|Duration||September 19 – December 19, 1971|
|Start date||December 25, 1971|
|AFC Champions||Miami Dolphins|
|NFC Champions||Dallas Cowboys|
|Super Bowl VI|
|Date||January 16, 1972|
New Orleans, Louisiana
|Date||January 23, 1972|
|Site||Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum|
The 1971 NFL season was the 52nd regular season of the National Football League. The Boston Patriots changed their name to New England Patriots to widen their appeal to the entire New England region after moving to their new stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, located between Boston and Providence, Rhode Island.
The season ended with Super Bowl VI when the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Miami Dolphins 24–3 at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. The Pro Bowl took place on January 23, 1972, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum; the NFC beat the AFC 26–13.
The 1971 NFL Draft was held from January 28 to 29, 1971 at New York City's Belmont Plaza Hotel. With the first pick, the New England Patriots selected quarterback Jim Plunkett from Stanford University.
Three referees--Walt Fitzgerald, Bob Finley and George Rennix--retired following the 1970 season. Bob Frederic, Dick Jorgensen and Fred Wyant were promoted to fill those vacancies. Rich Eichhorst, a back judge in 1970, resigned to concentrate on officiating college basketball; he was replaced by Don Orr, who officiated in the league through 1995.
Starting in 1970, and until 2002, 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, record against common opponents, and records in conference play. More tiebreakers were provided in 1971 because, in 1970, reversing just one game’s outcome would have led to a coin toss between Dallas and Detroit for the NFC wild card berth.
Teams listed with an asterisk in these tables are leaders on tiebreak
|1||3 teams||1–0–0||2 teams||1–0–0||2 teams||1–0–0||3 teams||1–0–0|
|2||2 teams||2–0–0||Chicago||2–0–0||Atlanta||1–0–1||2 teams||2–0–0|
|3||Washington||3–0–0||4 teams||2–1–0||San Francisco||2–1–0||5 teams||2–1–0|
|4||Washington||4–0–0||Chicago*||3–1–0||Los Angeles||2–1–1||3 teams||3–1–0|
|6||Washington||5–1–0||Minnesota||5–1–0||Los Angeles||4–1–1||4 teams||4–2–0|
|1||2 teams||1–0–0||2 teams||1–0–0||San Diego||1–0–0||2 teams||1–0–0|
Note: Tie games were not officially counted in the standings until 1972.
Main article: 1971–72 NFL playoffs
|Dec 26 – Candlestick Park|
|Jan 2 – Texas Stadium|
|Dec 25 – Metropolitan Stadium|
|Jan 16 – Tulane Stadium|
|Dec 26 – Cleveland Stadium|
|Super Bowl VI|
|Jan 2 – Miami Orange Bowl|
|Dec 25 – Municipal Stadium|
|Most Valuable Player||Alan Page, defensive tackle, Minnesota|
|Coach of the Year||George Allen, Washington|
|Defensive Player of the Year||Alan Page, defensive tackle, Minnesota|
|Offensive Rookie of the Year||John Brockington, running back, Green Bay|
|Defensive Rookie of the Year||Isiah Robertson, linebacker, Los Angeles|
This was the second year under the league's four-year broadcast contracts with ABC, CBS, and NBC to televise Monday Night Football, the NFC package, and the AFC package, respectively. Frank Gifford's contract with CBS expired. He was then hired by ABC to serve as play-by-play announcer for MNF, while Keith Jackson returned to call college football for the network. Jack Whitaker and Pat Summerall replaced Gifford as hosts on The NFL Today, which was still a pre-recorded pregame show. At NBC, Al DeRogatis and Kyle Rote swapped color commentator positions, with DeRogatis joining Curt Gowdy as the network's lead broadcast team and Rote joining Jim Simpson at #2.