Since the NFL adopted free agency and a salary cap, fewer players now spend their entire career with one team, let alone an entire group of players staying together for many years. Often times those individuals who played together year after year created an identity to the fans that support their team as well as throughout all of football.
That identity in turn led to nicknames being created for those players and teams emblematic of their success and style of play and added to NFL lore and mystique.
Pro football nicknames have been a part of the NFL for decades and now? Now it seems that only individuals garnish monikers, and it’s all about me, me, me, and not we, we, we.
Has free agency stifled the creativity of fans and teams’ public relations and marketing departments? Make up a nickname, somebody! Somebody please come up with something good. This is the National Football League? It’s become the Nicknameless Football League!
You had the Los Angeles Rams' Fearsome Foursome in the ‘60s, and in the ‘70s the Dallas Cowboys had its Doomsday Defense and then later Dallas became America’s Team. The Washington Redskins were the Over the Hill Gang, and Miami was winning Super Bowls with their No Name Defense while the Electric Company was opening up holes for O.J. Simpson in Buffalo and turning on the Juice.
The St. Louis Cardinals were the Cardiac Cardinals and Atlanta had its Gritz Blitz. Baltimore had the Sack Pack, the Denver Broncos their Orange Crush defense and the Minnesota Vikings front four was known as the Purple People Eaters, but the decade’s best defense was Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain.
The Redskins’ success in the ‘80s spawned the Hogs, the Smurfs and the Fun Bunch, the New York Giants had their Big Blue Wrecking Crew, Miami its Killer Bees on defense, the New York Jets defensive line became the Sack Exchange and the Chicago Bears turned once again into the Monsters of the Midway.
In Philadelphia, Gang Green had set in on defense and in Denver, John Elway had The Three Amigos to throw to.
The past two decades have seen a further decrease in nicknames for groups of players in the NFL. In the ‘90s, Pittsburgh once again rose to power in the AFC largely on the strength of their defense which was known as Blitzburgh; however, the decade belonged to Dallas largely because of The Triplets.
The decade closed with the St. Louis Rams having The Greatest Show on Turf and since then, the league has been void of group and team nicknames.
Hearing those nicknames immediately conjures up images and memories of those players and games in the minds of NFL fans long after those individuals’ playing days are over.
Literature has Charles Dickens’ “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,’ from A Tale of Two Cities, NFL Films has the deep voice of John Facenda stating, “Pittsburgh’s great Steel Curtain defense; in all of pro football there is no match for it.”
So I ask you, NFL fan, to take up the gauntlet and come up with a nickname for the ages. Opportunity awaits.