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How These NFL Teams got their Respective Names


The Arizona Cardinals (originally the Chicago Cardinals) were established in 1898, making them oldest team still in the NFL. When the teams 1st owner bought them used uniforms from the University of Chicago in 1901 they were faded maroon. They called it Cardinal Red.


Like many teams, when the Falcons were founded in 1966 they held a naming contest. More than 500 different names were sent in including the Atlanta Confederates, and the Atlanta Peaches. The name Falcons was entered by several people, but the winning entry was awarded to Julia Elliot for describing the Falcon as “proud and dignified and it never drops its prey”.

She won 3 years worth of season tickets and an autographed football for her team spirit.


When the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore in 1996, Owner Art Modell attempted to purchase back the name “Colts”. The name of the Baltimore football team that moved to Indianapolis. He was unsuccessful and a newspaper ran a poll to select the new name. The Ravens was a reference to a poem by Edger Allen Poe, one of Baltimore’s most famous residents.


The Buffalo Bills was the name of a defunct AAFC team in Buffalo when the NEW Buffalo team was being established. They took on the name as homage to the old team. Acknowledging the city’s roots in football.


Mark Richardson, Panthers President up until 2009, named the team when it was created in 1995. He said that the Panther was “powerful, sleek and strong”. He also decided on the teams colors to the disapproval of NFL officials who thought the name Panther combined with black in the color scheme could become associated with gang violence.


The Decatur Staleys were named in honor of their sponsor, the Staley Starch Company. The team was often referred to by fans as the Bears as a nod to their cross town city mate the cubs. When the team was purchased away from the Staley Starch Company they made the name official.


Though a fan poll asked for the team to be named the Buckeyes, The Bengals first owner, GM, and head coach (who were all the same man) Paul Brown decided to name the team the Bengals in honor of an earlier team that played in the city (much like how the Bills did earlier). He was also the former coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes football team, so that may have contributed to the teams avoidance of the name as well.


There is some disagreement as to the origin of the name “Brown” but the popular story goes that the owner of the team told coach Paul Brown (hey, that guy again) to name the team. Brown held a newspaper poll which selected the name “Browns” after the popular coach, which he did not like. He then named the team the Panthers, but 2 months later owner Mickey McBride overruled him and told the Coach the team would be the Browns.

It is myth as to whether the name Brown refers to the coach or boxer Joes Louis (Nicknamed the Brown Bomber).


The Browns moved from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1996 and changed their name to the Ravens. Cleveland, being the big football city that it is was instantly awarded an expansion franchise for 1999, which they named the Browns. Interestingly enough both teams claim the history of Browns as their own team history.


The original team name for the boys in Dallas was the Steers. Team GM Texas E. Schramm thought that this left them open to mockery (a steer is a castrated bull) so they changed the team to the Rangers. There was another Rangers team in the Dallas area though (minor league baseball), and it wasn’t long before there was concern of confusion so they finally settled on the name Cowboys.


Denver held an essay naming contest in 1960 to name its charter AFL team. 162 fans wrote in. The winning entry went to Ward M. Vining whose essay consisted of a mere 25 words.


The Detroit Lions were the Portsmouth Spartans before being moved to Detroit and renamed in 1934. Owner George A. Richards said that “The lion is the monarch of the jungle, and we hope to be the monarch of the league.”

The Lions have 4 NFL Championships, but have never played in a super bowl.


The Packers first sponsor, the Indian Packing Company was the teams real namesake. Later sponsored by the Acme Packing Company the team name remained, and when ACME went out of business the Packers were able to sustain operation by selling public stock in the team.


The Houston Texans are strangely enough the 6th professional football team to be known as the Texans. The team was so named by owner Bob McNair instead of other suggested named, the Appollos and the Stallions.


The Baltimore Colts were named for the areas history of horse breeding back when they played in the All-America Football Conference. They relocated to Indianapolis in 1984 amid a huge controversy, and kept the name Colts.


The Jaguar name was selected through a fan contest a full 2 years before a team was actually awarded to the city by the NFL. It would be another 2 years after that until they would play. Jaguars are not native to Florida, but the oldest living Jaguar at the time was hosted by the Jacksonville Zoo.


The Chiefs were originally the Dallas Texans, but when they moved to Kansas City a name change seemed prudent. Some of the rejected names included the Mules, the Stars and the Royals (which would eventually become the city’s Major League Baseball Franchise). The name Chiefs was selected to honor the city’s mayor, H. Roe Bartle, who was nicknamed “The Chief”.