Reasons for Football Team Names

February 3, 2021

Have you ever wondered why the Steelers are called the Steelers? Or the Browns, the Browns? Well, there is usually some history behind it. Whether its colors, coaches, players, or companies, there is always some method to the madness.

Arizona Cardinals: You may think they were named after the bird, but the team was actually named after the color of their jerseys, “cardinal” red


Atlanta Falcons: This name was chosen in a fan contest because falcons are “proud and dignified” and has “great courage”


Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens is the only literary name; famous poet Edgar Allan Poe lived in Baltimore and was known for his poem, “The Raven.”


Buffalo Bills: Fans chose this name in a contest to honor famous frontiersman Buffalo Bill Cody


Carolina Panthers:  Picked by the owners son, the name Panthers was meant to connect the team name to the colors of black, silver, and blue.


Chicago Bears:  When George Halas bought the football team, he changed the name to the Bears because Chicago’s baseball team is the Cubs, and football players are usually bigger in size than baseball players.

Cincinnati Bengals:  Paul Brown chose this name because of a team previously in Cincinnati called the Bengals.



Cleveland Browns:  This team was named after their coach, Paul Brown.


Dallas Cowboys: Originally named the Rangers, it was changed to the Cowboys because there was a baseball team in Texas already named Rangers.


Denver Broncos: The name Broncos was picked as a fan entry because there are large numbers of broncos in Colorado and Denver.


Detroit Lions:  Since Detroit’s baseball team is named the Tigers, they chose the Lions to stay on theme. Since the lion is “the monarch of the jungle,” they hoped their team would be “the monarch of the NFL.”


Green Bay Packers-Picked because football player Curly Lambeau got the uniforms for the team under the condition that they would be named after the people who gave him that, and since they were named the Indian Packing Company, they became the Packers


Houston Texans: This name was chosen in a contest and exhibits the famous pride citizens have for their state.


Indianapolis Colts: The original team was located in Baltimore, and was chosen because of the importance of horse breeding, and racing in this region.


Jacksonville Jaguars: Yet another name chosen in a fan contest. This one has some nice alliteration, though.


Kansas City Chiefs: When the team was moved to Kansas City during the 1860s, the team name was selected by a contest for fans.


Los Angeles Chargers: Though their logo shows a charge of electricity, the name was chosen because at the start of the Dodgers and USC games, they would yell, “Charge!”  Hence the name Chargers.

Los Angeles Rams: General manager Damon Wetzel liked another football team called the Fordham Rams, so he borrowed the name and it stuck.


Las Vegas Raiders: The name followed the team from Oakland, CA to Las Vegas. They were originally going to be called the “Oakland Señors” which won a contest, but the name was the target of local jokes, and was changed to the Raiders before the 1960 season began.

Miami Dolphins: The result of another fan contest, the dolphin is admired as a fast and strong animal capable of killing whales or sharks.  It is also appropriate for this seaside city.


Minnesota Vikings: Minnesota is famous for its Scandinavian heritage, so drew on that history for their team name, the Vikings.


New England Patriots:  This team was named after the people who fought for freedom in the American Revolution, many of whom were from the Northern states of New England.


New Orleans Saints:  Fans who voted for this name chose it because of the song, “When the Saints Go Marching In.”  Their logo, the fleur-de-lis, is based on the cities heavily French heritage.


New York Giants: The NY Giants took the same name as the city’s baseball team. Since both teams had the same name, they were referred to as the Football Giants until the other Giants moved.


New York Jets: The original name of this team was the Titans, but it was later changed to symbolize the new, fast, and modern team, in hopes to reflect upon team performance.


Philadelphia Eagles: Yes, the eagle is a symbol of the United States. And, yes, Philadelphia was home to many founding fathers.  But the name Eagles was specifically chosen because it was the symbol of the National Recovery Act, part of FDR’s New Deal after the Great Depression.


Pittsburgh Steelers:  Pittsburgh has long been the home of the steel industry, so they took the name of this strong metal for their many fans who worked in the industry.


Seattle Seahawks:  The Seahawk, also known as an osprey, is a bird of prey that lives in the Northwest and is often seen over the city of Seattle.  This name was picked in a fan contest.  The symbol is styled after Seattle’s indigenous heritage.

San Francisco 49ers:  This team was named after the gold rush of 1849, when prospectors came to California to get rich on gold.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Pirates that used to maraud the waters off of the Spanish American coasts were referred to as buccaneers.  This fan-chosen name can be used to describe someone as daring, adventurous, and sometimes reckless.


Tennessee Titans:  Originally the Houston Oilers, the team moved to Nashville in 1997. An advisory committee was asked to come up with a new name that would reflect the traits of He let it be known that the new name should reflect “power, strength, leadership and other heroic qualities.” Titans, figures from Greek mythology, was a great fit because Nashville’s nickname is “The Athens of the South.” They even have a full scale replica of the Parthenon.

Washington Football Team:  The newest name on the roster, this team hastily changed it’s name before the 2020 season under pressure from it’s advertisers to remove its prior, culturally inappropriate name. They are based in Washington, D.C., as the name implies.

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