|Duration||September 15 – December 15, 1974|
|Start date||December 21, 1974|
|AFC Champions||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|NFC Champions||Minnesota Vikings|
|Super Bowl IX|
|Date||January 12, 1975|
New Orleans, Louisiana
|Date||January 20, 1975|
|Site||Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida|
The 1974 NFL season was the 55th regular season of the National Football League. The season ended with Super Bowl IX when the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Minnesota Vikings. Players held a strike from July 1 until August 10, prior to the regular season beginning; only one preseason game (that year's College All-Star Game) was canceled, and the preseason contests were held with all-rookie rosters.
Major rule changes
- One sudden death overtime period (originally 15 minutes; since 2017, 10) was added to all preseason and regular season games; if no team scored in this period, the game would result in a tie. This rule was enacted to decrease the number of tie games. The first ever regular season overtime, a September 22 game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Denver Broncos, ended in a 35–all draw. It was not until November 10, when the New York Jets defeated the New York Giants, 26–20, that an overtime game would produce a winner. Since the 2012 season teams each get one possession to score unless the team first possessing the ball scores a touchdown or yields safety.
- Goal posts: moved to the end line from the goal line, where they were since 1933. This was to reduce the number of games being decided on field goals, and to increase their difficulty, as well as to reduce the risk of player injuries.
- Missed field goals: The defensive team takes possession of the ball at the line of scrimmage or the 20-yard line, whichever is farther from the goal line. (In 1994, that reference to the line of scrimmage was changed to the kick spot, which is usually eight yards behind the line of scrimmage.) Notice that the 25-yard line (since 2018) is where the defense takes possession after a touchback.
- Kickoffs: moved to the 35-yard line (from the 40-yard line) to reduce touchbacks, promoting more excitement with kickoff returns, through 1993 and since 2011. From 1994 to 2010, the kickoff was moved farther back, to the 30-yard line.
- Punt returns: members of the kicking team cannot go beyond the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked, except the player at the farthest end of each side of the snapper ("gunners"). The original rule change would have prohibited any player from crossing the line of scrimmage prior to the ball being kicked. The penalty is the same as that for an ineligible player downfield on a pass play.
- An eligible pass receiver could only be contacted once by defenders after the receiver has gone three yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
- When the defensive team commits an illegal use of hands, arms, or body foul from behind the line of scrimmage, the penalty will be assessed from the previous spot instead of the spot of the foul.
- The penalties for offensive holding, illegal use of hands, and tripping were reduced from 15 to 10 yards.
- Wide receivers blocking back towards the ball within three yards from the line of scrimmage may not block below the waist.
In addition to the on-field rule changes, the league eliminated the "future list" of players a team could sign without placing them on an active roster. The future list had been formalized by the league in 1965 and had informally existed for over a decade before that. The concept would return in 1977, renamed the practice squad.
There were two new referees in 1974, Cal Lepore and Gordon McCarter. Lepore replaced the retired John McDonough, the referee for Super Bowl IV and the NFL's longest game, the 1971 Christmas Day playoff between the Dolphins and Chiefs which lasted 82 minutes, 40 seconds. McCarter succeeded Jack Reader, who left the field to become chief lieutenant to NFL Director of Officiating Art McNally at league headquarters in New York.
From 1970 to 2001, there were three divisions (Eastern, Central and Western) in each conference. The winners of each division, and a fourth “wild card” team based on the best non-division winner, qualified for the playoffs. The tiebreaker rules were changed to start with head-to-head competition, followed by division records, records against common opponents, and records in conference play.
National Football Conference
|1||St. Louis, Washington, Dallas||1–0–0||Chicago, Minnesota||1–0–0||Los Angeles, San Fran.||1–0–0||4 teams||1–0–0|
|2||St. Louis||2–0–0||Minnesota||2–0–0||Los Angeles, San Fran.||2–0–0||Los Angeles, San Fran.||2–0–0|
|3||St. Louis||3–0–0||Minnesota||3–0–0||Los Angeles, San Fran.||2–1–0||4 teams||2–1–0|
|4||St. Louis||4–0–0||Minnesota||4–0–0||Los Angeles||3–1–0||Philadelphia||3–1–0|
|5||St. Louis||5–0–0||Minnesota||5–0–0||Los Angeles||3–2–0||Philadelphia||4–1–0|
|6||St. Louis||6–0–0||Minnesota||5–1–0||Los Angeles||4–2–0||Philadelphia||4–2–0|
|7||St. Louis||7–0–0||Minnesota||5–2–0||Los Angeles||5–2–0||Washington||4–3–0|
|8||St. Louis||7–1–0||Minnesota||6–2–0||Los Angeles||6–2–0||Washington||5–3–0|
|9||St. Louis||7–2–0||Minnesota||7–2–0||Los Angeles||7–2–0||Washington||6–3–0|
|10||St. Louis||8–2–0||Minnesota||7–3–0||Los Angeles||7–3–0||Washington||7–3–0|
|11||St. Louis||9–2–0||Minnesota||7–4–0||Los Angeles||8–3–0||Washington||8–3–0|
|12||St. Louis||9–3–0||Minnesota||8–4–0||Los Angeles||9–3–0||Washington||8–4–0|
|13||St. Louis||9–4–0||Minnesota||9–4–0||Los Angeles||9–4–0||Washington||9–4–0|
|14||St. Louis||10–4–0||Minnesota||10–4–0||Los Angeles||10–4–0||Washington||10–4–0|
American Football Conference
|1||Buffalo, New England||1–0–0||Pittsburgh, Houston, Cincinnati||1–0–0||Kansas City||1–0–0||Denver, Kansas City, San Diego||1–0–0|
|2||New England||2–0–0||Pittsburgh||1–0–1||Oakland*||1–1–0||8 teams||1–1–0|
|3||New England||3–0–0||Cincinnati||2–1–0||Oakland*||2–1–0||3 teams||2–1–0|
- New England finished ahead of N.Y. Jets in the AFC East based on better record against common opponents (5–4 to Jets’ 4–5).
- Houston finished ahead of Cincinnati in the AFC Central based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
- Kansas City finished ahead of San Diego in the AFC West based on better record against common opponents (4–6 to Chargers’ 3–7).
- St. Louis finished ahead of Washington in the NFC East based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
- Note: Prior to the 1975 season, the home teams in the playoffs were decided based on a yearly rotation. Had the 1974 playoffs been seeded, the AFC divisional matchups would have been #3 Pittsburgh at #2 Miami and #4 wild card Buffalo at #1 Oakland; the NFC matchups would not have changed, although #1 Los Angeles would have had home field for the NFC championship game due to its head-to-head victory over #2 Minnesota in week 11.
|Divisional Playoffs||Conf. Championship Games||Super Bowl IX|
|December 22 – Three Rivers Stadium|
|December 29 – Oakland Coliseum|
|December 21 – Oakland Coliseum|
|January 12 – Tulane Stadium|
|December 22 – L.A. Coliseum|
|December 29 – Metropolitan Stadium|
|December 21 – Metropolitan Stadium|
|Most Valuable Player||Ken Stabler, Quarterback, Oakland|
|Coach of the Year||Don Coryell, St. Louis Cardinals|
|Offensive Player of the Year||Ken Stabler, Quarterback, Oakland|
|Defensive Player of the Year||Joe Greene, Defensive End, Pittsburgh|
|Offensive Rookie of the Year||Don Woods, Running Back, San Diego|
|Defensive Rookie of the Year||Jack Lambert, Linebacker, Pittsburgh|
|Man of the Year||George Blanda, Quarterback, Oakland|
|Comeback Player of the Year||Joe Namath, Quarterback, New York|
|Super Bowl Most Valuable Player||Franco Harris Running Back, Pittsburgh|
The 1974 NFL Draft was held from January 29 to 30, 1974 at New York City's Americana Hotel. With the first pick, the Dallas Cowboys selected defensive end Ed "Too Tall" Jones from the Tennessee State University.
American Football Conference
- Baltimore Colts: Howard Schnellenberger (3 games) and Joe Thomas (11 games)
- Buffalo Bills: Lou Saban
- Cincinnati Bengals: Paul Brown
- Cleveland Browns: Nick Skorich
- Denver Broncos: John Ralston
- Houston Oilers: Sid Gillman
- Kansas City Chiefs: Hank Stram
- Miami Dolphins: Don Shula
- New England Patriots: Chuck Fairbanks
- New York Jets: Charley Winner
- Oakland Raiders: John Madden
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Chuck Noll
- San Diego Chargers: Tommy Prothro
National Football Conference
- Atlanta Falcons: Norm Van Brocklin (8 games) and Marion Campbell (6 games)
- Chicago Bears: Abe Gibron
- Dallas Cowboys: Tom Landry
- Detroit Lions: Rick Forzano
- Green Bay Packers: Dan Devine
- Los Angeles Rams: Chuck Knox
- Minnesota Vikings: Bud Grant
- New Orleans Saints: John North
- New York Giants: Bill Arnsparger
- Philadelphia Eagles: Mike McCormack
- San Francisco 49ers: Dick Nolan
- St. Louis Cardinals: Don Coryell
- Washington Redskins: George Allen
- Seppy, Tom (August 12, 1974). "Players halt strike - for 2 weeks". St. Petersburg Times. Florida. Associated Press. p. 1C.
- "'Critical stage' for strike talks". St. Petersburg Times. Florida. AP, UPI wires. July 31, 1974. p. 1C.
- "NFL rule changes". Toledo Blade. Ohio. Associated Press. April 26, 1974. p. 26.
- "NFL rule changes bring mixed reactions". Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. April 26, 1974. p. 1, part 2.