In 1966, the National Football League merged with the rival American Football League. Then, in 1967, the winners of each league played in the first ‘AFL-NFL World Championship Game’. The NFL’s Green Bay Packers won the first two championship games, and the trophy was soon named after their legendary coach, Vince Lombardi. The championship game was renamed in 1969, and the Super Bowl was born.


In 1970, the NFL officially absorbed the AFL, creating one league with two conferences – the NFC and the AFC.Then, the Miami Dolphins won Super Bowl VII, finishing the 1972 season undefeated. This remains the NFL’s only perfect season, and it even gave birth to a legend. It was claimed that the ‘72 Dolphins popped champagne when the league’s last unbeaten team finally chalked up their first loss of the year, but coach Don Shula eventually admitted this was untrue.


The Steel Curtain was raised in the seventies, as the Pittsburgh Steelers won Super Bowls in 1975, 1976, 1979, 1980. These wins were thanks to Pittsburgh’s defense, featuring the intimidating figures of Joe Greene, Jack Ham, and Mel Blount, which slammed the gate shut on opponents.


San Francisco 49ers head coach Bill Walsh transformed the NFL with his West Coast offense. All-time greats Joe Montana and Jerry Rice thrived in the system. The 49ers were the NFL’s team of the decade and brought Super Bowls back to Candlestick Park in 1982, 1985, 1989, and 1990.


The Dallas Cowboys won three Super Bowls in four years (1993, 1994, and 1996) to become the team of the nineties, and their ‘Triplets’ – Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin – shredded opposing defenses on their way to the Cowboy’s Ring of Honor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


The Pittsburgh Steelers have long been at the forefront of championing diversity and inclusivity within the NFL. In previous years they became the first team to hire an African-American coach, the first to hire an African-American coordinator, the first to start an African-American quarterback, and had the league’sfirst African-American Super Bowl MVP. In response to the firing of high-profile African-American head coaches despite the numerous wins on their CVs, the NFL established the ‘Rooney Rule’ in 2003. Named after Pittsburgh’s owner, Dan Rooney, the rule means that teams have to interview at least one ethnic-minority candidate for head coaching and football operations positions. The Steelers then went on to hire their first African-American head coach in 2007, and Mike Tomlin eventually won Super Bowl XLIII.


In 2016, Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem to protest against police brutality and racial injustice. The then-49er was both praised and criticised for his actions, but he soon found himself out of the NFL. Kaepernick later became an important figure in the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, and inspired many other athletes, in various sports leagues across the world, to begin taking the knee before games.


On the field, the two decades belonged to the New England Patriots. Under coach Bill Belichick, winning simply became routine. In 20 years, they appeared in nine Super Bowls and won six, although the Patriots weren’t without their controversies. In 2014, New England’s quarterback, Tom Brady, was accused of having the balls used in that year’s AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts deflated. Brady was eventually suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season. However, it was business as usual in New England that year, as they went on to win Super Bowl LI.