Dallas Rangers? How All 32 NFL Teams Got Their Name Over Other Choices
How odd would it have been for you to talk about Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman and call them a Ranger? It almost happened, that was one of the finalist names for the Dallas Cowboys. So how did all 32 teams get their names especially the new Washington Commanders, this is how.
According to ESPN, when Dallas was awarded an expansion team in 1959, owner Clint Murchison, Jr.'s first choice was the Dallas Rangers but a minor league baseball team had the same name (The Washington Senators would not relocate to Dallas and change their name to the Texas Rangers till 1972) so they went with Cowboys.
Wednesday the Washington Football Team landed on their final name the Commanders after rejecting Armada, Presidents, Brigade, Redhawks, RedWolves, and Defenders. They had been known as the "Washington Football Team" after dropping their former name in the summer of 2020.
So how did the other teams come up with their names? Here is what ESPN found out:
Buffalo Bills - An All-American Football Conference team in 1946 was named the Bisons but changed their name in 1947 to the Buffalo Bills because of William "Buffalo Bill" Cody. The AAFC folded after the 1949 season and Ralph Wilson selected the name for his new AFL Team in 1959.
Miami Dolphins - The Dolphins name was selected by a contest held in Miami in 1965, they got 20,000 entries for the contest and over 1,000 names were mentioned but Joe Robbie and Danny Thomas chose to go with Dolphins.
New England Patriots - Then owner Billy Sullivan asked a panel of sportswriters for suggestions for a name for their new AFL franchise they were just awarded for Boston in 1959. The original name was the most popular among the writers which was the "Boston Patriots." They went by that name till 1971 but when they moved to Foxborough, Sullivan wanted to change the name to the "Bay State Patriots" but that name was rejected by the NFL, so he went with his second choice the "New England Patriots."
New York Jets - Originally known as the Titans, they changed their name to the New York Jets in 1963 because Shea Stadium was located near La Guardia Airport and the name rhymed with the Major League Baseball team that also played in Shea Stadium at the time, the New York Mets.
Baltimore Ravens - in 1996 the fans in Baltimore decided on the name Ravens in a contest for the relocated Cleveland Browns team because Edgar Allen Poe is buried not far from M&T Bank Stadium. The name was chosen on March 29th because 12 years to the day was when the Baltimore Colts relocated to Indianapolis so it was celebrating the NFL return to Baltimore.
Cincinnati Bengals - According to the team's media guide, founder Paul Brown, who co-founded the Cleveland Browns, chose Bengals in honor of a previous pro football team by the same name. The name "Buckeyes" was submitted by fans but it was rejected because Ohio State was using the name.
Cleveland Browns - In 1945, fans in Cleveland held a contest to choose the name of the team and "Browns" got the most votes in honor of Paul Brown, Cleveland's first head coach, but he originally decided against the name but after other names were selected and shot down because other teams were using the names, Paul Brown relented and thus the Cleveland Browns were born.
Pittsburgh Steelers - The team was originally named the Pirates after the baseball team but in 1940 the team decided a change was needed. They held a naming contest in the newspaper and out of thousands of submissions, Art Rooney selected Steelers in honor of the workers in the steel mills.
Houston Texans - After Houston was awarded an expansion team in 1999, a number of focus group committees came up with several names, after they got it down to five finalists: Bobcats, Stallions, Wildcatters, Apollos, and Texans, owner Bob McNair decided on Texans.
Indianapolis Colts - The first team that used the name Colts was originally the Miami Seahawks but when they were purchased and relocated to Baltimore in 1946, the team held a contest to name the team and the winning name was Colts. The franchise was dissolved in 1951 but was chosen again when the original NFL Dallas Texans (NOT the AFL Dallas Texans that became the Kansas City Chiefs) moved to Baltimore in 1953 under the condition that the Colts name would be used again.
Jacksonville Jaguars - The name of the Jacksonville franchise was chosen about 2 years before Jacksonville was awarded an expansion team in 1993 and Jaguars was the winner, also in the running were Sharks, Stingrays, and Panthers.
Tennessee Titans - Once the Houston Oilers packed up and left Houston, owner Bud Adams originally thought about changing the name to the "Pioneers," but he appointed a committee to find a name that better connected with Nashville. Since the city was nicknamed the "Athens of the South" because of its classical architecture and it's full-scale replica of the Parthenon, the name Titans was chosen in 1999.
Denver Broncos - The Broncos name was chosen when a 25-word entry was submitted in a contest to name the team by Ward M. Vining stating the reasons why the team's name should be Broncos.
Kansas City Chiefs - Originally the Dallas Texans of the AFL, when the team was relocated to Kansas City by owner Lamar Hunt, Kansas City's mayor was known as "the Chief" so that was the name chosen by the team in honor of him in 1963.
Las Vegas Raiders - Another of the original AFL teams in 1960, and a winner in a "Name the Team" contest. After one contest, the name Senors was chosen, but fan and media backlash forced another contest in the Oakland Tribune and Raiders was chosen, the iconic silver and Black did not appear though till Al Davis arrived in 1963.
Los Angeles Chargers - Once again the team got its name from a naming contest in Los Angeles and the winning entry got a trip to Mexico City and Acapulco. Owner/founder Barron Hilton liked the name because USC fans would yell "Charge" during games at the Coliseum, after one season the team relocated to San Diego and moved back to L.A. in 2017.
Dallas Cowboys - Originally named the Rangers by then-owner Clint Murchison when the expansion team was awarded to the city of Dallas in 1959. But a minor league baseball team was already in DFW named the Rangers. So Tex Schramm stated to avoid any confusion, the name needed to be changed. With no public contest at all the name Cowboys was the decision. After a few years, Murchison wanted to change the name back to Rangers, but when that was made public, his office received 1,148 calls and 1,138 of them favored keeping the Cowboys name.
New York Giants - In 1925, Tim Mara decided to build off the success of the Giants baseball team because they would both be playing at the Polo Grounds.
Philadelphia Eagles - Originally known as the Frankford Yellow Jackets, when Bert Bell and Lud Wray bought the struggling franchise in 1933, they relocated the team to Philadelphia and decided on the name Eagles in honor of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal program because an eagle was featured on the emblem.
Washington Commanders - The team was originally in Boston and known as the Braves in their first year of existence in 1932, in 1933 they changed the name to Redskins and in 2020 became known as the Washington Football Team after pressure was ramped up to ditch the racial slur for Native Americans by the team. After 2 years of being the generic name, they decided on the name Commanders because the team name reflects the "gravitas" of a franchise turning 90.
Chicago Bears - The original name of the team was the Decatur Staleys and Chicago Staleys, but when the agreement to keep the name Staleys expired in 1922, team founder George Halas decided to change the name to Bears. He considered calling them the Cubs but felt football players are larger than baseball players so they should be the Bears.
Detroit Lions - Originally the Portsmouth Spartans from 1930-33, when the team moved from Portsmouth, Ohio to Detroit, they decided to be consistent with the baseball team the Detroit Tigers, they settled on the name Lions.
Green Bay Packers - Founded in 1919 and known as the Packers and Indians because of the sponsorship of the Indian Packing Co., a meatpacking company. The name Packers was coined by two newspaper staffers and the team stuck with that name after Acme Packing and Indian Packing merged in 1921 and continued to be the team's main sponsor.
Minnesota Vikings - Several nicknames were suggested when Minnesota was awarded an NFL franchise in 1960, such as Chippewas, Miners, Voyageurs, and Vikings. The Vikings' name was chosen to pay homage to the state's Scandinavian American culture. It was also considered to represent the "Nordic tradition in the northern midwest."
Atlanta Falcons - Atlanta chose the name Falcons as a result of a contest in 1965. The team gives credit to Julia Elliott for the name because as she said, "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." The team has only been named the Falcons since joining the NFL in 1966.
Carolina Panthers - Owner Jerry Richardson wanted the dominant color to be black so the family thought the name Panthers would be best since they are a "powerful, sleek, and strong" animal and that is what a football team should be too.
New Orleans Saints - The name was inspired by the classic hymn, "When the Saints Go Marching In" recorded by Louis Armstrong, a native of New Orleans. The name also represents the city's jazz heritage and is a fitting nod to the franchise being awarded to New Orleans on All Saints Day in 1966.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - This is another team name decided on a contest to select the name of the team in 1974 when Tampa was awarded an expansion franchise. The name is in homage to the 17th-century pirates who explored Florida's Gulf Coast.
Arizona Cardinals - Originally the Chicago Cardinals, then the St. Louis Cardinals, and then the Phoenix Cardinals before they decided on the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals' name was decided on after one of the first owners of the team bought used jerseys from the University of Chicago that were a faded maroon which prompted him to say, "That's not maroon, it's Cardinal red." The name and colors stuck after that.
Los Angeles Rams - Originally in Cleveland, the name Rams was chosen by the first general manager Damon Wetzel who was a fan of the Fordham University Rams. So he brought the name to the NFL and the new Cleveland franchise. After 10 years in Cleveland, they relocated to Los Angeles in 1946, then to St. Louis in 1995, and then back to Los Angeles in 2016.
San Francisco 49ers - When the franchise was born in 1946, Allen E. Sorrell, a co-owner of the team said the name 49ers would be in honor of the "voyagers who had rushed the West for gold." The other owners agreed and the name was applied to the franchise.
Seattle Seahawks - When Seattle was awarded the expansion franchise in 1975, fans were asked to name the team. They got 1,700 different names out of more than 20,000 entries. Other names that were in the entries were Bigfoots, Rainbirds, Chowderheads, Sperm Whales, 747's, Space Needlers, Ding Dongs, and Orangutans. Glad those were left in the entry box.
Well, there is the history of how the 32 NFL teams got their name.
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