Playoff Bowl: Wikis


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The Playoff Bowl (officially, the Bert Bell Benefit Bowl) was a post-season game for third place in the NFL, played ten times following the 1960-69 seasons. Bell was a co-founder of the Philadelphia Eagles as well as a co-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers during much of the 1940s. He was the commissioner of the NFL from 1946 until his death in October 1959, which occurred while attending an Eagles-Steelers game.



All ten games in the Playoff Bowl series were contested at the Orange Bowl in Miami. The games were played in January, the week following the NFL championship game (and the collegiate Orange Bowl game on New Year's Day). The NFL's Pro Bowl (all-star game) was played the week after the Playoff Bowl.


After the 1959 season, NFL owners faced competition from the newly-formed AFL and wanted a vehicle through which to showcase more of its superior NFL professional football product on television. At the time, few NFL games were televised and there was only one scheduled post-season game, the NFL Championship Game. The Playoff Bowl was devised to match the second-place teams from the NFL's two conferences (Eastern & Western). This doubled from two to four the number of top NFL teams appearing in post-season play on national television.

The 1966 season added another game following the NFL Championship Game, the first Super Bowl against the champions of the AFL for the undisputed championship of professional football. The establishment of the Super Bowl (not its official name until Super Bowl III) was the first phase of the AFL-NFL merger of June 1966. This new mega-game between the rival leagues was played in mid-January at a warm weather location, two weeks after the championship games for each league. The NFL's Playoff Bowl was played during the idle week, and due to the increasing quality of the AFL, interest in the game was waning.

In the 1967 season, the NFL expanded to 16 teams and four scheduled post-season contests. The NFL sub-divided its two conferences (now 8 teams each) into two divisions of four teams each: The Capitol and Century divisions in the Eastern conference, and the Central & Coastal divisions in the Western conference. The four division winners advanced to the post-season, competing for their conference titles in the first round of the NFL playoffs. The winners (conference champions) advanced to the NFL championship game, the losers (conference runners-up) appeared in the Playoff Bowl to vie for third place. For the three seasons (1967-69) preceding the 1970 merger with the AFL, the loser of the NFL's third place game ended up with a peculiar record of 0-2 for that post-season.

The end of the Playoff Bowl

When the merger was completed for the 1970 season, there was discussion about continuing the Playoff Bowl, with the losers of the AFC and NFC Championship Games playing each other during the idle week before the Super Bowl. There were now seven post-season games in the NFL (three for each conference, plus the Super Bowl), and the Pro Bowl all-star game. A "loser's game" was not necessarily attractive for the league, and the Playoff Bowl came to an end.

Official Status

Although the ten Playoff Bowls were official third place playoff games at the time they were played, the NFL currently classifies them as exhibition games, and does not include them in the official results (or statistics) for the post-season.


Legendary coach Vince Lombardi disliked the Playoff Bowl, coaching in the game following the 1963 and 1964 seasons, after winning NFL titles in 1961-62. To his players, Lombardi called the Playoff Bowl "the 'Shit Bowl', ...a losers' bowl for losers." This lack of motivation may explain his Packers' rare post-season loss in the 1964 game (January 1965) to the St. Louis Cardinals. After he lost that Playoff Bowl, he detested it. He fumed about "a rinky-dink football game, held in a rinky-dink town, played by rinky-dink players. That's all second place is—rinky dink."

Using the Playoff Bowl (and loss) as motivation in 1965, the Packers won the first of three consecutive NFL championships from 1965-67. As of 2010, the Packers are the only NFL team ever to achieve this "three-peat" in the post-season era (which began in 1933). During this successful run, the Packers also won the first two Super Bowls in convincing fashion. In an ironic twist, Lombardi's final game (and victory) as head coach of the Packers was Super Bowl II, played in "rinky-dink" Miami's Orange Bowl in January 1968.


One vestige of the Playoff Bowl remained through the 2008 season in that the head coaches of the losing teams from the conference championship games were the head coaches of their conferences' Pro Bowl teams. From 1980 to 2009, this all-star game has been played at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu the Sunday following the Super Bowl. However, in 2010, the Pro Bowl will move to Miami, just as the Playoff Bowl was, and be played the week before Super Bowl XLIV (as the Playoff Bowl was in the Super Bowl era). The game will return to Hawaii for 2011 and 2012, with future sites to be determined.

For the 2009 season, the last vestige of the Playoff Bowl will disappear, possibly permanently, with a new rule for determining the Pro Bowl coaches. The coaching staffs for the 2010 Pro Bowl will no longer come from the losers of the conference championship games, but instead from the teams with the best regular-season records among those that lost in the divisional round of the playoffs in each conference.[1]

Playoff Bowl results

All ten games were played at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida.

Season Date Winner Score Runner up
1960 January 7, 1961 Detroit Lions (1) 17-16 Cleveland Browns
1961 January 6, 1962 Detroit Lions (2) 38-10 Philadelphia Eagles
1962 January 6, 1963 Detroit Lions (3) 17-10 Pittsburgh Steelers
1963 January 9, 1964 Green Bay Packers (1) 40-23 Cleveland Browns
1964 January 8, 1965 St. Louis Cardinals (1) 24-17 Green Bay Packers
1965 January 9, 1966 Baltimore Colts (1) 35-3 Dallas Cowboys
1966 January 8, 1967 Baltimore Colts (2) 20-14 Philadelphia Eagles
1967 January 7, 1968 Los Angeles Rams (1) 30-6 Cleveland Browns
1968 January 5, 1969 Dallas Cowboys (1) 17-13 Minnesota Vikings
1969 January 3, 1970 Los Angeles Rams (2) 31-0 Dallas Cowboys
Num Team W L PCT
3 Detroit Lions 3 0 1.00
3 Dallas Cowboys 1 2 .333
3 Cleveland Browns 0 3 .000
2 Baltimore Colts 2 0 1.00
2 Los Angeles Rams 2 0 1.00
2 Green Bay Packers 1 1 .500
2 Philadelphia Eagles 0 2 .000
1 St. Louis Cardinals 1 0 1.00
1 Minnesota Vikings 0 1 .000
1 Pittsburgh Steelers 0 1 .000


Season Network Play-by-play Color commentator(s) Sideline reporter(s)
1969[2] CBS Jack Whitaker Frank Gifford and Don Perkins
1968[3] CBS Ray Scott Paul Christman Frank Glieber
1967[4] CBS Frank Glieber Frank Gifford
1966[5] CBS Chuck Thompson Tom Brookshier
1965[6] CBS Frank Glieber (first half) and Chuck Thompson (second half) Pat Summerall
1964[7] CBS Jack Drees (first half) and Earl Gillespie (second half) Frank Gifford
1963[8] CBS Ray Scott (first half) and Ken Coleman (second half) Frank Gifford
1962[9] CBS Chris Schenkel (first half) and Ray Scott (second half) Warren Lahr
1961[10] CBS Chris Schenkel (first half) and Van Patrick (second half) Johnny Lujack


  • NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 1-932994-36-X)
  • When Pride Still Mattered, A Life of Vince Lombardi, by David Maraniss, 1999, p.362 (ISBN 0-684-84418-4)
  • - Large online database of NFL data and statistics
  • ProLog/The National Football League Annual 1970-71, by Bob Oates, Jr., NFL Properties, 1971, (ISBN 0-695-80261-5)

External links

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