1941 NFL season

The 1941 NFL season was the 22nd regular season of the National Football League. Before the season, Elmer Layden was named the first Commissioner of the NFL, while Carl Storck resigned as league president. Layden also took on the duties of president and signed a five-year contract at $20,000 annually.[1]

1941 National Football League season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 7 – December 7, 1941
East ChampionsNew York Giants
West ChampionsChicago Bears (playoff)
Championship Game
ChampionsChicago Bears
NFL teams: West, East

The league bylaws were changed to provide for playoffs in cases where division races are tied after the regular season, and rules for sudden-death overtimes in case a playoff game was tied after four quarters.

The defending league champion Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers finished the regular season tied in the Western Division, setting up the first divisional playoff game in league history. The Bears won 33–14 at Wrigley Field on December 14, then defeated the New York Giants 37–9 in the NFL championship game at Wrigley Field on December 21. The Bears, averaging 36 points per game, became the first team since the institution of the East-West championship in 1933 to repeat as champion.[2]

The total attendance for the league's 55 regular season games was 1,118,616. This represented an increase of 9% over the previous season's attendance.[2]


The 1941 NFL Draft was held on December 10, 1940, at Washington, D.C.'s Willard Hotel. With the first pick, the Chicago Bears selected halfback Tom Harmon from The University of Michigan.

Major rule changes

  • The penalty for illegal shift is 5 yards.
  • The penalty for illegal kick or bat is 15 yards.
  • Whenever a player is ejected from the game, his team is penalized 15 yards.
  • A personal foul committed by the opponent of the scoring team is enforced on the ensuing kickoff.[3]

In addition to these rule changes, this season marked the first time that the league commissioner became involved in enforcement of player conduct standards. Commissioner Elmer Layden in August assessed $25 fines on Green Bay Packers quarterback Larry Craig and New York Giants halfback Hank Soar for fighting.[4]

Wilson became the official game ball of the NFL.

Division races

In the Eastern Division, the Redskins held a half-game after nine weeks of play: at 5–1–0, their only loss had been 17–10 to the 5–2-0 Giants, who had lost two games in a row. Washington, however, lost its next three games, while the Giants rebounded to win their next two games.

On November 23, the 5–3 Redskins met the 7–2 Giants at the Polo Grounds, and the Giants' 20–13 win clinched the Division championship.

The Western Division race was one between the Bears and Packers. By November 2, when the teams met at Wrigley Field, the Bears were 5–0 and the Packers 6–1, in part because of the Bears' earlier 25–17 win at Green Bay. Green Bay's 16–14 win put them in the lead, and they finished the regular season at 10–1 on November 30 with a 22–17 comeback win at Washington.

On the afternoon of December 7, 1941, on the day Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbor, the Bears were losing to the Cardinals, 14–0, and trailed 24–20 in the fourth quarter before rallying for a 34–24 win. Both teams finished at 10–1 and a playoff was set to determine who would go to, and host, the Championship Game.

With the United States now embroiled in World War II, the Bears and Packers met at Wrigley Field on December 14, with Chicago winning 33–14.

Final standings

NFL Eastern Division
New York Giants 8 3 0 .727 6–2 238 114 L1
Brooklyn Dodgers 7 4 0 .636 6–2 158 127 W2
Washington Redskins 6 5 0 .545 5–3 176 174 W1
Philadelphia Eagles 2 8 1 .200 1–6–1 119 218 L3
Pittsburgh Steelers 1 9 1 .100 1–6–1 103 276 L2

Note: Tie games were not officially counted in the standings until 1972.

NFL Western Division
Chicago Bears 10 1 0 .909 7–1 396 147 W5
Green Bay Packers 10 1 0 .909 7–1 258 120 W8
Detroit Lions 4 6 1 .400 3–4–1 121 195 W1
Chicago Cardinals 3 7 1 .300 1–6–1 127 197 L2
Cleveland Rams 2 9 0 .182 1–7 116 244 L9


Western Division Playoff Game

  • CHI. BEARS 33, Green Bay 14

NFL Championship Game

  • CHI. BEARS 37, N.Y. Giants 9

Home team in capitals

League leaders

Statistic Name Team Yards
Passing Cecil Isbell Green Bay 1479
Rushing Pug Manders Brooklyn 486
Receiving Don Hutson Green Bay 738


Joe F. Carr Trophy (Most Valuable Player) Don Hutson, Wide receiver, Green Bay

Coaching changes

Stadium changes


  1. Strickler, George (April 6, 1941). "Layden installed as pro football commissioner". Chicago Sunday Tribune. p. 1, part 2.
  2. Kirksey, George (December 26, 1941). "Chicago Bears dominate pro grid picture". Telegraph Herald. Dubuque, Iowa. United Press. p. 10.
  3. "11 rule changes in pro football are approved". Chicago Daily Tribune. April 7, 1941. p. 26.
  4. "Layden Fines Two Pros for Fighting". Pittsburgh Press. United Press. August 26, 1941. p. 18. Retrieved May 20, 2011.
  • NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 1-932994-36-X)
  • NFL History 1941–1950 (Last accessed December 4, 2005)
  • Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)
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