Friday, July 16, 2004

NFL Franchise nicknames

NFL Franchise nicknames

One of the most frequently asked questions is how a particular
NFL team chose its name. Sometimes the answer is obvious and
other times it is not so clear-cut.

– The Cardinals originally played in Chicago
as a charter member of the American Professional Football
Association (APPA). The team moved to St. Louis in 1960 and then
to Phoenix in 1988. Contrary to popular logic, the team was not
named after the beautiful bird but instead because the team
played in used maroon jerseys the original team (in pre-NFL
years) had purchased from the University of Chicago. When an
observer scoffed that the jerseys were “faded red,” team owner
Chris O’Brien countered that they weren’t “faded red,”
they were “cardinal red.”

– A fan contest was held and the team received
more than 1,300 entries suggesting 558 different names.
Although several entries in a fan contest suggested Falcons,
a schoolteacher was declared the winner because of her reason
“…the falcon is proud and dignified with great courage and fight.”

– On March 29, 1996, Baltimore’s
NFL team became the Ravens. The nickname was selected from
among three finalists in a poll conducted by the Baltimore Sun.
Baltimore fans selected the name in honor of Edgar Allan Poe,
the American poet who penned his famous poem, “The Raven”
while living in Baltimore.

– Buffalo’s team in the All-America Football
Conference (AAFC) in 1946 was the Bisons. In 1947 a contest
was held to rename the team, which was owned by James Breuil
of the Frontier Oil Company. The winning entry suggested Bills,
reflecting on the famous western frontiersman, Buffalo Bill Cody.
Carrying the “frontier” theme further, the winning contestant
further offered that the team was being supported by
Frontier Oil and was “opening a new frontier in sports in
Western New York.” When Buffalo joined the new American
Football League in 1960, the name of the city’s earlier pro
football entry was adopted.

– Team owner Jerry Richardson’s son Mark is
responsible for the selection of Panthers as the team name.
Mark, who felt that there should be some “synergy” between
the name and the team colors also suggested the team colors of
black, blue and silver.

– When this team became
a charter member of the American Professional Football
Association (APFA) in 1920, the team was located in Decatur,
IL, and was named after team sponsor, the Staley Starch
Company. The team moved to Chicago in 1921 and became the
Chicago Staleys. In 1922, after team founder-manager and star
end George Halas purchased the team, he changed the name to the
Bears. Halas reasoned that because football players were
generally bigger than baseball players, and the city’s
baseball team was the Cubs, then logically the football team
should be the Bears.

– Paul Brown selected the name because there had once been
a pro football team in Cincinnati named the Bengals
and adopting that name “would provide a link with past
professional football in Cincinnati."

– The Cleveland All-America Football
Conference franchise conducted a fan contest in 1945 to name
the team. The most popular submission was “Browns” in
recognition of the team’s first coach and general manager Paul
Brown, who was already a popular figure in Ohio sports. Brown
at first vetoed the choice and the team selected from the
contest entries the name “Panthers.” However, after an area
businessman informed the team that he owned the rights to the
name Cleveland Panthers, from an earlier failed football team,
Brown rescinded his objection and agreed to the use of his name.

– In the initial months following the its
formation, the Dallas team was known as the “Steers.” After a
few weeks, however, the name was changed to “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, Clint Murchison Jr. and Bedford Wynne, two owners of
the new NFL team, selected the name of Cowboys to avoid

– “Broncos” was the winning entry
in a fan contest held in 1960 by the original AFL team. The
football team, however, isn’t the first to be called the
Denver Broncos. Denver’s 1921 entry in the Midwest Baseball
League was also called the Broncos.

– 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 lion is monarch of the jungle,” a team spokesperson said,
“and we hope to be the monarch of the league.”

– The name was a natural since
the team was sponsored first by the Indian Packing Company and
later the Acme Packing Company. Although both companies went
out of business, the team prospered under the name Packers.

– After Houston was awarded the NFL's 32nd
franchise on October 6, 1999, a series of focus groups were
formed to help come up with a nickname for the team. On March
2, 2000, the team announced five choices, the Apollos, Bobcats,
Stallions, Texans and Wildcatters. The list was then shaved to
the Apollos, Stallions and Texans a month later. After careful
deliberation, the team unveiled the Texans' name, colors, and
logo at a rally held in downtown Houston on September 6, 2000.

– Baltimore’s first pro football team was
a member of the 1947 AAFC. A fan contest produced the Colts
name reflecting the great tradition and proud history of horse
breeding and racing in the Baltimore region. The original Colts
disbanded after the 1950 season but the name was retained when
a new Baltimore franchise began play in 1953. The team moved to
Indianapolis in 1984.

– The Jaguars name
was selected through a fan contest. Finalists for the name
included the Sharks, Stingrays and even Panthers, but Jaguars
was ultimately selected on December 6, 1991.

– The AFL franchise began in 1960 as the Dallas Texans. When
the team was moved to Kansas City in 1963, the new name was
selected by a fan contest.

– A fan contest drew 19,843 entries to name
the AFL expansion team. A total of 622 contestants suggested
“Dolphins.” Team owner Joe Robbie said he liked the name
because, “The dolphin is one of the fastest and smartest
creatures in the sea.”

–Bert Rose, the first general manager of the Minnesota team that
began NFL play in 1961, selected the Vikings name because so
many people in Minnesota and the surrounding area traced their
heritage to Scandinavia.

– The new AFL team originally located
in Boston, was named the Patriots because of the area’s
heritage as the birthplace of the American Revolution.

– The name Saints was
the popular choice in a fan contest staged by the New Orleans
States-Item. However, with or without the contest, the New
Orleans team would most likely have been called the Saints. The
franchise was awarded on All Saints Day, November 1, 1966. New
Orleans was famous worldwide as the city of jazz and the famous
marching song, “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

– Owner Tim Mara “borrowed” the Giants name from the
city’s Major League Baseball team of the same name. 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.

– New York’s original AFL
team was called the Titans. When Sonny Werblin took over the
franchise in 1963, he changed the team name to Jets to reflect
the modern approach of his team and the star-studded
performances he hoped his team would produce.

– For a brief period, the new AFL team was known as the Senors
but by the time the 1960 season started, the Oakland team was
known as the Raiders. The origin of the Raiders name is not
known but, since it is doubtful a fan contest would have been
staged in Oakland since the first team would have to play in
San Francisco, it is most likely the name was chosen by
principal owner Chet Soda and his partners.

– When Bert Bell established his NFL franchise in Philadelphia
in 1933, the country was struggling to recover from the Great
Depression. 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 original 1933 team was named the Pirates
after the city’s major league baseball team. In 1940,
Owner Art Rooney Sr. changed the team name to Steelers to
more properly represent the city’s dominant steel industry.

– The franchise was originated in Cleveland in 1936 as
a member of the American Football League.
In 1937 the team joined the NFL. 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.

– Barron Hilton agreed after his general manager, Frank Ready
picked the Chargers name when he purchased an AFL franchise for
Los Angeles. The Chargers played in Los Angeles in 1960 and
moved to San Diego in 1961. “I liked it because they were
yelling ‘charge’ and sounding the bugle at Dodgers Stadium
and at USC games.”

– The 49ers name was adopted when San Francisco obtained
an AAFC franchise in 1946. The name was selected as
a recognition of the pioneering and
adventurous spirit of the men of the 1849 gold rush in the
Sierra Nevada mountains east of San Francisco.

– The nickname Seahawks was the result of a fan contest that
drew 20,365 entries and suggested 1,742 different names.
Seahawks was suggested by 151 entrants and judged by the team
ownership as the best choice.

– A team advisory board reviewed 400 name possibilities
and selected Buccaneers.

– Originally located in Houston,
the team was known as the Oilers. After playing two seasons as
the Tennessee Oilers, team owner Bud Adams formed an advisory
committee to research names and a “Guess the Name” contest to
gain additional feedback was also held. The committee selected
Titans citing the desire to have a nickname that reflected
“strength, leadership and other heroic qualities.”

– George Preston Marshall acquired an NFL franchise
in 1932 and named it the Boston Braves after the city’s Major
League Baseball team. However, after a financially devastating
and poorly attended season in 1932, Marshall abandoned the
Braves name in favor of the Redskins. The Redskins name was
retained when the team was moved to Washington in 1937.

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