbied for the struggling Chargers to head south. The move paid huge dividends and the Chargers later named their stadium after Murphy for 17 seasons until selling the corporate rights to Qualcomm. Fallout: Following 49 years in the same stadium, the Chargers are looking to leave San Diego for Los Angeles following a decade-plus of unsuccessful negotiations with city officials about building a new facility.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
Kansas City Chiefs: Moved in 1963
What happened: The Chiefs spent their first three seasons playing as the Dallas Texans in the American Football League. At the same time, the NFL’s upstart Dallas Cowboys were trying to gain traction in the marketplace. The Cowboys eventually gained the upper hand in popularity despite the Texans winning the AFL title in 1962, which prompted team owner Lamar Hunt to seek another home. The Texans were renamed the Chiefs upon their Kansas City arrival. Fallout: The two cities that fell short in their bids for the Chiefs — Miami and Atlanta — both landed expansion franchises that began play in 1966.
What happened: The Lions initially began play in the NFL as the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans in 1930. Despite on-field success, the Great Depression and Portsmouth’s small population base made even the franchise’s short-term survival perilous. Detroit radio magnate G.A. Richards bought the Spartans and rebranded the club as the Lions to play off the popularity of the Detroit Tigers baseball team. Fallout: There were 20,226 residents in Portsmouth as of the 2010 census, which is less than half the population from the 1930s when the city was an industrial center. In 1934, the Lions played their first Thanksgiving Day game, which also was the first NFL contest broadcast nationally via radio.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
Washington Redskins: Moved in 1937
What happened: George Preston Marshall and his partners were awarded an NFL franchise for the Boston market in 1932. The team was named the Braves but rechristened the Redskins in 1933. The franchise played in Beantown for five years before Marshall, who had taken ownership control, moved it to his home base of Washington D.C. because of tepid fan support and financial losses that reportedly totaled $100,000 (which is roughly $1.7 million today based on inflation rate). Fallout: The NFL entered the New England market again in 1944 with the Boston Yanks, but that squad lasted only five years before moving to New York City and ultimately folding. Pro football finally stuck in Boston with the American Football League’s launch of the Patriots in 1960.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY SportsGeoff Burke
Chicago Bears: Moved in 1921
What happened: As owner of the Decatur Staleys, George 'Papa Bear' Halas helped the franchise become part of the inaugural group of NFL teams in 1920 (the league was known as the American Professional Football Association until 1922). Halas moved the Staleys from central Illinois three hours north to Chicago in 1921. The franchise was renamed the Bears in 1922. Fallout: Although the franchise has won only one championship during the Super Bowl era, the Bears have more victories (752) and Pro Football Hall of Fame selections (27) than any other team. Five of those Hall of Famers, including Halas, were with the Staleys in 1920.