A Brief History of NFL in Las Vegas

A Brief History of NFL in Las Vegas
The Las Vegas Raiders Sign S Dallin Leavitt to the Active Roster

After several decades of bouncing around California from Oakland to Los Angeles and back to Oakland, the Raiders franchise has hopped across the Mojave and landed in Las Vegas for the 2020 NFL season. Interestingly, they’re not the first Raiders to play American football in the fabled Sin City.

2020 Las Vegas Raiders

Heading into the 2020 season with a fresh start and a new outlook, the Las Vegas Raiders look certain to be a popular option for fans choosing which NFL betting lines to back, maybe even as an interesting +4000 outside option to win the Super Bowl. While achieving such immediate success in their new home could be a tall order, their impressive stadium is most certainly a great location from which to build a new football dynasty.

The magnificent Allegiant Stadium is probably one of the most imposing looking stadiums you’ll ever see, from the outside. Black and silver to match the Raiders’ famous colors, there’s a good reason why “The Death Star” is the nickname given to the venue by locals. Once fans can attend games, it’s hard to imagine there being a spare seat in the house. Remarkable, considering how professional football had struggled in Las Vegas previously. 

Las Vegas Pro Football Struggles of the Past

Back in the mid to late 1960’s when the Continental Football League (CFL) was actually a thing, with ambitions of competing with the National Football League (NFL) and the American Football League (AFL), the Quad Cities Raiders based out of Davenport, Iowa, made the switch to Las Vegas in 1968 and became the Cowboys. Unfortunately, neither the Las Vegas Cowboys nor the CFL lasted long, with both folding after the 1969 season.

Amusingly another CFL would attempt to set up shop in Las Vegas, this time it was the Canadian Football League, as part of what would ultimately be a very brief and short-lived expansion in 1994. Playing at the Sam Boyd Stadium for just one season, Las Vegas Posse posted a poor 5-13 record, were the second-worst team in the CFL and promptly folded.

The Arena Football League (AFL) fared little better in Las Vegas, with three failed attempts to make indoor football successful. First was the Las Vegas Sting, who received a lukewarm reception during two seasons between 1994 and 1995. Then came the Las Vegas Gladiators between 2003 and 2007, making the playoffs once before departing for Cleveland in 2008.

Most recently, the Las Vegas Outlaws featured for just one season in the AFL in 2015 before folding. Previously, a team of the same name had also participated in a short-lived XFL, an outdoor league that WWE owner and founder Vince McMahon had dabbled with, albeit with little success during just one season in 2001. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has now bought the XFL brand from McMahon, which could lead to a new project with different ideas.

From Oakland to Las Vegas

When the original Oakland Raiders franchise was formed in 1960, the University of California refused to let them play at the Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, leading to the team using Kezar Stadium in San Francisco as their initial home field, then Candlestick Park for the final three games and the whole of the following 1961 season.

Frank Youell Field became home between 1962 and 1965, before moving to share the Oakland Coliseum with the Oakland Athletics MLB side from 1966. This was the venue for some of their greatest franchise triumphs, winning an AFL championship and two NFL Super Bowl championships, before the Raiders departed for Los Angeles in 1982.

Between 1982 and 1994, home for the Los Angeles Raiders was the Memorial Coliseum. Despite initial success with a third franchise Super Bowl triumph in 1983, along with seven NFL Playoff appearances between 1982 and 1993 the organization began to struggle. Before almost moving the franchise to Sacramento, the Raiders returned to Oakland in 1995, the same year as Los Angeles also lost the Rams to St Louis.

Back in their original home of Oakland, the Raiders never quite managed to recapture their former glories. They achieved just four more NFL Playoff appearances between 2000 and 2016, for a franchise total of fifteen, while plans were already afoot to move elsewhere again. After initial plans for a shared stadium with the Chargers in Carson came to nothing, in 2017 the NFL granted permission for the Raiders to relocate to Las Vegas instead.

Building a New Legacy

Now that Las Vegas finally has the NFL franchise it has craved for many decades, this is a marvelous opportunity for the Raiders to build for the future, creating a new legacy of success to match the greatest years back in Oakland. Whatever the future holds, there appears to be plenty of excitement in Las Vegas, which certainly bodes well for a bright new outlook at the Raiders.