While the NFL now plays games in London yearly, the league used to have much grander designs on the European market. The NFL’s most successful attempt at starting a European-based league lasted from 1995 to 2007. The league included teams in Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom. For most of the season, the league had six teams, but five of those teams were located in Germany by the time the league folded.
Against the casino odds, NFL Europe, which was later known as NFL Europa during a bizarre attempt to rebrand the league, produced several players who went on to have solid NFL careers. The two most prominent players, Kurt Warner, and Jake Delhomme, would go on to quarterback their respective teams to Super Bowl appearances.
1998 Amsterdam Admirals
The 1998 Amsterdam Admirals featured two quarterbacks who would later play in the Super Bowl. With Warner as the starter, and Delhomme staring as his backup, the Admirals wouldn’t even make the playoffs.
Despite finishing with a 7-3 record and leading the league with 205 points scored, the Admirals missed out on the playoffs due to bad luck with tiebreakers.
Amsterdam finished with the same record as the Frankfurt Galaxy and the Rhein Fire. Warner finished with a strong season, throwing for 2,101 yards and 15 touchdowns. Delhomme played sparingly behind him, passing for 247 yards with four interceptions on 47 attempts.
In 1999, Warner and Delhomme would both be crowned champions. Warner stepped in for Trent Green, who was injured in the preseason for the St. Louis Rams. Under center as an NFL starter for the first time, Warner didn’t want to miss his opportunity.
He led the Rams to a 13-3 record and would be named Super Bowl MVP after a 23-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans.
Warner put up massive numbers for St. Louis, completing 65.1 percent of his passes for 4,353 yards. Warner also tossed 41 touchdown passes for a Rams offense that would score more than 500 points during the season.
Delhomme had switched teams in NFL Europe, moving to the Frankfurt Galaxy, and was part of a quarterback platoon with Pat Barnes.
Delhomme was second on the team with 1,410 passing yards but tied Barnes for a team-high 12 touchdowns passes while only throwing five interceptions. While Barnes did most of the work in the World Bowl, Delhomme did throw a touchdown pass late in the game to help Frankfurt win 38-24.
Delhomme parlayed his NFL Europe success into a contract with the New Orleans Saints, but he didn’t play much in New Orleans. Delhomme made two starts and completed 50 of 86 passes for three touchdowns and five interceptions. Warner, meanwhile, would get the Rams back to the Super Bowl in 2001 after St. Louis compiled a 14-2 record.
However, the Rams suffered an upset loss in the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots. Delhomme would also get his shot at the burgeoning dynasty a few years later.
Delhomme left his home state of Louisiana to play for the Carolina Panthers.
Delhomme knocks out Warner’s Rams
The 2003 Carolina Panthers went all the way to the Super Bowl behind Delhomme. In the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs, the Panthers’ knocked out the Rams in double overtime.
Warner was still on the roster for St. Louis but had been out since suffering an injury in the first week of the season. Delhomme passed for 3,219 yards and 19 touchdowns to help Carolina to an 11-5 record.
Delhomme even held his own against Tom Brady in Super Bowl XXVIII. Delhomme passed for 323 yards and threw three touchdown passes.
Late in the game, he led a scoring drive and tied the game when he found Ricky Proehl for a 12-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 29 with 1:08 remaining. However, the ensuing kick-off sailed out of bounds, and Brady took advantage of the good field position.
New England would kick a field goal with four seconds left to win the game.
Not Bad for a Couple of NFL Europe Guys
Delhomme would finish his career with a 56-40 record as a starter and pass for 20,975 yards and 126 touchdowns. Warner, who was hampered by injuries throughout his career, finished with a 67-49 record and passed for 32,344 yards and 208 touchdowns.
Later in Warner’s career, he would lead Arizona to Super Bowl XLIII, losing 27-23 to Pittsburgh.