NFL Countdown: The Pottsville Maroons controversy

The Pottsville Maroons had their 1925 title taken away after being suspended. Photo via wnep.com.
The Pottsville Maroons had their 1925 title taken away after being suspended. Photo via wnep.com.

If you are looking for an NFL controversy, then here's one for the books. The league's decision to suspend the Pottsville Maroons back in 1925 to essentially take away their NFL title is one that is still odd to this day.

Led by head coach Dick Rauch, the Maroons were easily the best team in football. During the 1925 NFL season, the Maroons were the highest scoring team, averaging 22.5 points per game. They were the best defensive unit as well, allowing just 3.8 points per game.

Back in those days, there were no playoffs as we see today. Instead, it was simply whoever had the better record at the end of the 14-game season was crowned champions.

For the Maroons, they had a blistering 1925 season. Prior to their December 6 clash against the Chicago Cardinals, the Maroons had a 9-2 record. In seven of their nine wins, the opposition failed to score and in the other two, the opposing team scored six points in each game.

Why the Pottsville Maroons were suspended by the NFL

The Maroons beat the Cardinals 21-7 on December 6 to take their record to 10-2 as they continued their dominant form. However, after the game, their season was turned upside down.

The Commissioner at the time, Joseph Carr, made the decision to suspend Pottsville after they violated the territorial rights of the Frankford Yellow Jackets. They'd played an exhibition game in Philadelphia, which was unauthorized by the league.

That led to the best team in the country being suspended with two games to go in the season. They already had both hands on the championship as they had the best record in the league.

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Pottsville fans argued that they had an oral agreement to play the game in Philadelphia. They said that they would have had the best record in the league had they not been suspended. They also argued that the league did not have exclusive territory rights at the time.

But it fell on deaf ears. The team that was second at the time, the Chicago Cardinals, then played their remaining two games. They won against the Milwaukee Badgers (59-0) and the Hammond Pros (13-0) as they clinched the NFL championship thanks to their 11-2-1 record.

The owner of the Cardinals at the time, Chris O'Brien, then did something that, at least, might have made the Pottsville fans feel better. He was offered the Championship title but refused to take it. His reason? He said his team didn't deserve the title after the Maroons had beaten them fairly over the course of the season.

To this day, the NFL, along with the Pro Football Hall of Fame, have the Cardinals listed as Champions for the 1925 NFL season.