Why did they pick that name?
Some football teams have the perfect name. It makes sense, it fits. Some leave you guessing as to how they came up with that particular choice. Heck, sometimes a team changes locations and occasionally they come up with a new brand, logo, mascot, color scheme. Sometimes they leave it.
Google to the Rescue
I went to the internet for help with this. For every team, whether a city or a state, I entered the search term “What is (fill in the blank) most famous for?”
Rules for the name change
- Teams must keep their current colors.
- Teams must keep their current locations.
- Whatever results come up in the search returns are what I am choosing from. Whether it’s Wikipedia or some blog that shows up first, I went with that.
- If the first thing that popped up was already in use by another professional team, I went with an alternative word.
- If what pops up is the same as a previous team, I went with the next option.
Without further ado
Here is a comprehensive list of all 32 teams. What their name is now, why it was chosen, and finally, my offering for a new team name and logo based on what that city or state is known for.
It’s all for fun. NFL, if you’re reading this, let me know if you want to go with any of these options in the future, we can work something out. If you love a logo, let me know, I’ll see about having some shirts made up.
Founded in 1920, the team has changed locations twice. They started as the Chicago Cardinals, then moved to St. Louis and finally landed in Arizona.
Cardinals are rarely found in Phoenix and can normally only be found in a tiny sliver of Arizona in the southeast. They may not have many cardinals, but Arizona certainly has a lot of cacti… they are especially known for their saguaro which grow in the Sonoran Desert.
Founded in 1966, the NFL decided that it wanted a team in Atlanta. They held a contest for the naming rights. A teacher named Julia Elliott, suggested “Falcons”. Her explanation for the choice was “the falcon is proud and dignified, with great courage and fight. It never drops its prey. It is deadly, and has a great sporting tradition.”
Are there falcons in Atlanta, yes. Peregrine Falcons spend their winters in Georgia. But what is Atlanta really known for? MLK Jr.
Here is one that I happen to think is pretty great. The Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore in 1996. The owner and the NFL held panel discussions, focus groups and polls. The one name that kept coming up was the Ravens. It makes sense, the great Edgar Allan Poe was born and raised in Baltimore.
But because this is a renaming, we can quote the raven nevermore. The Star Spangled Banner was written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key at Fort McHenry, Baltimore. Baltimoreans should be proud of that.
In the olden days of the All America Football Conference, Buffalo’s team was called the Bison. 1947 brought along a name change to the Bills after Buffalo Bill Cody. In 1960, the Bills became part of the AFL but kept the name.
Buffalo Bill Cody was born in Iowa, died in Colorado and while he did like hunting Buffalo, there’s a much more obvious name. Buffalo is home to numerous mills. It’s kind of what they are known for.
When the Panthers made their debut in 1995, the owners wanted to select a strong team name. How many black panthers roam the hills of North Carolina? None.
What is North Carolina famous for? Flying. In the air. The Wright Brothers didn’t mess around and fly so that you could ignore them. Give them their due.
The Bears are one of the original NFL teams. Back then they were called the Staleys, named after the team’s owner A.E. Staley. Chicago switched its name to the Bears in 1922.
Not only are there no bears to be found in Chicago, there aren’t even really bears in all of Illinois. Bears, mountain lions and wolves are all pretty much gone from Illinois and especially Chicago. But what does Chicago have plenty of? Buildings.
The Cincinnati Bengals joined the AFL in 1968. There was talk of calling themselves the Buckeyes but Ohio State said ‘no thank you.’ An investor in the team thought it would be a good idea to go with the Bengals as some former football teams in the area had used that name.
And why not, there are so many Bengal tigers in… India. Do you know what you are famous for Cincinnati? Chili. Run with it.
The Browns came along in 1950. They didn’t have a name at first so they had a contest. Everyone thought that it would be nice to name the team after Paul Brown. He caved and said okay… and there you have it.
Hey Cleveland, do you know what rocks harder than Paul Brown?
Here we have America’s team. When they came along in 1960 the owners really, really wanted to go with the Dallas Rangers, but that was taken, by Texas’ baseball team. Unable to think of anything else, they settled on Cowboys.
Since then, the only thing that googles harder than the Cowboys are their cheerleaders.
When Denver was awarded a new AFL franchise in 1960, they had a city wide naming contest as well. Broncos was selected hands down and that’s fine. Makes sense. But it’s not what Denver is known for.
Denver is a city that is a mile high. They also have the whole marijuana stereotype.
1930… nearly 100 years ago… is when my hometown team was formed. They were the Portsmouth Spartans before that. The football team’s owners thought Lions would go well with the area baseball team, the Tigers. They wanted to be kings of the football league, like the animal is the king of the jungle.
While they did win four championships before the merger, it’s been diddly-squat since. If anyone needs a new name and a new attitude, it’s my Lions. We’re the Motor City. Let’s wear it like a badge of honor.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Founded in 1921 at a time when their football team was sponsored by a group of local packing companies. The Green Bay Packers name just sort of made sense.
While I certainly could have gone the cheese route for this one, when you google what Green Bay is famous for, do you know what pops up? Toilet paper.
These guys came along in 2002. The top five names at the end of the fan vote were, Apollos, Bobcats, Stallions, Wildcatters and the Texans. They chose the Texans. Way to go out on a limb, Houston.
Houston… you pretty much own space. It’s your thing. Know where your bread is buttered.
The Colts came around in 1953. Before moving to Indianapolis, they were the Baltimore Colts. The team name came from a fan voting contest originally. Indianapolis is known for its affinity for horse breeding and racing. Baltimore even tried to buy the name back when they arrived back in the NFL, but landed on Ravens.
Sure, they like to race horses there, but there’s an even bigger race in those parts.
Some lucky guy won a contest for season tickets for coming up with the Jaguars moniker in 1995. While it sounds cool, Jaguars have not been found in Florida since Prehistoric times. Jaguars are more of a Mexico/Central America thing.
Do you know what Jacksonville has the most of? What is equally ferocious when compared to the likes of a jaguar? Parks.
Kansas City Chiefs
In 1960 Kansas City acquired the Dallas Texans football team. Missouri would never embrace such a name. The nickname of their owner was ‘Chief’, to honor him, they chose that as their new name. It’s cool and all, but what is Kansas City most known for?
Yummy, heavily sauced meats.
Los Angeles Chargers
I’ve always liked the thunderbolt logo. Whether in San Diego or L.A., it works. Great color scheme and an obvious nod to the old ‘Charge’ bugle chant.
While I wouldn’t change much, they could stand to go with a name that is a little more related to the city they currently reside in.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams were founded in 1937. They’ve called Cleveland their home, then Los Angeles, then St. Louis and then Los Angeles again. Then they stole my beloved Matthew Stafford and are headed to the Super Bowl.
One of the original founders of the team was a huge fan of the Fordham Rams. So he borrowed the name and it stuck. California has big horn sheep so it works now. So other than smog, what does L.A. have a lot of? Star power, baby.
Las Vegas Raiders
Formed in 1960 as the Oakland Señors, the owner had a change of heart when he realized people hated the name and the jersey. They switched to silver and black and have become one of the most feared jerseys in sports. The team has ping ponged between Oakland and Los Angeles for years. As of 2020, their new home is in Las Vegas.
If you’re going to have a professional sports team in Vegas, go with the obvious theme.
The Dolphins were formed in 1966 and their name, like many others, came from a fan contest. The winner got two lifetime season tickets. Are there dolphins in Miami? Sure. Do they have a great logo and color scheme? Of course.
Do they need a change? Yes. What’s hotter than a Miami beach?
Formed in 1961, the name was an obvious choice due to all of the Scandinavian immigrants who called Minnesota and the Midwest, home. They were almost called the Miners, Chippewas and Voyageurs.
Where the purple and gold comes from, I’m not sure. One thing I do know is that they love hockey above all else in Minnesota.
New England Patriots
When the Patriots formed in 1960, they called Boston their home. Other possible names that were being passed around were the Minutemen and Colonials.
Other than their beloved Patriots, google tells me that Clam Chowda’ and these ocean crustaceans are what people think of when someone mentions New England.
New Orleans Saints
The team was founded in 1967 but the franchise was awarded to New Orleans on November 1st, 1966. The date happened to coincide with ‘All Saints Day’ and the rest is history.
There is so much more to New Orleans however, jazz music, raucous parties and dark magic. This one is my favorite. Raiders fans would look like kittens in comparison.
New York Giants
Formed in 1925, the Giants have been around forever. For a long time, there were two Giants in town with a baseball team of the same name. Eventually they referred to themselves as the New York Football Giants.
When I think of New York, I think of the Empire State Building. So did Google. As John Madden would say, “Boom!”
New York Jets
Formed in 1960 in the AFL, the Jets used to be the New York Titans. When a new owner came along who liked the color green and airplanes, the New York Jets emerged. The Jets actually play in New Jersey now.
Just like with L.A., I had to find the two biggest things New York is known for. The Empire State Building is one. There’s already a professional sports team called the Liberty. I decided to go underground for this team name.
The Eagles were formed in 1933. They took the name from President Franklin Roosevelts ‘New Deal’ which used an eagle as the symbol. The name stuck and it’s never changed.
Until now. Equally historical but not as good at flying.
When these guys first came about in 1933 they had the same name as their baseball team, the Pirates. However, in 1940 they changed it to the Steelers because steel making was sort of what they did in Pittsburgh.
Do you know what they used all that steel on? Bridges… and a whole schload of them. The most. Anywhere.
San Francisco 49ers
Classic team from a beautiful city. Their jerseys are iconic and their name makes total sense. Pioneers arrived in 1849 in search of gold.
But, other than the Golden Gate Bridge (I had just used bridges above), Danny Tanner and Rice, what is San Francisco known for? The Rock.
In 1976, Seattle was awarded an NFL team. Over 20,000 votes were cast and they arrived at the nautical Seahawks. Here’s the thing. There is no such thing. The closest bird to a Seahawk is an osprey and it’s illegal to use an osprey for commercial purposes.
The team actually uses an Augur hawk as their mascot. Augur hawks are native to a region just up the coast from Seattle called AFRICA. Hey Seattle, Russel Wilson would look just as cool as one of these guys! Wake up and smell the coffee.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Like Seattle, this team was formed in 1976. They took their logo and name from the legend of famed pirate Jose Gaspar. Where they got the creamsicle jersey idea, I’m not sure.
Sure there used to be pirates in the area, but one thing that has never left Tampa Bay is the moisture.
In 1960, this team was still in Houston and their name was the Oilers. They moved to Tennessee in 1997 and kept the Oilers name for two years before becoming the Titans. A name that had been used by New York decades before. Not much for originality.
I’d be excited for a matchup between the new Cleveland Rocks team and these guys.
This team has changed their name twice since I started writing this article. Founded in 1932 the team has been known as the Boston Braves, Boston Redskins, Washington Redskins, Washington Football Team and now, heading into 2022, the Washington Commanders.
I don’t hate it. It was time to give up the name Redskin. But had I gotten to the owners sooner, they could have gone with what DC is really known for.
Super Bowl LVI
Takes place on Sunday, February 13th at 6:30 PM. Who will win? The Chili or the Celebrities?