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The Great, the Bad and the Awful – Team Nicknames in the NFL

In any sport there are some great nicknames, there are some bad nicknames, and there are some truly awful nicknames. We begin with the teams of the NFL, and with anything in the NFL, immediately there are some strong contenders for all three categories. What makes a team nickname great then you ask, well I will be honest, this is entirely subjective and my opinion alone.

That being said I would love to hear from you regarding the picks below. Which ones do you agree with? More importantly which do you disagree with? Which team have I missed on this list? Let’s begin with the Great, to start as we wish to carry on.

The Great

The Greatest Show on Turf

How do you start a list about great nicknames without The Greatest Show on Turf? Answer is you can’t. The first team give this famous moniker were the 1992 Houston Oilers, known for their wide-open offense. They may have been the first, but it was popularised in the mainstream by the St. Louis Rams between 1999 and 2001. Every time the Rams took to the field, you knew excitement would follow.

Image Credit – SB Nation

No Fly Zone

From one great secondary to another, the No-Fly Zone synonymous with the 2015 Denver Broncos, specifically their all-pro Cornerbacks, Chris Harris Jr and Aqib Talib. The whole defense were excellent that year, but you don’t get a nickname specifically for unit if you are not playing at another level. You want to pass on this team, good luck, because you just entered a No-Fly Zone, works right?

Legion of Boom

One of the most feared defensive units in NFL history emanated from Emerald city and ran out for the Seattle Seahawks. The players were big both in stature and personality, hitting with a ferociousness not normally seen in defensive backfield. The name is apt for the type of players the Seahawks had in their secondary and the nod to the supervillains of the Legion of Doom gives a real menace to them.

Image Credit – Watch FANTOM

Big Blue Wrecking Crew

Anchored by Lawrence ‘LT’ Taylor (More on this nickname later), The Big Blue Wrecking Crew gets the nod as a great nickname because it has a real ring to it. The late 80s defense of the New York Giants was destructive and is seen in the league as one of the best ever. You planned and practiced all week before you arrived at MetLife Stadium, only to face a crew ready to wreak havoc.  

New York Sack Exchange

This one is a little corny, but you know what makes a great nickname, being the reason the NFL begins counting a statistic. This is something that the 1981 Jets Defensive Line can make claim to as the NFL began counting Sacks as a statistic due to their ability to bring down the Quarterback. The Stock exchange is loud, in your face and messy. The New York Sack Exchange was the same for opposing Quarterbacks of the era.

Image Credit – Gang Green Nation

Honourable Mentions

Steel Curtain – A great name, historic links too, but a little too simple. There is no real invention here.

No-Name Defence – The undefeated Dolphins used this signature, however outside of NFL circles it does not have the same reputation.

The Bad

The Boogeymen

Naming your Linebacker Corps after a children’s nightmare is not quite as terrifying as you may think it is. By the time most people reach their teenage years, they no longer fear the Boogeyman, therefore grown men will be unlikely to be scared by this nickname. The players are great, but this nickname gives them practically zero fear factor.

Image Credit – MassLive.com

Purple Murder

Where do I even begin with this one? The Purple Murder is a nickname given to the Baltimore Ravens, which seems like a funny play on words, however it’s a Murder of Crows, not of Ravens. This also reminds the NFL world of the accusations levied at one of their greatest ever defensive players. All in all this nickname is just bad.

Da Bears

A Nickname coined from a popular Saturday Night Live sketch in the 90s, this quickly became a nickname that Bears fans loved and was even retrospectively given to the great 1985 Bears team. What Chicago fans seem to fail to see though is that this sketch is absolutely ridiculing them by showing extremely biased Chicago fans. This nickname is bad, and the fact the fans love it so much, kind of makes it worse.

Image Credit – WGN Radio

Gang Green

Gangs are scary, Gangs in New York are both scary and the subject for an excellent film, Gang Green is a horrendous medical condition. I understand the Jets were trying to be intimidating by calling themselves Gang Green, but instead whenever anybody hears this nickname they just think of an infection, something that is rotten, no unlike the 2020 New York Jets. The nickname fits, but it is a bad nickname.

Crunch Bunch

The affectionate nickname given to the 1981-83 Linebackes of the New York Giants. The thing is this name is not particularly clever and as a 90s kid this brings up memories of munch bunch yoghurts, which is about the furthest thing from threatening. Bear in mind in the late 80s the same team went by the Big Blue Wrecking Crew and you realise this nickname is just bad.

Image Credit – Reddit

Honourable Mentions

The Killer Bees – Great idea to name your defense the Killer Bees which 8 of the starting 11 have B’s in their name, does not really work when your colours are Aqua and Orange.

Orange Crush – A song focused on anti-war commentary or a second-rate Orange Drink, either way both bad nicknames for a NFL team looking to intimidate their opponents.

The Awful


The New Orleans Aint’s is an awful nickname, why? Because they will not be bad forever. The problem with naming a team based on a bad record in 1980 is inevitably they will at some point start winning again. Case and point, the Saints have dominated their division, holding the most titles and they currently on a 4 streak of division titles. The Aint’s is not a clever nickname and no matter how hard their rivals try, it just is not true.

Image Credit – The New York Times

Jackson 5

The 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars secondary decided to call themselves the Jackson 5, let it sink in that for absolutely no reason they called themselves this. A group that while successful were always really about 1 really talented guy and 4 backups. The name does not really instil fear into the opposition and does not really make sense.


The nickname given the Cincinnati Bengals during a time when the team regular struggled to make any kind of headway either through the draft or free agency. Another nickname which does not really make sense. Yes, for a while the Bengals seemed to be anti-draft, not that they did not want to do it, more they loved to self-sabotage. Problem is the rest of the league is just as bad.

Image Credit – Stripe Hype


A bit of a running theme here of teams getting a nickname when they play bad and it sticks even when they improve. The New England Patriots got this treatment with the Patsies, but for a team who for at least the last 20 years has been allergic to losing, it is a sad reminder that fans cling to anything they can to feel better about their own bad team. This is me saying, have a little invention in your naming of a team other it will come back to bite you.

The Miami Pound Machine

Sounds more like the title of a weird adult movie set in South Beach than anything to do with American football. This became the nickname of the late 80s and early 90s Miami Dolphins defense. They were named this after famed Miami resident Gloria Estefan’s band, but for anyone who does not have a handle of Latin American music of the time, the name does not give off the right vibes.

Image Credit – Discogs

Honourable Mentions

Purple People Eaters – Awful nickname, not saying it is not incredible, but it is really awful.

The Legion of Zoom – Copying a popular nickname is one thing, trying to change it to fit what you want and still get the infamy, that’s awful.

So there you have it, some Great, some Bad and some truly Awful, but what do you think? Did I get it wrong? Did I miss your favourite? Do you hate all nicknames and as a result all fun? Let me know, I would love to hear what you think.

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