Photo of New York Jets players during the national anthem before kickoff. 

Image Credit: KA Sports Photos (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Why are the San Francisco 49ers called the 49ers? What is a Packer? Don't lie. As big and popular as the National Football League is, few fans know the origins of even the team they cheer for. Well let us put an end to all of that ignorance. We did some research and here is how all 32 NFL teams got their nickname. Enjoy!


Arizona Cardinals - The Cardinals are believe it or not, are the longest running football organization dating back to it's origin of 1898 when it was called the Morgan Athletic Club. There have been a ton of name changes and moves from other cities for this organization, so let's keep it simple. The team arrived in Arizona in 1988 from St. Louis. Yes, there was a St. Louis Cardinals baseball team and a St. Louis Cardinals football team which is one of the dumbest things to ever happen in sports. They were called "Cardinals" because of the maroonish-red jerseys that they wore when the team played in Chicago.

Mascot: Big Red




Atlanta Falcons - The Falcons name was chosen in the summer of 1965 as the result of a name the team contest. The Falcon was a popular suggestion but a school teacher from Georgia gave the best reasoning for the name. Among the other possibilities were the Lancers, Firebirds and Thrashers which eventually became the name of the city's now defunct NHL team.

Mascot: Freddie Falcon




Baltimore Ravens - Poet Edgar Allen Poe was the author of the legendary poem "The Raven" which he wrote while living in Baltimore, MD. Poe is also buried in Baltimore. The Ravens logo is designed to reflect the state of Maryland's flag. The nickname was chosen by a poll in the Baltimore Sun; other possibilities were the "Marauders" and the "Americans". Baltimore received the old Cleveland Browns as an expansion in 1996. 

Mascot: Poe, Rise and Conquer




Buffalo Bills - The Bills were originally known as the Buffalo Bisons before holding a contest for a new nickname in 1947. Since the team was owned by Jame Breuil of the Frontier Oil Company, many thought it would be clever to name the team after famous frontiersman Buffalo Bill Cody. The organization ultimately failed and Buffalo was without a football team from 1950 to 1959 until Ralph Wilson acquired an AFL expansion team in 1960. Wilson decided to pay tribute to the old Buffalo franchise and re-adopted the nickname "Bills".

Mascot: Billy Buffalo



Carolina Panthers - Without seeking any input from Charlotte, NC residents, team President Mark Richardson chose the Panthers' nickname in 1995. His reasoning was because a Panther is powerful, sleek and strong and that's what he wanted their team to embody. Mark is the son of Panthers owner Jerry Richardson. Mark also chose the team colors of blue, black and silver which the NFL strongly objected to in the beginning.

Mascot: Sir Purr




Chicago Bears - The Bears are the oldest organization in the NFL along with the Arizona Cardinals who were also founded in Chicago. The Bears were originally called the Decatur Staleys when the team was founded in 1920, named after their sponsor, the Staley Starch Company. In 1921, George Halas who just so happened to be the team's best player, purchased the Staleys. At the time, the Bears were sharing Wrigley Field with the Chicago Cubs baseball team. He explained that since football players are typically bigger than baseball players (Cubs), he would name the team the "Bears". The name stuck.

Mascot: Staley Da Bear




Cincinnati Bengals - Some Bengals fans will tell you that the team was nicknamed the "Bengals" because at the time, the Cincinnati Zoo was one of the only places in the world that housed bengal tigers. That's not true. From 1937-1942, there was a professional football team in Cincinnati nicknamed "The Bengals". When head coach and team owner Paul Brown was given an expansion team in 1968, he decided to pay tribute to the old team by naming the new franchise the Bengals. Many Cincinnati residents wanted the team to be named the Buckeyes. The Brown family were also founders of the Cleveland Browns.

Mascot: Who Dey




Cleveland Browns - A fan contest was conducted by Cleveland ownership in 1945 for the naming of the team. The team was a charter member of the AAFC (All-America Football Conference). Paul Brown was the organization's first head coach and Cleveland residents wanted to name the team after him. He objected and wanted to name the team the "Panthers" which was another popular entry in the contest. When everyone learned that the naming rights to the Cleveland Panthers were taken, Brown accepted the nickname "Browns" although initially reluctant.

Mascot: Chomps, Swagger




Dallas Cowboys - Before Dallas began play in the NFL in 1960, they were nicknamed the "Steers". The team's General Manager (Texas Schramm), however, had second thoughts and wanted to name the team the "Rangers". Unfortunately, Dallas already had a minor league baseball team nicknamed the Rangers. As a spinoff on the Texas-themed nickname "Rangers", Schramm decided to call the team the "Cowboys". Today, the Cowboys are perhaps the most popular team in the National Football League.

Mascot: Rowdy




Denver Broncos - Denver was one of the charter members of the AFL in 1960 and held a fan contest to name the team. 162 fans responded and the nickname "Broncos" was the most popular entry. The name pays tribute to an old baseball team that played in Denver during the 1920s.

Mascot: Miles, Thunder II



Detroit Lions - In 1934, a radio executive (George Richards) purchased the Portsmouth Spartans (Ohio) and brought the team to Detroit, MI. The football team initially shared Tiger Stadium with Major League Baseball's Detroit Tigers. Like the Chicago Bears and Chicago Cubs, Richards' decided to name the football team in reference to the baseball team. He went on to add that the Lion is monarch in the Jungle and he hoped that the Lions would one day be a monarch in the NFL. He was wrong.

Mascot: Roary



Green Bay Packers - The Packers have been in one location longer than any other NFL franchise and thus, have the oldest name. They were founded in 1919 by Earl "Curly" Lambeau. At the time, Lambeau was employed by the Indian Packing Company. He asked the company for money to help purchase the team's equipment and uniforms. Lambeau was given $500 on condition that the team be named after the Indian Packing Company. The company eventually changed it's name to the Acme Packing Company but went out of business some years later. When the team's new stadium was built in 1957, they named it Lambeau Field in honor of their founder. The Packers are also the only team in the NFL owned by it's fan base.

Mascot: None




Houston Texans - The Houston Texans avoided what possibly could have been some of the worst nicknames in NFL history when they chose "Texans" as their nickname. After the Houston Oilers vacated for Nashville to become the Tennessee Titans, the Texans were awarded an expansion team in 1999. A group of advisers narrowed the choices down to five nicknames; Texans, Wildcatters, Apollos, Bobcats and Stallions. Although the choice was announced in the fall of 2000, the team did not play it's first game as an expansion team until 2002. Believe it or not, the Kansas City Chiefs actually owned certain rights to the "Texans" nickname. Texans owner Bob Mcnair was forced to make a deal with Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt in order to use it. The Texans nickname had been used by a variety of teams over the years.

Mascot: Toro



Indianapolis Colts - The city of Indianapolis inherited the Baltimore Colts in 1984. The state of Maryland had a strong tradition of horse breeding so ownership nicknamed the team the "Colts". The original Baltimore Colts played in the short-lived All-America Football Conference. The name was revived in 1953 under a new team.

Mascot: Blue



Jacksonville Jaguars - The nickname "Jaguars" was chosen in a fan contest that was conducted extremely early. Along with the Carolina Panthers, the Jaguars began in 1995 as an expansion team. The nickname had already been chosen by the winter of 1991. The city of Jacksonville hadn't received word that they would even be receiving a franchise until 1993. Other nicknames that were considered include the "Sharks" and "Stingrays". At the time of the contest, the Jacksonville Zoo housed the oldest living Jaguar in the United States.

Mascot: Jaxson de Ville



Kansas City Chiefs - Like the Washington Redskins, the Chiefs have been under some scrutiny from Native American groups that find their nickname offensive. The Chiefs were founded in 1960 as the Dallas Texans. When Lamar Hunt was shopping for a new city, Kansas City Mayor H. Roe Bartle told Hunt that he would help Hunt sell 35K season tickets as a sign of good faith. A fan contest was created not long thereafter. The most popular nickname in the contest was "Chiefs" in honor of Mayor Bartle due to his part of founding a Native American Honor Society associated with the Boy Scouts of America. The Kansas City area also had strong ancestral ties to Native Americans. Other nicknames that were considered were the "Mules" and the "Royals". The "Royals" nickname had not been used yet for the baseball team (Kansas City Royals) which was founded in the late 1960s.

Mascot: Warpaint, KC Wolf


Los Angeles Chargers - The Chargers played their inaugural season in Los Angeles before Barron Hilton moved the team to San Diego. He held a name the team contest and as soon as he saw the suggested "Chargers" nickname, he didn't open another letter. Hilton supposedly liked the name because of it's affiliation with Carte Blanche Credit Cards which is definitely a weird story. Hilton was an heir to Hilton hotels and is the grandfather of Paris Hilton. The San Diego Chargers relocated to Los Angeles in 2017.

 Mascot: None



Los Angeles Rams - Both the Rams owner (Homer Marshman) and General Manager (Damon Wetzel) came up with the nickname "Rams" because Wetzel was a big fan of the Fordham Rams in college football. Marshman instantly approved. The organization originated in Cleveland during the 1930s as a member of the AFL before moving to Los Angeles, CA in 1946. The Los Angeles Rams played almost 50 years in LA before moving to St. Louis, MO in 1994. The St. Louis Rams then once again relocated to Los Angeles in 2016.

 Mascot: Rampage



Miami Dolphins - The Dolphins were Miami's expansion team and began play in 1966. A fan contest was held in 1965 and fans decided on "Dolphins" due to Miami's proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. Owner Joe Robbie approved of the nickname and went on to add that the Dolphin is one of the fastest and smartest animals in the ocean.

Mascot: T.D.




Minnesota Vikings - The Minnesota Vikings were founded in 1961 in Minneapolis. The name Minnesota was included to accurately represent both cities; St. Paul and Minneapolis. The nickname "Vikings" was chosen by the team's General Manager Bert Rose. Rose cited that many residents of the Twin Cities were of Scandinavian ancestry and the Viking warriors were tough and feared by all they were encountered by.

Mascot: Ragner, Viktor




New England Patriots - A name the team contest for fans was conducted by the Patriots organization in 1960. Only 74 fans provided input. They were given the nickname "Patriots" because the Boston area was the birthplace of the American Revolution. In 1971, the team changed it's name from the Boston Patriots to the New England Patriots to accurately represent the surrounding states including Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut.

Mascot: Pat Patriot



New Orleans Saints - The New Orleans States-Item newspaper held a name the team contest for fans during the 1960s. The NFL awarded New Orleans with the Saints on All Saints Day (November 1, 1966). Saints owner John Mecom chose the name as an ode the popular song "When the Saints go Marching In" and also because New Orleans was the birthplace of Jazz Music. New Orleans' former professional basketball team was nicknamed the "New Orleans Jazz" but the team eventually fled to Utah.

Mascot: Sir Saint, Gumbo



New York Giants - The Giants were founded in 1925. At that time, New York already had a baseball team nicknamed the "Giants". So to distinguish, they incorporated the team as "New York Football Giants, Inc". The baseball Giants eventually moved to San Francisco in 1957 so there was no more confusion from that point on. To this day, fans still reference the team as the "Football Giants". The city of St. Louis also had a football Cardinals and a baseball Cardinals at one time.

Mascot: None




New York Jets - The New York Jets were founded in 1959 as the New York Titans. The club faced bankruptcy. An investment group led by Sonny Werblin purchased the team in 1963. Since the team was to play it's home games at Shea Stadium near Laguardia Airport, they called the team the "Jets". Today, both the New York Giants and New York Jets share Metlife Stadium for their home games.

Mascot: None



Oakland Raiders - Let's just go ahead and put this out in the open. The Raiders first season was in 1960. Before the season began, a fan contest was held to decide what the team's nickname would be. The city of Oakland once considered calling the football team the "Lakers". There. I said it. How dumb is that? The name that was eventually decided on was "The Senors". The team's General Manager (Chet Soda) and a group of investors objected and overruled the decision. Ownership came up with the name "Raiders". To this day, no one knows why the nickname "Raiders" was chosen by ownership.

Mascot: Raider Rusher



Philadelphia Eagles - When the Eagles were founded in 1933, the United States was recovering from the Great Depression and the city of Philadelphia had been hit hard by it. President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced a "New Deal" program through the National Recovery Administration. The NRA's symbol was a flying eagle. Owner Bert Bell hoped the franchise would also get a new deal and chose the nickname "Eagles". If you ask me, this is probably the second most Patriotic nickname in the NFL aside from the New England Patriots.

Mascot: Swoop, Air Swoop



Pittsburgh Steelers - Believe it or not, from 1933 to 1940, the Steelers were actually called the "Pittsburgh Pirates". Owner Art Rooney held a fan contest to decide the new nickname of the football team in 1940. A steel worker in Pittsburgh by the name of Joe Santoni came up with the name "Steelers" because of the area's booming steel industry. Santoni was given free season tickets every season until his death in 2003.

Mascot: Steely Mcbeam




San Francisco 49ers - The 49ers were founded in 1946 when they played in the All America Football Conference (AAFC). They were named after the men that ventured into the Sierra Nevada Mountains and San Francisco area in 1849 during the Gold Rush era. This is why the team sports gold helmets on the field.

 Mascot: Sourdough Sam



Seattle Seahawks - The nickname "Seahawks" was chosen in a name the team contest on June 17th, 1975. More than 20,000 fans submitted an entry and roughly 150 fans suggested the nickname "Seahawks". A minor league hockey team that played in Seattle during the 1950s was also named "Seahawks". Seahawks are Ospreys and are found in habitats where there are a lot of fish and can be seen quiet often in the Pacific Northwest. Other nicknames that were considered include the Seagulls, Lumberjacks and Pioneers.

 Mascot: Taima, Blitz, Boom




Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Tampa Bay's front office held a name the team contest for fans in 1975. The front office then formed an advisory board to choose a nickname among the more than 400 submissions. The nickname"Buccaneers" was the most popular suggestion. It references the many Pirates that supposedly sailed the Florida coastal waters many years ago. No other team incorporates the team's theme into their home stadium quiet like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

 Mascot: Captain Fear



Tennessee Titans - After the Houston Oilers moved to Nashville in 1995, the team held the "Oilers" nickname for two seasons before owner Bud Adams decided to rename the team. He wanted a nickname that strength, leadership and heroics. Adams allowed fans to submit their suggestions while also forming a board to choose a new nickname. The nickname "Titans" was ultimately chosen - the former nickname of the old New York Jets.

 Mascot: T-Rac



Washington Redskins - Like St. Louis and New York, there was also once a Boston Braves baseball team and a Boston Braves football team. After a dismal season in 1932, owner George Preston Marshall decided to change the team's nickname from "Braves" to "Redskins". When the Redskins moved to Washington, DC in 1937, the team kept their nickname. Word is Marshall came up with the name "Redskins" to honor the team's coach William Henry Dietz. Fast forward to present day and the Redskins are on the verge of possibly being forced to vacate their nickname due to pressure from Native American groups.

 Mascot: None


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