How 10 NFL Teams Got Their Names

There are more to successful NFL franchises than just good players. Colors, logos, and names all are important factors to take into consideration when branding a marketable football team. With the average NFL team being worth $1.04 billion, there is no question that many names have been scrutinized before being printed en masse on uniforms across the world.

The NFL came into existence in 1920 with one conference and 14 teams. In 1960, the league expanded to the AFC and NFC that is familiar to today’s sports fans. With the addition of numerous teams to fill out the two conferences, many clubs came up with their iconic names through fan votes and newspaper polls.

However, plenty of teams have a more unique story than just a simple vote.

Here are 10 interesting NFL team names and how the franchises came up with them:


The Baltimore Ravens that won Super bowl XLVII actually started their long history as the original Cleveland Browns. However, this story gets far more convoluted. The initial Baltimore NFL team was actually called the Colts. In 1984, the Baltimore Colts moved to Indianapolis where they found many years of success and continue to do so to this day. In 1996, the original Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore.

Upon the uprooting, then-Browns owner, Art Modell, tried to buy back the Colts name, but to no avail. No longer wanting to carry on the Browns tradition, Modell ran a newspaper poll to rename the Baltimore-based team. The winning name was the “Ravens” as an homage to Baltimore’s famous poet, Edgar Alan Poe, whose perhaps most famous work went by the same name.



The Bears were one of the original teams when the NFL first began. However, they were not known as the Bears then. Back in 1920, the Chicago-based football team were called the Decatur Staleys. Their namesake came from the food starch company A.E. Staley, who established the club in Decatur, Illinois.

The name, however, did not stick. Many fans of the Staleys referred to the team as the Bears as a sign of cohesion with the Chicago Cubs baseball team. When Staley Starch Company sold the rights to the team, the name change became official.



The Browns have one of the most complex name stories in  NFL history. As mentioned earlier, the Cleveland Browns have gone through a couple incarnations. When first founded, the team name was voted upon in a newspaper poll. The unanimous decision was “The Browns” in honor of their popular coach, Paul Brown. However, the coach was not a fan of the name and opted to name the team the Panthers. Much like many teams on this list, the Panther name did not last very long under the Cleveland banner. Two months after coining the team the Panthers, then-owner, Mickey McBride, honored the contest rules and changed the name back to the Browns.

The Cleveland Browns then moved to Maryland and made their transformation into the Baltimore Ravens. However, in 1999 the Cleveland Brown name was resurrected when an expansion franchise was ordered for the sports-crazy Indiana city. Uniquely enough, both the Ravens and today’s Browns tout the original Browns’ lineage as a part of their club’s history.


The Cowboys weren’t always the Cowboys. Originally, the Texas based team went by the name “The Steers.”

However, GM Texas E. Schramm was afraid that the name would leave the team up for ridicule, seeing as a steer is a castrated bull. The franchise changed their name to the Rangers. The new name also did not stick.

In 1960, when the NFL was going through an expansion, the Dallas-based team changed their name one final time. To avoid any confusion with the baseball team, the Rangers, the Dallas Cowboys became the official name of this Lone-Star state franchise.


The inaugural Superbowl Champions received their name from their first sponsor, the Indian Packing Company.

Continuing on with the packing tradition, their next sponsor was the Acme Packing Company. However, Acme would find themselves going out of business shortly after. The Packers were able to keep their club afloat during these trying times by selling public stock in the team.


Originally, the Jets went by the name the New York Titans (no relation to the Titans of today).

However, the name did not stick as they became the green-and-white Jets of today in 1963. The name originally spawned from the idea of having this New York-based team play in Shea Stadium. The Mets’ famous field is located right next to LaGuardia Airport. The idea was the Jets name would be a play on the next door airport but with a modern twist


Like many NFL teams, Oakland’s name was originally decided by a fan contest. However, Raiders was not the winner. Fans chose the name Oakland Señors to represent this California-based team. However, the name would not hold. Many newspapers complained that they did not have the abilities to type the letter “N” with the accent above it. Plagued with complaints and ridicule, the club ended up deeming their team the name of the number two winner in the poll- the Raiders.



The Eagles were a franchise created in response to the Frankford Yellow Jackets going bankrupt in 1931.

The NFL searched for over a year to replace the team. Finally, owners Bert Bell and Lud Wray were given the franchise rights to the Yellow Jackets. Their response was to start a brand-new franchise, by the name of the Eagles.

Inspired by the Blue Eagle insignia emblazoned on the National Recovery Administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, the Philadelphia Eagles were born.

The Yellow Jackets lineage is not considered a part of modern-day Eagles’ history.



The Bucs was a name that was on voted on, but unlike many other teams mentioned earlier, this was not decided by the public. The Buccaneers were chosen to be named such by NFL execs, Tampa Bay management, and local newspapers. The name comes from the historical pirate raids that transpired in Florida during the 16th century. The tradition of honoring these raids still holds true today as thousands flock to the coast each year in celebration of the annual Gasparilla Parade.


The Tennessee Titans did not always hail from Tennessee, nor were they always Titans. In 1997, the Houston Oilers moved to Tennessee and became the Tennessee Oilers.

However, unlike the Houston area, Tennessee is not known for its oil. So, in 1999 the club changed the name to the Titans. The name was decided upon through a combination of ownership decision and fan votes. Then-Titans owner, Bud Adams sided with the Titans name over runners-up that included the Wranglers, the Copperheads, and the Tornadoes.