New York State can currently claim three NFL football teams. The Jets and Giants both hail from New York City, while the Bills have represented Buffalo since 1960. Despite being the most populous state in America, the two franchises that represent the city of New York technically play their games on the other side of the Hudson River in New Jersey.
Despite growing up a passionate football fan, it took me a long time to learn that the Jets and Giants don’t technically play in New York despite their name. It would be like if my Minnesota Vikings played their home games in North Dakota.
In this article, we’ll spend some time looking at the history of football in the state of New York where the sport has been played for more than 100 years. Many franchises have come and gone, and you may be surprised to discover that baseball has played a prominent role in the growth of our gridiron pastime.
- Three Professional franchises hail from New York State, the Jets, Giants, and Bills.
- While they technically play for New York, the Jets and Giants play their home games across the border in New Jersey
- The Bills were founded in 1960, following a long line of professional and semi-professional football organizations in west New York.
History of Football in New York City
Baseball stadiums have played a prominent role in New York football. The Polo Grounds may be famous for baseball, but it served as the venue for several professional football teams until it was torn down in 1963.
Both the Giants and the Jets (then known as the Titans) along with several defunct football teams like the New York Yanks and Brooklyn-New York Yankees clashed on the old baseball field and the Giants won a pair of pre-Super Bowl titles playing there in 1934 and 1938. The final sporting event to take place at the Polo Grounds was also a football game between the Jets and Buffalo Bills.
Ebbets Field, the home of the Dodgers before they moved to L.A. also hosted football games. It was mostly used as the home field for Manhattan College in the 1930s, but was also home to several short-lived professional franchises like the Lions, Tigers, Brooklyn Giants, and Dodgers. 
Do We Count New Jersey?
If we want to get technical, no NFL teams play their games in America’s largest city. Both the Jets and Giants continue to use New York as their home city, but the stadium they share isn’t physically in New York. Instead the two teams share the Meadowlands Sports Complex on the west side of the Hudson River in New Jersey.
This isn’t a new development. The Giants announced a move to New Jersey in 1971 after playing 46 years in Yankee Stadium. Wellington Mara, the owner at the time of the move, cited the team’s desire to have their own stadium along with what he hoped would be a more enjoyable fan experience. The new stadium took longer to complete than anticipated, and the Giants weren’t able to complete their move until 1976. 
The New York Jets were also using a baseball stadium, playing their home games at Shea, the home of the Mets. With the completion of the Giants’ new stadium, New York’s other team also eyed a trip across the Hudson for a football-centric stadium. Eight years later in 1984, the Jets moved their home games to the Giants’ home stadium as well. 
This remained the home for both teams until 2010 when construction on MetLife Stadium was completed. The site of the new stadium is also in the Meadowlands of New Jersey, leaving New Yorkers to continue their commute across the river to cheer on their favorite team. 
Football in Buffalo
Western New York has offered professional football in some capacity since the early 20th century with teams like the Buffalo All-Americans which joined the NFL in 1920. 
The Buffalo Bills franchise began in 1960 as a charter member of the AFL which would eventually merge with the NFL. Buffalo was chosen from a field of six cities for an expansion franchise, the name inspired by a local barbershop quartet going by the same name. 
While the team seems firmly entrenched in Buffalo, there were threats to move if a new stadium deal could not be reached. Luckily an agreement was reached in 2022 for a new, 63,000-seat venue in Orchard Park which is slated to open in 2026, keeping football in West New York for decades to come. 
One of the most populous states in America, it’s not surprising that New York has a high concentration of sports teams including three professional football franchises. But until the Chargers and Rams moved to Los Angeles a couple of years ago, there were no NFL teams with a physical presence in either of the country’s largest cities.
While L.A., now has a pair of teams, there seems to be no interest in building a new NFL stadium in New York City with MetLife Stadium still relatively new. For you, New York sports fans, does it bother you that the Giants and Jets technically play in New Jersey? Or does it not matter as long as both teams have “New York” on their uniforms? Let us know in the comments below.