Pro Football Nicknames

Professional Football Nicknames
National Football League
 
Arizona Cardinals
The NFL's oldest franchise and both team and nickname date back to Chicago in 1901.  Originally located in Chicago, IL from 1920-1959, then moved to St. Louis from 1960-1987, then to Phoenix in 1988. Changed from Phoenix to Arizona Cardinals in 1994. The team was originally not named for the cardinal bird.  The team name was from the maroon colored jerseys they bought from the University of Chicago.   Due to a loss of players to World War II, the Chicago Cardinals and Pittsburgh also MERGED for one season and became Card-Pitt in 1944, with an 0-10 season.  First had a cardinal head on its helmets in 1960. Mascot: Big Red


Atlanta Falcons
The name chosen from a contest.  Names suggested were: Peaches, Vibrants, Lancers, Confederates, Firebirds and Thrashers.  The falcon is proud and dignified, with great courage and fight.   It never drops prey. It is deadly and has a great sporting tradition said the contest winner.  Since 1966. Mascot: Freddie Falcon.


Baltimore Ravens
Home of the famous, Edgar Allan Poe, author of "The Raven", who died and is buried in Baltimore. Ravens chosen in a contest.  Other names considered: Marauders, Railers, Bulldogs, Mustangs and Steamers.  The franchise began in Cleveland as the Browns, moved to Baltimore, in 1996 and became the Ravens.  Other nicknames: Colts 1950-19XX. Mascot: Edgar, Allan and Poe.


Buffalo Bills
Since October 28, 1959.  1960-1972 in Buffalo, then to Orchard Park, NY in 1973, named for the famous American, Buffalo Bill Cody. The Bills nickname was suggested as part of a fan contest in 1947, to rename the Buffalo's All-American Conference team, originally known as the Bisons.
Bill's was selected over Bullets, Nickels, and Blue Devils.   Other nicknames: All-Americans 1921-1923, Bisons 1924-1925, Rangers 1926, Bisons 1927 & 1929. Mascot: Billy Buffalo


Carolina Panthers
Since 1995. Team owner Jerry Richardson’s son Mark chose the name of Panthers as the team name because it signifies the team should be---powerful, sleek and strong.  Mascot: Sir Purr.


Chicago Bears
Began in Decatur, IL in 1920 as the Decatur Staleys, named as the company football team of the A.E. Staley Corn Products Company. 
Then Chicago from 1921, the Staley's were renamed as the Bears in 1922.  Owner-Manager, George Halas reasoned that because football players were generally bigger than baseball players, and the city’s baseball team was the Cubs, he felt it was only logical the football team be called the Bears.  Other nicknames: Tigers in 1920, Hornets in 1949. The Cardinals and Tigers apparently were too close to each other for both to survive financially, so they decided to play a game for the 'rights' to Chicago; the loser would drop out of the league! The Cardinals went on to win 6-3, and the Tigers disbanded as agreed.  Note: Chicago Cardinals and Pittsburgh also MERGE for one season and become Card-Pitt in 1944.

Cincinnati Bengals
Since 1968. Paul Brown selected the name because there had once been a pro football team in Cincinnati named the Bengals from 1937-1942.
The name Bengals was chosen over the fans popular suggestion of Buckeyes.  Other nicknames: Celts in 1921, Reds in 1933-1934. Mascot: Who Dey.

Cleveland Browns
Since 1950.  There debate about how the Browns name came to be, named from the teams first coach, the Legendary,... Paul Brown or after boxer Joe Louise, who was nicknamed the "Brown Bomber." The franchise moved to Baltimore as the Ravens, then started over as the Browns in 1999.  The former St. Louis baseball team Browns name have no connection to the Cleveland Browns name. Other nicknames: Tigers in 1920, Indians in 1921, 1923 & 1931, Bulldogs in 1924-25 and 1927.

Dallas Cowboys
Since 1960.  In the initial months following the its formation, the Dallas team was known as the “Steers.”  After a few weeks, the team General Manager decided having a castrated cow as a mascot might subject the team to ridicule, changed the name to the "Rangers."  At the same time, a baseball team operated in Dallas under that name, but was scheduled to fold before the 1960 football season.  However, when the baseball team decided to play one more season, The two owners of the new NFL team, selected the name of Cowboys to avoid confusion.  Other nicknames: Steers, Rangers, Texans in 1952.  The Dallas Texans moved to Kansas City in 1963. Mascot: Crazy Ray and Rowdy The #13 Best North American Professional Sports Logo of the 20th Century per 2005 survey by Section 219/Classic Sports Logos.  #18 Sports Brand of all Pro Teams-- 2008 Turnkey Team Brand Index

Denver Broncos
Since 1960, named from a fan contest and from Denver's 1921 Midwest Baseball Team. Original Uniform Colors: Seal brown and light gold.  Denver has a  sculpture of 7 horses, "The Broncos", that represent the symbolism of legendary Quarterback, number "seven", John Elway.   They are displayed as driving forward toward Invesco Field at Mile High with victory awaiting inside the stadium, and the concepts of family and teamwork are depicted by the size and gender variations of the horses, from the leader to the mare and foal.  The fountain surrounding the horses also represents the Rocky Mountain West, as they are displayed running through the water.  Mascot: Miles

Detroit Lions
Began in Portsmouth, OH as the Spartans from 1930-1933, then to Detroit from 1934-1974, then to Pontiac, MI since 1975.  The Lions name was chosen by George A. Richards, the Detroit radio executive who purchased the Portsmouth Spartans and moved the team to Detroit in 1934.  The Lions name was chosen in reference to their then landlords, the Detroit Tigers baseball team.  Other nicknames: Heralds 1920-1921, Panthers 1925-1926, Wolverines 1928. Mascot: Roary.


Green Bay Packers
Team name came from the type of sponsors.  The first owner orginally wanted to call them the "Indians" or "Indian Packers".  America's first pro football dynasty was also the first franchise to utilize corporate sponsorship.  In 1919, the Indian Packing Company gave the team $500 for uniforms and equipment.  From then on they were called the Packers.  The Indian Packing Company and later Acme Packing Company sponsored this team.  Since 1921. At times, fans and sportwriters have called the team the Big Bay Blues, Blues or the Bays.  A packer is someone who works in a packing house for packing livestock into meat products.  "Green Bay Packers" is the longest standing team name in NFL history.  #1 Sports Brand of all Pro Teams-- 2008 Turnkey Team Brand Index

Houston Texans
Since 2002.  Team colors are Battle red, Steel blue and Liberty white with a bulls head logo and a Texas lone star as an eye. The Houston Texans became the sixth professional football team to be nicknamed the Texans.  Other names considered:  Apollos, Stallions, Wildcatters, or Bobcats.
Formerly Houston Oilers (1960-1998), but the franchise moved to Tennessee.  Mascot: Toro


Indianapolis Colts
The name came from a team originally located in Baltimore, MD from 1946-1949, and again 1953-1983, then moved to Indianapolis in 1984.  The Baltimore area is rich in history of horse racing and breeding. Mascot: Spike and Spirit.  The #12 Best North American Professional Sports Logo of the 20th Century per 2005 survey by Section 219/Classic Sports Logos. #5 Sports Brand of all Pro Teams-- 2008 Turnkey Team Brand Index

Jacksonville Jaguars
Since 1995. The Jaguar is a rare, but powerful large cat in the U.S.  The Jaguars name was selected through a fan contest.  Other finalists for the name: Sharks, Stingrays and even Panthers.  Mascot: Jaxson De Ville. #15 Sports Brand of all Pro Teams-- 2008 Turnkey Team Brand Index

Kansas City Chiefs
Team owner, Lamar Hunt,  after moving his Dallas Texans team to Kansas City originally wanted to name his team, the Kansas City Texans, but that was not chosen.  The Chiefs name was chosen, partly to honor Native Americans who had lived in the area and partly to honor,  H. Roe Bartle, Mayor of Kansas City at the time,  Boy Scout Executive and founder of the Tribe of Mic-O-Say.  The Dallas team was the first "Texans" team in the NFL, before the current Houston Texans.   H. Roe Bartle's nickname was "Chief".  The winner of the name the team contest was E.L. Diemier, came up with the name, as a warehouse manager, making out a bill of lading, came across the name "Chief Freight Lines".  Another popular nickname in the name the team contest was the Kansas City Mules.  Other names that were considered were the Royals, Stars and Steers.  Started in Dallas as the Texan's from 1960-1962, moved to Kansas City in 1963. Other nicknames: Blues in 1924, Cowboys 1925-1926.  Mascot: KC Wolf and Warpaint.

Las Vegas Raiders
Coming 2020, as the Raiders move from Oakland to Las Vegas

Los Angeles Chargers
From 1960 in Los Angeles, then to San Diego in 1961.  The team general manager said about the name Chargers,  “I liked it because they were yelling ‘charge’  and sounding the bugle at Dodgers Stadium and at USC games.  The Chargers moved from San Diego to Los Angeles starting the 2017 season.  

Los Angeles Rams
The name came from a team originally located in Cleveland, OH from 1937-1945, then to Los Angeles 1946-1979, then to Anaheim in 1980-1995.  The Rams (Cleveland) suspended operations for one year, in 1943 due to a loss of players to World War II. Moved to St. Louis in 1995. Principal owner Homer Marshman and his general manager, Damon “Buzz” Wetzel picked the Rams name because Wetzel had said his favorite football team had always been the Fordham Rams and Marshman liked the sound of the name.  Other nicknames: All-Stars in 1923, Gunners in 1934. Mascot: Ramster.  The Rams moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles to begin the 2016 season.  

Miami Dolphins
Since 1966, named in a fan contest, for the popular mammal of the coastal area. Team Owner liked the Dolphins nickname because the dolphin is one of the fastest and smartest creatures in the sea. Mascot: T. D.  The #17 Best North American Professional Sports Logo of the 20th Century per 2005 survey by Section 219/Classic Sports Logos.

Minnesota Vikings
From 1961-1981 in Bloomington, MN to Minneapolis, MN in 1982. Vikings name was chosen because so many people in the surrounding area trace their heritage to Scandinavia.  The team general manager recommended the name because it represented both an aggressive person with the will to win and the Nordic tradition in the northern Midwest.  The "Minnesota" Vikings were the FIRST pro sports team to feature its home state, rather than a city, in the team name.  The Minnesota Twins actually started play before the Vikings in 1961, but the Vikings announced their name first. Mascot: Ragnar the Viking.

New England Patriots
In a fan contest, named for the Patriots of the American Revolution, which is historic to the area.  "Pat Patriot" the cartoon of a Minuteman reparing to snap a football drawn by the Boston Globe's Phil Bissell, was chosen as the team's logo soon after.   From 1960-1970 as the Boston Patriots, then to Foxboro, MA, as the New England Patriots in 1971.  Mascot: Pat Patriot. #4 Sports Brand of all Pro Teams-- 2008 Turnkey Team Brand Index

New Orleans Saints
Since 1967, named for the famous song, "When the Saints Go Marching"  The New Orleans NFL franchise was awarded on All Saints Day, Nov. 1, 1966.  Mascot: Gumbo (Saint Bernard Dog) and Sir Saint #11 Sports Brand of all Pro Teams-- 2008 Turnkey Team Brand Index

New York Jets
From 1960-1983 in New York, then moved to East Rutherford, NJ in 1984.  In 1963 the team owner changed from New York Titans to the Jets to reflect a modern approach to the team, and being close to the LaGuardia Airport.   The Jets nickname rhymed with the other sports teams in New York:  Mets, Nets and Sets teams.  At one time the franchise considered calling itself the Dodgers, but Major League Baseball didn't like the idea.  Gothams and Borros were also was considered as team names.

New York Giants
From 1925-1973 and 1975 in New York, then New Haven, CT 1973-74, and East Rutherford, NJ since 1976. Owner Tim Mara “borrowed” the Giants name from the city’s Major League Baseball team of the same New York Giants name, who was once their landlord.  This was not unusual among early day pro football franchises.  At one time or another there were NFL franchises named the New York Yankees, Brooklyn Dodgers, Cleveland Indians,  Cincinnati Reds, and Detroit Tigers.  The original Giants name was derived from the city's giant buildings.  Other nicknames: Giants 1921, Yankees 1927-1928 and 1950-1951, Bulldogs in 1949. Newark NJ Tornadoes in 1930.


Oakland Raiders
Started in Oakland in 1960-1981, moved to Los Angeles in 1982, then back to Oakland.  For a brief period of time the team was known as the Senors, from a name the team contest but before the 1960 season started, they were the Raiders. The Senors was an allusion to the old Spanish settlers of Northern California, but was ridiculed in the weeks that followed.   The #7 Best North American Professional Sports Logo of the 20th Century per 2005 survey by Section 219/Classic Sports Logos. The Raiders are scheduled to MOVE to Las Vegas for the 2020 season.  

Philadelphia Eagles
Since 1933.  When Bert Bell established his NFL franchise in Philadelphia in 1933,  the country was struggling to recover from the Great Depression.  The owners purchased the bankrupt Frankfort Yellowjackets.  New president Franklin D. Roosevelt had introduced his “New Deal” program through the National Recovery Administration, which had the Eagle as its symbol. Since Bell hoped his franchise also was headed for a new deal, he picked Eagles as the team name.  The Eagles nickname and logo were based on the Blue Eagle symbol, an emblem created for business participating in President Franklin Roosevelt's new National Recovery Administration.  Note: Philadelphia and Pittsburgh MERGED for one season and became Phil-Pitt or the "Steagles" in 1943.  Mascot: Swoop.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Since 1933.  The original 1933 team was named the Pittsburgh Pirates after the city’s major league baseball team, also their landlord. In 1940, Owner Art Rooney Sr. changed the team name to Steelers after the city’s steel industry.  Began in Philadelphia as the Eagles, then in Pittsburgh as the Pirates, changed to the Steelers in 1941. Due to the loss of players to World War II, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh MERGE for one season and become Phil-Pitt or the "Steagles" in 1943.  Chicago Cardinals and Pittsburgh also MERGE for one season and become Card-Pitt in 1944, with an 0-10 season.  Mascot: The Terrible Fan. #3 Sports Brand of all Pro Teams-- 2008 Turnkey Team Brand Index

 
San Francisco 49'ers
Since 1950, named for the settlers heading for the Gold Rush to California in 1849. Mascot: Sourdough Sam.

Seattle Seahawks
Since 1976, named in a fan contest, for the Osprey, a fish eating hawk of the Northwest, also found on totem poles native to the area.  The name suggest aggressiveness, reflects our soaring Northwest heritage, and belongs to no other major league team.  Other names considered: Skippers, Pioneers, Lumberjacks, and Seagulls. A Seattle minor league hockey team and Miami's franchise in the All-American Football Conference both used the Seahawks nickname in the 1950's.  Mascot: Blitz.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
Since 1976, named for the pirates and buccaneer history of the area during the 17th Century.  Other names considered:  Buzzards and Sea Horses.  Mascot: Skully.

Tennessee Titans
The Titans name ties in with Nashville's designation as "the Athens of the South".  A committee selected Titans citing the desire to have a nickname that reflected “strength, leadership and other heroic qualities.”  The franchise moved from Houston as the Oilers (from 1959) to Memphis in 1997, then to Nashville in 1998. In Tennessee as the Oilers until changed to the Titans in 1999. Other names considered: Tornadoes, Copperheads, South Stars and Wranglers .  Mascot: T-Rac (Racoon is the state animal of TN)

Washington Redskins
From 1932-1936 in Boston as the Braves, then moved to Washington, DC in 1937.  George Preston Marshall acquired an NFL franchise in 1932 and named it the Boston Braves after the city’s Major League Baseball team.  After poor finances and attendance in 1932,  the name was changed to the Redskins. The nickname was meant to honor head coach and Native American William Henry "Lone Star" Dietz.  The Redskins kept their controversial nickname when they relocated to Washington DC in 1937.   The Redskins name was retained when the team was moved to Washington in 1937.  Other nicknames: Senators in 1921.  Mascot: Chief Zee and the Hogettes

 

 

 

 Follow me on Twitter: @KCSportsHistory

Become a fan and follow the

Kansas City Sports History Facebook Group 

All of the clipart and images used on this website are for educational and historical reference.