In this article, you will discover how each of the 32 NFL teams got their names. From the iconic Green Bay Packers to the legendary Dallas Cowboys, you’ll learn the fascinating stories behind these team names. Uncover the origins of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New England Patriots, and many more. Get ready to dive into the history and culture of American football as we explore the stories behind the names of your favorite NFL teams.
How Did All 32 NFL Teams Get Their Names?
American football, a sport that captivates millions across the United States, is known for its intense gameplay, passionate fans, and iconic team names. From the Baltimore Ravens to the San Francisco 49ers, each NFL team has a unique story behind its name. In this article, we will delve into the origins of all 32 NFL team names, exploring early team naming trends, connections to cities or regions, honors to local history or culture, inspirations from team ownership, and influences of team mascots.
Origin of NFL Teams’ Names
Early Team Naming Trends
During the early years of American football, team names were often simple and straightforward, reflecting the competitive nature of the sport. Names such as the Dayton Triangles and the Rochester Jeffersons emphasized the locations from which they hailed, allowing fans to easily identify with their home teams.
Connection to the City or Region
Many NFL team names pay homage to the cities or regions they represent. For example, the Green Bay Packers, founded in 1919 by Earl “Curly” Lambeau and George Calhoun, acquired their name from the Indian Packing Company, a local meatpacking business. Similarly, the New Orleans Saints, established in 1966, were named to honor the strong cultural and religious heritage of the city.
Honoring Local History or Culture
Some team names reflect the rich history and culture of their respective locales. The New England Patriots, for instance, draw inspiration from the region’s deep ties to the American Revolution. The team’s logo features a minuteman ready for battle, symbolizing the fighters who played a pivotal role in the country’s fight for independence.
Inspiration from Team Ownership
In certain cases, team names are influenced by the ownership or management of the franchise. The Carolina Panthers, founded in 1995, were named after owner Jerry Richardson’s desire to incorporate the puma, a sleek and powerful feline known for its agility. This choice not only represented Richardson’s affinity for wildlife but also reflected the characteristics he hoped his team would embody on the football field.
Influence of Team Mascots
One of the most prominent sources of inspiration for NFL team names is the presence of mascots. The Philadelphia Eagles, for example, owe their name to a fan contest held in 1933. A schoolboy’s entry, “Eagles,” won the competition, and the team adopted the name as their own. The Seattle Seahawks, on the other hand, drew inspiration from the native osprey, a hawk-like bird commonly found in the Pacific Northwest. The team’s mascot, “Blitz,” also reflects the fierce and aggressive nature of these birds.
Teams Named After Animals
The Baltimore Ravens take their name from Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem, “The Raven,” which he penned while living in Baltimore. The team’s logo features a stylish and fierce representation of the bird, paying tribute to the city’s literary heritage.
The Arizona Cardinals trace their origins back to Chicago, where they were known as the Cardinals until their move to St. Louis in 1960 and subsequent relocation to Arizona in 1988. The team takes its name from the bright red cardinal bird, a symbol of vitality and energy.
The Atlanta Falcons were named after a fan contest held in 1965, during which over 500 name suggestions were received. The winning entry, “Falcons,” was chosen to reflect the characteristics of speed, agility, and grace, qualities that the team hoped to embody on the field.
The Chicago Bears were originally known as the Decatur Staleys when they were first founded in 1919. However, when the team relocated to Chicago in 1921, they became the Bears, primarily due to their association with the Chicago Cubs baseball team.
The Cincinnati Bengals took their name from an earlier professional football team, also called the Bengals, that played in the city from 1937 to 1941. The name reflects the ferocity and agility of the Bengal tiger, embodying the team’s goal to be a dominant force in the league.
The Denver Broncos, founded in 1960, took their name from a contest held by the team’s original owner, Bob Howsam. The name “Broncos” was chosen in reference to the wild horses that roamed the nearby Rocky Mountains, symbolizing the untamed spirit and strength of the team.
The Detroit Lions were given their name as a nod to the city’s rich history in the automotive industry. The lion, known for its strength and ferocity, also represents the team’s desire to be powerful and unstoppable on the football field.
The Jacksonville Jaguars were named after a fan contest held in 1991, which received over 2,700 submissions. The winning name, “Jaguars,” was chosen to represent the strength, agility, and determination of the team, qualities associated with the elusive big cat.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs were named in honor of former Mayor Harold Roe Bartle, who played a significant role in attracting the team to the city. Bartle was known by the nickname “Chief” due to his involvement in various Native American organizations, and the team adopted the name “Chiefs” as a tribute to him.
Teams Named After People
The Buffalo Bills take their name from former franchise owner Ralph Wilson Jr., who named the team after a nickname he earned in his youth while participating in cowboy shows in Chicago. The name Bills also pays homage to Buffalo Bill Cody, the legendary figure from the American Old West.
As mentioned earlier, the Carolina Panthers were named after owner Jerry Richardson’s affinity for the sleek and powerful puma. The team’s logo features a fierce panther, representing the strength and agility they strive to demonstrate on the football field.
The Cleveland Browns were named after their original head coach, Paul Brown, who is considered one of the most influential figures in the history of American football. The team’s logo features a distinctive orange helmet, a symbol of the franchise’s rich tradition and storied past.
The Dallas Cowboys, one of the most iconic and successful franchises in NFL history, derived their name from their association with the cowboy culture of Texas. The team’s logo features a star, symbolizing Texas’s nickname, the ” Lone Star State.”
Green Bay Packers
Originating from the Indian Packing Company in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the Green Bay Packers acquired their unique name during their early years. The team’s logo features a football-carrying “Packer Backer,” exemplifying the close relationship between the team and its passionate fans.
The Houston Texans joined the NFL as an expansion team in 2002, becoming the first NFL franchise to be named after the state they represent. The team’s logo features a sleek and modern representation of a bull, symbolizing the team’s strength, resilience, and connection to the rugged culture of Texas.
The Indianapolis Colts, originally based in Baltimore, were named after the city’s rich history in horse racing. The team’s logo features a blue horseshoe, symbolizing luck and reflecting the team’s goal to excel on the football field.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders, formerly the Oakland Raiders, take their name from their move to “Sin City” in Nevada. The team’s logo features a menacing pirate, representing the fierce determination and pirate-like spirit of the franchise.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers, originally based in Los Angeles and then San Diego, acquired their name from a fan contest held in 1960 after the team’s inception. The winning name, “Chargers,” was chosen to reflect the energy and fighting spirit associated with a charging horse.
Teams Named After Geographic Features
The Miami Dolphins, founded as an expansion team in 1965, took their name from their close association with the aquatic life prevalent in Miami. The team’s logo features a playful dolphin, symbolizing the lively and energetic atmosphere of the city.
The Minnesota Vikings pay homage to the Nordic heritage prevalent in the region. The team’s name and logo feature a fierce Viking warrior, representing strength, courage, and a relentless desire to conquer on the football field.
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots draw inspiration from the region’s deep ties to the American Revolution and its significance in shaping the nation’s history. The team’s logo features a minuteman ready for battle, symbolizing the determination and resilience associated with the American spirit.
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints were named to honor the strong cultural and religious heritage of the city. The team’s logo features a fleur-de-lis, a symbol with deep historical roots in New Orleans and France, representing purity, virtue, and the city’s unique character.
New York Giants
The New York Giants, founded in 1925, took their name from their association with the city’s towering skyscrapers and grandeur. The team’s logo features the iconic letters “NY,” symbolizing the team’s deep connection to the city that never sleeps.
New York Jets
The New York Jets acquired their unique name to differentiate themselves from the established New York Giants. The team’s logo features a sleek and modern representation of a football and jet, symbolizing their fast-paced style of play.
As mentioned earlier, the Philadelphia Eagles owe their name to a schoolboy’s entry in a fan contest held in 1933. The victorious name “Eagles” represents the soaring spirit and limitless potential associated with this majestic bird.
San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers derived their name from the gold rush that swept through California in 1849. The team’s logo features a miner, symbolizing the pioneering spirit and relentless pursuit of success, much like the gold miners of that era.
The Seattle Seahawks drew inspiration from the native osprey, a hawk-like bird commonly found in the Pacific Northwest. The team’s logo features a fierce and majestic representation of the bird, symbolizing the aggression and tenacity they bring to the field.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were named after a fan contest held in 1975, during which over 400 potential names were suggested. The winning entry, “Buccaneers,” pays homage to the region’s rich history of pirates and bucaneers who roamed the Gulf of Mexico.
The Tennessee Titans, originally known as the Houston Oilers, changed their name when they moved to Tennessee in 1997. The name “Titans” was chosen to represent strength, power, and a connection to Greek mythology, reflecting the aspirations of the franchise.
Washington Football Team
Formerly known as the Washington Redskins, the team changed its name to the Washington Football Team in 2020 pending the selection of a new permanent name. The temporary name reflects the franchise’s commitment to inclusivity and diversity, while the team searches for a name that represents their proud history and local culture.
Unique Team Names
Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams originally hailed from Cleveland and were named after the memory of football pioneer and team founder, Homer Marshman. He believed that fans would support a team named after an animal, leading to the choice of “Rams.” The team’s logo features a fierce ram, representing strength and determination.
The Pittsburgh Steelers derived their name from one of the city’s most prominent industries, the steel manufacturing sector. The team’s logo features three hypocycloids, symbolizing the steel’s three ingredients: iron ore, coal, and limestone.
Name Changes and Relocations
Rebranding and Identity Updates
Throughout NFL history, teams have undergone rebranding and identity updates to better reflect their evolving fanbase and cultural context. These changes aim to enhance the emotional connection fans feel towards their favorite teams and reinvigorate support during times of transition.
Team Relocations and New Names
Some NFL teams have experienced relocations to new cities and subsequently changed their names to reflect their new surroundings. For example, the Oakland Raiders became the Las Vegas Raiders upon their move to Nevada, while the Los Angeles Rams returned to Los Angeles after spending several years in St. Louis.
The names of NFL teams have deep roots in history, culture, and local identity. From animals and people to geographic features, each name tells a story, capturing the spirit and character of the franchise. Whether it’s the fierce Baltimore Ravens, the historical New England Patriots, or the energetic Miami Dolphins, the names of NFL teams resonate with fans, implanting a sense of pride and unity within the football community.