The Aints to the Eaters: Ranking the ten best NFL team nicknames

Planet Sport takes an affectionate look at some of the cleverest, weirdest and most well-deserved NFL team nicknames of all time.

No other professional sport in the world does nicknames as well as the NFL, for the simple reason that while the Rossoneri, Socceroos and the Indomitable Lions are impressive football monikers, none of them can hold a candle to any league where one of the sides was nicknamed "The Over the Hill Gang"!

That nickname doesn't even make our list, which just goes to show how formidable the rest of them are, so sit back and enjoy our trip down memory lane, as we bring you our top ten NFL team nicknames.

10. The Aints

Unsurprisingly, the best NFL nicknames usually apply to successful sides, because quite frankly, no one wants to go to the effort of naming a rubbish team!

However, we couldn't resist starting our list with a nickname that is now held in great affection among Saints fans, despite the fact that it emanated from one of the worst periods of their history!

1980 was a dark time in the Big Easy as the Saints lost their first 14 games, causing an exasperated local Sports Broadcaster to advise New Orleans fans to wear paper bags over their heads at the team's home games!

Of course many fans duly complied, leading to one of the most unique sights in NFL history, while some really threw themselves into it, writing "the Aints" on their new attire!

New Orleans Aints - bagheads

New Orleans eventually finished 1-15, endured two further losing seasons but their fans never lost the gallows humour that saw them through the difficult times, and when the good times finally rolled the nickname was also rolled out once again, this time with a more positive connotation!

9. The Killer B's

Sometimes the nicknames just pick themselves and while this term of endearment for the 1982 Miami Dolphins defence scores 0/10 for imagination, it's certainly 10/10 for practicality!

Because, when six of your defensive starters' surnames begin with the letter B, what on earth else are you going to call them?

8. Sacksonville

As strange as it may seem to newer NFL fans, there was once a time when the Jacksonville Jaguars were good, and even more unbelievably, it was as recently as 2017!

The Jags defence was so commanding that they were also known as "Sacksonville", a nickname so beautiful in its simplicity that you just have to believe that from the second they were formed in 1993, Jags fans and media were just waiting for the opportunity to utilise it!

And that moment finally arose in 2017, as their defence stacked up 55 sacks, second only to the Pittsburgh Steelers in that category and enough to propel the Jags to the AFC Championship game.

7. The Steel Curtain

Pittsburgh Steelers

Speaking of the Steelers, the famous "Steel Curtain" defence was the backbone of a Pittsburgh side that won the Super Bowl four times in six years between 1975 and 1980. A play on the "Iron Curtain" phrase coined by Winston Churchill, the Steel Curtain nickname actually came about as a result of a 1971 radio contest.

And as the decade wore on, the impenetrable nature of the Steelers defence justified their rock-hard nickname, led by the equally well-monikered "Mean" Joe Greene!

While four rings in six years is a monumental achievement, the Steel Curtain's finest hour was actually in 1976, a year when the Steelers lost to Oakland in the AFC Championship game.

Early in the season, the team were as limp as the terrible towels swung by their fans, falling to 1-4 and losing starting quarterback Terry Bradshaw to injury.

What followed was arguably the greatest run of defensive performances in NFL history as the Steel Curtain shut tight and Pittsburgh recorded a remarkable five shutouts in their next nine games, allowing a paltry 3.1 points per game on their way to the playoffs.

6. The Monsters of the Midway

Chicago Bears NFL

Ask any British fan in their 40's what their earliest memories of the NFL are and many of them will invariably say the '85 Bears, Mike Ditka and of course William Perry.

The 350 pound "Refrigerator" and the rest of the Bears defence were so dominant that the "Monsters of the Midway" nickname, inspired by a popular area of the Windy City and used to describe their defence in 1940, was gleefully resurrected.

And monsters they were, ranked first in the NFL in points and yardage allowed, boasting the league's sack leader in defensive end Richard Dent and helping the Bears to reach the playoffs with a 15-1 regular season record.

However, Chicago were just getting started and posted two straight shutouts in the postseason before steamrolling the New England Patriots 46-10 in the Super Bowl, a game which included a memorable touchdown for Perry.

And if you haven't had the pleasure already, we would highly recommend checking out the "Super Bowl Shuffle" on YouTube, a song firmly in the novelty category but which was remarkably nominated for a Grammy.

Proof that the Chicago Bears really could do no wrong in 1985!

5. New York Sack Exchange

New York Jets NFL

When it comes to the New York Jets, being called "Gang Green" is all well and good but we can't include a nickname that takes its inspiration from a degenerative tissue disease - even if it does refer to the Jets!

Instead we'll focus on former NYC Police Officer Dan O'Connor, who is an unlikely part of Jets history after winning a magazine competition in 1981, coming up with the "New York Sack Exchange" nickname for the defensive front of his beloved team.

We would have called them "The Giant Green Sacking Machine", but that's just us!

It's no surprise to learn that the front four of Mark Gastineau, Joe Klecko, Marty Lyons and Abdul Salaam fully warranted their collective name, leading the league in sacks in 1981, as the Jets reached the 1982 AFC Championship game.

However, what is less well-known is that the frequency with which the New York sack Exchange brought down the opposition quarterback actually contributed to the NFL beginning to count sacks as an official statistic for the very first time.

4. Big Blue Wrecking Crew

Lawrence Taylor New York Giants

Former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms may be one of the luckiest NFL players in history. Not because he's a two-time Super Bowl winner but due to the fact he is one of the only quarterbacks in the mid-80's who didn't have to face the Big Blue Wrecking Crew and arguably the greatest defensive player of all time, Lawrence Taylor.

Simms has spoken on numerous occasions about how relieved he was that he played on the same side as LT, although we would imagine training was no picnic!

His fellow NFC East signal callers were not so fortunate and from 1986 to 1990, the Giants dominated the division off the back of a fearsome defensive unit more than worthy of their imposing nickname.

And that divisional dominance extended to the NFL in general, as the Giants won two Super Bowls in 1987 and 1991, the latter run including a remarkable stretch of 10 straight games where Big Blue conceded less than 20 points.

3. The Greatest Show on Turf

Marshall Faulk Rams

One of the most flamboyant nicknames in NFL history is also worthy of a lofty place on this list, given that it is one of the few that references a team's offence. And what an offence it was as the St Louis Rams side of the early 2000's was one of the greatest attacking forces in NFL history.

Originally referred to as "The Greatest Show on Earth", which was a reference to the famous circus marketing slogan, some bright spark replaced "earth" with "turf" and one of the best nicknames in NFL history was born.

And it was well deserved too, as led by 2-time NFL MVP Kurt Warner at quarterback and ably assisted by star running back Marshall Faulk and wide receivers Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and Ricky Proehl, the Rams set a new standard in offensive play between 1999 and 2001.

Records tumbled like Super Bowl confetti and speaking of the big game, the Rams made two appearances, beating the Tennessee Titans in 2000 and narrowly losing to a Tom Brady-inspired New England Patriots side in 2002.

You'd be reading until Super Bowl 75 if we laid out all the records that the rampant Rams broke in this historic period, but the most impressive statistic is that the 1,569 points they plundered, remains to this day the most points scored by an NFL team over any three-year stretch.

2. The Purple People Eaters

Minnesota Vikings fans NFL

One of the more obscure sobriquets (you can tell we're running out of synonyms by now) on this list is also one of the best, with the Minnesota Vikings defensive line that terrorised opposition quarterbacks for a decade from the late sixties given the name "The Purple People Eaters".

The inspiration for this gem of a nickname came from a little-known song from the 1950's called, drumroll please, "The Purple People Eater".

So it's no surprise that one of the most dominant forces in NFL history came to be known by this moniker, given the colour of their jerseys and their predilection for tearing into the opposition with the enthusiasm of a hot dog eating champion!

They also had a formidable motto which must have sent chills down the spine of many an NFL signal caller, which was simply "Meet at the quarterback."

With 19 Pro Bowl selections and two Hall of Fame berths between them, Alan Page, Carl Eller, Jim Marshall and Gary Larsen, spearheaded a golden era of Vikings football that led to 10 divisional titles and four Super Bowl appearances from 1968 onwards.

The only thing that was missing was a Super Bowl victory, but the Purple People Eaters' place in both Minnesota and NFL history is assured, as is the almost comparable prize of the runners up spot in this list!

1. The Legion of Boom

Seattle Seahawks thunder

It was a close-run run thing but for us the greatest nickname in NFL history has to be "The Legion of Boom".

And most comic book fans and pro wrestling enthusiasts of a certain age will know exactly where this nickname came from, as the Legion of Doom were a group of Marvel supervillains, before the name was adopted by one of the most popular WWF tag teams of the 90's.

And in 2012, when a Seattle Seahawks fan on Twitter suggested a similar moniker for their all-action secondary, the "Legion of Boom" was born!

The beauty of this nickname was not just that it conveyed the effectiveness of the Seahawks defensive backfield, but the swagger with which Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and company went about their business.

Legion of Doom

And it was so popular that the entire Seattle defence soon adopted it, with good reason too as during the Legion of Boom era, the Seahawks won three division titles, two NFC championships, and a Super Bowl.

To this day the Legion of Boom remains one of the most well-known and popular nicknames in NFL history, and one which Seattle fans would dearly love to have the justification to resurrect in the coming years!

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