The Washington Football Team sparked renewed speculation about his future nickname this week by releasing a video about the rebranding that listed eight possible names. While Jason Wright, the team’s president, Finally said other candidates were also considered, that didn’t stop every fan within 3,000 miles of the capital from weighing the pros and cons of each suggestion.
The list of eight included military-related names such as Armada, Brigade, Commanders, and Defenders; names that, perhaps uncomfortably, kept the “red” of the team’s previous name, RedHogs and RedWolves; as well as the more sedate offerings such as Presidents and the current name, Football Team.
The popularity of certain types of professional team nicknames has increased and decreased over the years. Perhaps a look at history can offer some additional suggestions for Washington.
1922: Anything goes.
When the National Football League was founded under that name in 1922, the teams’ nicknames were everywhere.
Some names would have been timeless in any era: the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. Some sound a little strange to today’s ears: the Buffalo All-Americans and the Evansville (Ill.) Crimson Giants.
And a few were just weird. The Columbus Panhandles? (It’s related to the small panhandle of West Virginia.) The Louisville Brecks? (It was short for Breckenridge, though that doesn’t make much sense.) The Dayton Triangles? Real?
History Suggestions: The Washington Circles. The Washington Pentagon.
1930: Let’s name two.
The Cleveland Indians played in the NFL in 1931, as did the Brooklyn Dodgers. In 1933, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds reunited. Yes, there were some more unusual names (er, the Staten Island Stapletons played from 1929 to 1932), but piggybacking on the success of baseball seemed to be a key business model for the emerging football league.
History Suggestions: The Washington Nationals. Washington Senators.
1940s: Wartime contractions intervene.
Manpower shortages and financial concerns led to several teams merging during World War II. The Steelers and Eagles unofficially became the Steagles in 1943. The following season, the Steelers attempted a merger with the Chicago Cardinals, creating a team that became known as “Card-Pitt.” Or “carpets” for those mean people who found themselves finishing 0-10.
History Suggestions: The Baltimore-Washington RaveTeam. The Washington-Dallas Team Boys.
Early 1960s: The AFL swells.
The new American Football League, which eventually merged with the NFL, had a mix of nicknames, but quite a few had a conquering feel: Chargers, Broncos, Raiders, Titans. The NFL added a few macho teams of its own during this era: the Cowboys and the Vikings.
Suggestions from History: The Washington Firefighters. The Washington Bar Brawlers.
At the end of the sixties: a Grass menagerie arises.
It was the era of the animal, when the Falcons, Dolphins and Bengals joined the leagues (with the Seahawks coming aboard in 1976).
History Suggestions: The Washington Pandas. The Washington Pigeons.
The 80s: old names move west.
The pace at which new teams were added to the NFL slowed a decade later, but franchises looking for better stadium deals happily moved to new cities, while keeping their nicknames. The Raiders, Colts, Cardinals and Rams all did it. (The Browns changed their name to the Ravens—another animal—when they moved to Baltimore in 1996.)
History Suggestions: The Memphis Football Team. The San Antonio soccer team.
Only one new NFL nickname has been adopted lately, the rather bland Houston Texans in 2002. That is, until Washington made the Football Team’s unconventional and temporary roster last year.
So without much precedent, Washington has a chance to start a new era in NFL team naming. Will a choice like Armada usher in a new era of naval names? Will Selecting the Nickname Presidents Result in a Wave of Patriotic Nicknames?
With the field still open and the team trying to stretch the drama, we don’t know which way Washington will go. Well, maybe we know this: don’t expect the Washington Brecks.