The Miami Dolphins are expected to name their practice squad today. Yesterday morning, we took a look at the rules governing a player being placed on the practice squad and the salary that player will make. But, how did the practice squad come into existence, and why is it referred to as the "taxi" squad?
Hall of Fame coach Paul Brown initiated the use of the taxi squad as a way to circumvent All-American Football Conference rules. During the 1940's, the AAFC limited rosters to 33 players. However, Brown was using his incredible scouting skills to find future Hall of Famers and starting level talent at numbers larger than the 33 he was authorized.
Brown always had to win, and there was no way he was going to allow talent he had found to go to an opposing team. He had to find a way to keep all of his players, no matter how many he had.
In order to avoid cutting players to the 33-player limit, Brown turned to the owner of the Browns, Arthur B. McBride. McBride owned a taxi company in Cleveland, and that company, Zone/Yellow Cab company of Cleveland, would serve as the basis for the "taxi" squad.
Brown worked out a deal with McBride and the managers of the cab company to "hire" several of his players, listing them as employees, although they would never actually work for the company. McBride would continue to pay the players, funneling the money through the cab company, and Brown would be able to keep his extra players. In return, the team would promote the cab company.
Over the years, other teams would start to pick up on the idea and stash their own players. Eventually, the NFL had to formalize the "taxi" squads into practice squads, setting a limit on the number of players a team could keep.
From Brown's use of a taxi company in the 1940s to the eight man practice squad, with rules about who can be put on the squad, and how many times a player may be put onto the squad, used today, the practice squad has evolved throughout the decades. Sometime today, the Dolphins should announce their continuation of the 70 year old "taxi" squad practice.