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Brunswick-Balke Collender Cup was a silver trophy donated to the American Professional Football association (renamed the National Football League in 1922) by the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company, Tire Division.[1][2 ]

According to the September 17, 1920 founding meeting minutes of the NFL-AFPA, the trophy was a "silver-loving cup", donated to the Association by a "Mr. Marshall". It was then to be presented to the team "awarded championship by the Association".[2 ] This wording established the precedent for the 1920 season of awarding the title by a vote of the league's managers, rather than who finished at the top of the standings.[3]

The minutes also state that "any team winning the cup three times should be adjudged the owner [of the trophy]". The motion to include the cup as the Association's trophy was moved and seconded and a vote of thanks was extended by the secretary to "Mr. Marshall".[4]

The Akron Pros were awarded the 1920 AFPA Championship on April 30, 1921 after posting an 8–0–3 record. However disputes arose from the Buffalo All-Americans and the Decatur Staleys (renamed the Chicago Bears in 1922) who had been tied, but not beaten, by the Pros that year.[2 ] Even though the Pros were given the trophy in 1920, the league lost track of the event and for a long time published in its own record books that the 1920 championship was undecided. It took until the 1970s for the NFL to remember its early vote on awarding the Akron Pros the 1920 championship.[3] What happened to the cup afterwards remains a mystery. The minutes of AFPA and NFL meetings never mention it again.[2 ]

Precisely what team became the rightful owner of the Cup is somewhat unclear. If the Canton Bulldogs and Cleveland Bulldogs are considered one team, the Bulldogs would have won ownership of the cup by winning the 1924 championship (as Cleveland) in addition to the 1922 and 1923 championships (in Canton). League officials currently consider them two separate teams, since they were separated in 1925, but at the time of the 1924 championship decision, the Canton Bulldogs were considered to have been bought and moved to Cleveland, thus being effectively the same team. If Cleveland and Canton are considered separate teams, as they are today, then the owners of the Cup are the Green Bay Packers, who won three consecutive titles between 1929 and 1931.

Starting with the 1934 game, 13 years after the original was awarded, a replacement was finally commissioned, and the league's championship team from that season onward received the Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy. The trophy was named after Ed Thorp, a noted referee, rules expert, and sporting goods dealer. Thorp died in 1934, and a large, traveling trophy was made that year, passed along from champion to champion each season with each championship team's name inscribed on it (just like its predecessor). Teams would also receive a replica trophy. The trophy was last awarded to the Minnesota Vikings in 1969.

Both trophies remain missing to this day.

Since 1970, the league has issued the Vince Lombardi Trophy to the winners of the league's title; unlike its two predecessors, a new one is produced each year. (The Lombardi Trophy dates to 1967 and the first Super Bowl, and was retained when the NFL and the American Football League merged).

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