Best NFL Teams: We Uncover The Meanings Behind Their Names

The National Football League is one of the foremost professional sports leagues in The United States. With 32 teams, the regular seasons are exciting moments of the year, like 2018's that will remain in the books. Perhaps, you have your favorite team, but have you ever wondered where did its name come from?

Curiously, the monikers for each of the teams have an intriguing story behind. Some of them barely chose a different one to identify their players with, what makes the tales more interesting to know. Without further ado, let's check the ones of the most powerful clubs in the NFL. 


This team decided to honor the day they were awarded their NFL franchise back in 1966, which was November 1, All Saints' Day. The name was one of the most voted options in a name-the-team contest that the 'New Orleans States-Item' sponsored. Therefore, John Mecom, the team owner, went for it. Plus, the moniker was also taken from the famous song 'When the Saints Go Marching In' and it was the perfect nod to the city's jazz heritage.


This club started to play in the AFL back in 1960 when they were known as the Dallas Texans. However, when the team relocated to Kansas City three years later, Lamar Hunt, the owner, decided to change the name for a more appropriate one.

Among his options were the Royals, Stars, Mules, and Chiefs, but he later went for the latter because of the importance Native Americas had in Kansas. Additionally, the mayor of the city, H. Roe Bartle was also dubbed 'The Chief,' which may have inspired Hunt as well.


The team was known as the Decatur Staleys in 1921, which was a tribute to the team's sponsor, the Staley Starch Company. But the nickname changed in 1922 when star player George Halas purchased the team. And after playing at the field that was home of the baseball's cubs, George resolved to stick to the bearlike theme and call his team 'bears.' 


Their nickname traces back to the college ranks since it was chosen thanks to the favorite college team Damon 'Buzz' Wetzel had: Fordham Ram, which was a powerhouse back in those time. The Rams originated in Cleveland in 1936 and spent from 1946 to 1994 in LA before moving to St. Louis, but came back to Los Angeles eventually. 


Similarly to the N.O Saints, this nickname was chosen through a name-the-team contest in 1960, where owner Barron Hilton promised a Mexico City trip to the winner. However, when he received a letter from Gerald Courtney submitting the moniker "Chargers," reports indicate that he didn't want to open another message because he liked that option so much. 

Now the question is: why? To answer it, we have to look at some various accounts. One tale indicates that Hilton was fond of his then-new Carte Blanche credit card, while other reports say that he had an affiliation with the "Charge" bugle cry that played at Los Angeles Coliseum. 


The region's history of horse breeding inspired the member of the All-America Football Conference to select a name that could honor that, and "Colts" seemed perfect for the purpose. Even though the team started to play in 1953 and moved to Indianapolis in 1984, the chosen nickname remained. 


And continuing with the name-the-team contest, the management group of the original AFL franchise in 1960 conducted another one. Seventy-four fans suggested the nickname "Patriots," and the cartoon of a Minuteman called "Pat Patriot" that the Boston Globe's Phil Bissell drew was selected as the team's logo. Even though Boston changed to New England eleven years later, the "Patriots" prevailed. 


The Baltimore Sun decided to conduct a phone-in poll to pick the name for the team of the city. Beating "Americans" and "Marauders" (a B-26 that Glenn L. Martin Company built during WWII) as the other popular options, 21,000 participants opted for "Ravens."

The nickname was a reference to a famous poem by Edgar Allan Poe, who passed away and was buried in Baltimore. About the moniker, team owner Art Modell started, "It gives us a strong nickname that is not common to teams at any level, and it gives us one that means something historically to this community." Modell had tried to buy the Colts' nickname but did not succeed in his attempt. 


Houston's franchise was the sixth professional football team dubbed the "Texans." The Dallas Texans was a team of an Arena Football League from 1990 to 1993. Seven years later, Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys' owner, brought the team back to life and called them the "Desperados." However, Bob McNair, Houston owner went for "Texans," choosing over "Stallions" and "Apollos." 


The original name of this team that started to play in the NFL in 1960 was the "Steers." However, Texas E. Schramm, the general manager, thought that having a castrated bovine as a mascot might be a reason for mockery, so he decided for the "Rangers" instead. But since there was a baseball team with that nickname, Schramm ultimately went for the "Cowboys." 


In a 1975 contest to determine the name of the team, there were 1,700 original options of the 20,000 submissions such as "Pioneers," "Skippers," and "Lumberjacks." Around 150 proposed "Seahawks," which was a nickname in the 50s that a Seattle team from a minor league of hockey and Miami's franchise in the All-America Football Conference used. 

About the winning choice, Seattle general manager John Thompson indicated, "Our new name suggests aggressiveness, reflects our soaring Northwest heritage and belongs to no other major league team." The helmet design of this team is a stylized head of an osprey, which is a fish-eating hawk of the Northwest.


The symbol of the National Recovery Act that was part of the New Deal done by President Franklin D. Roosevelt was an Eagle, and to honor that, Bert Bell and Lud Wray resolved to use the bird's name in 1933 to dub the bankrupt Frankford Yellowjackets they had purchased. 


From 1933 to 1940, the football team had the same nickname as the baseball's club: the Pirates. However, previous to the 1940 season, owner Art Rooney conducted a contest to change the name. Joe Santoni, who worked for Pittsburgh Steel in a mill, recommended "Steeler." 


There are different stories about the origin of Cleveland's nickname. Some suggest the franchise was named after boxer Joe Louis, who was known as "Brown Bomber," whereas it is also believed the moniker honors the team's first coach and general manager, Paul Brown. Although Paul had selected the "Panthers," a businessman owned the rights to the name, so Brown eventually accepted to use his last name. 


The Vikings' website gives us some insight on the origin. It turns out that Bert Rose, the general manager of the team when it joined the NFL in 1961, presented the option to the Board of Directors since "it represented both an aggressive person with the will to win and the Nordic tradition in the northern Midwest." With that option, the team became the first one to feature a home state instead of a city. 


Through a contest sponsored by a local radio station, 1,300 people suggested over 500 names such as "Lancers," "Firebirds," and "Peaches" soon after professional football was brought to Atlanta by Rankin Smith. Whereas many fans proposed the winning nicknames, the "Falcons," only one person gained the ultimate victory. 

School teacher Julia Elliott from Griffin explained the reason for the name: "The falcon is proud and dignified, with great courage and fight. It never drops its prey. It is deadly and has great sporting tradition." Thanks to her explanation and nickname, the teacher was awarded four tickets for that season and an autographed football.

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Owner Bud Adams conducted a statewide contest to rename the Oilers in 1955 after moving from Houston to Tennessee. Among nicknames such as "South Stars," "Wranglers," and "Tornadoes," the winning one was "Titans" because they wanted a name "to reflect strength, leadership and other heroic qualities," as Adams expressed to the reporters. 


Radio executive George A. Richards purchased the Portsmouth Spartans and moved it to Detroit in 1934 naming it the Lions. It is assumed that the named derived from the baseball team of the city called the Tigers that had won 101 games. About the chosen animal, the group claimed, "the lion is the monarch of the jungle, and we hope to be the monarch of the league.”

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The fierce animal was selected since "it's a name our family thought signifies what we thought a team should be powerful, sleek and strong," according to Mark Richardson, team owner Jerry Richardson's son. Although the name went well on the public, the colors Mark chose in 1995 for the team; black, blue, and silver, created a stir as the NFL believed that the shade scheme would attract street gangs. 


With 20,000 entries in a contest, the nickname for the Miami franchise was chosen in 1966 after over 600 fans proposed "Dolphins." Marjorie Swanson was the winner since she not only proposed the moniker but also predicted a tie. Joe Robbie, the owner of the team, stated that he liked it because the sea animal is one of the fastest and smartest creatures. 

Little did we know that the NFL teams had so much history behind their names, and we're glad our favorites selected the nicknames we all know them for. If you liked the article, share it with other fans of the football league, and keep up-to-date with more of our exciting news.

Source: Mental Floss


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