The Chicago Staleys were awarded the 1921 APFA Championship by then league president Joe Carr. The Buffalo All-Americans protested, claiming that they deserved to win the championship. This article will examine that controversial championship, and try to decide who was the stronger team.
The Buffalo All-Americans and the Chicago Staleys both finished the season with 9-1 records (ties were ignored). Since there were no championship games in 1921, the championship was decided by a vote of the Association's executive committee in January of 1922. The executive committee ruled that the Chicago Staleys were the champions, based on the generally accepted rule that if two teams play each other more than once in a season, the second game counts more than the first. Buffalo and Chicago played on Thanksgiving Day, with Buffalo winning 7-6. The second game was held December 4. This time, Chicago won 10-7. Buffalo claimed that the second game was just a post-season "exhibition" game, and it should not count in the final standings. Chicago claimed that the Association did not have a set date for the end of the season, therefore the second game could not have been held in the "post-season."
Buffalo also claimed that Chicago counted a game against a non-league opponent in their standings. The Rochester Jeffersons did not play the minimum 6 games required for membership in the Association. The problem with this argument, is that Buffalo also counted a game against those same Rochester Jeffersons in their standings. If you were to follow this further, and eliminated all teams that did not play the required six games from their standings, the Chicago Staleys would have a season record of 7-1-1, while the Buffalo All-Americans would have a record of 4-1-2.
Let us take some time to investigate which team is stronger. If you compare the teams records against like opponents, the result would be a tie. Even if you were to compare the final scores of the games against like opponents, the result is basically a tie (Buffalo outscored their opponents 73-13 while Chicago outscored their opponents 75-19).
In comparing the strength of schedules, Chicago played more games against teams with a winning record, and also had a better record against these teams (Chicago 6-1-0 and Buffalo 2-1-2).
In conclusion, Chicago was the stronger team, and deserved to win the championship. Buffalo's mistake was scheduling the rematch with Chicago the day after playing the Akron Pros (the 1920 AFPA Champions), while Chicago had a week off before the game. Buffalo was also marred during the season, with a controversy. The league mandated that no player could play for two different teams in the same week. During the 1921 season, several of the Buffalo All-Americans also played for the Philadelphia Quakers. Since Philadelphia was subject to the Pennsylvania Blue Laws, the Quakers had to play their games on Saturdays. The Buffalo players played for Philadelphia on Saturday, then travelled back to Buffalo for Sunday's game. A few days before Buffalo played Canton, the league found out about violation of league policy, and made the players choose which team they wanted to play for. Heinie Miller, Lou Little, Butch Spagna, Lud Wray and Johnny Scott chose to stay with the Philadelphia Quakers, blaming the Buffalo management for "blowing the whistle." Buffalo was able to hire players from the Detroit Panthers, who ended their season early, to complete their roster.
All text taken from the History of Pro Football in Buffalo by Ken Crippen
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