“Fair Game” Teams in the NFL

What teams are fair game?  What teams are hands off?

In a previous post, I described my cutoff for teams that are entrenched with tradition (hands off) and teams that are “fair game” for discussions and ideas relating to rebranding and *gasp* relocation.  Click here to read that post.

Basically, I use an arbitrary blanket cutoff date of 1968 for the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball.  Teams that were added as expansion teams, moved, or were drastically rebranded after that date are “fair game.”

The Bungles have been around a while, so is it blasphemy to suggest a new brand?

For the NFL, here are those teams and a quick analysis:

Cincinnati Bengals (AFL expansion, 1968)  The Bengals have been around for quite a while, but I think that they are a franchise worth exploring.  Despite some flashes of competence in the 80s and the 00s, the Bungles are a sad, sad team.  I like Cincinnati as a pro sports city, and don’t see any reason that the Bengals should move.  But rebranding?  Perhaps.  If they were called the Cincinnati Tigers or even the Cincinnati Cats, there would be nothing to say about the team changing.  Their helmets are unique and cool-looking, and orange is an appropriate color.  But Bengals?  Seriously.  Sure Bengal tigers are fierce, but the reference is too specific and would even be questionable for a semi-pro team.  Sport Change Verdict: Stay in Cincy, but consider a name change.

-Seattle Seahawks (expansion, 1976)  Like the Bengals, the Seahawks have had flashes of success, but for the most part have languished in mediocrity for several decades.  Seattle is a large market and a great pro sports city, so they should absolutely have an NFL team.  The nickname Seahawks is very Minor League-ish.  Like a mix between the Erie Seawolves and the OKC RedHawks.  However, I think Seattle and Seahawks have a nice ring and since we’re all so used to it, might as well keep it.  I have one nickname that I came up with for a Seattle franchise, but I think it would be a good name should the NHL come to Seattle.  Look for it in an upcoming post.  Uniforms are not the focus of this blog (we’ll leave that to Paul Lukas) but I do have some opinions.  I like the general color scheme and love the helmet logo.  Though their old unifoms were a little clunky, they were better than the monochrome era and especially the new, terrible, Arena League-worthy suits.  They should’ve kept the grey helmets (the official color of the Pacific Northwest) but incorporated more grey into their jerseys.  Sport Change Verdict: Nothing much to change here.

-Tampa Bay Buccaneers (expansion, 1976)  Tampa is a very questionable market for pro sports, and the Bucs have struggled to fill seats over the years.  If it weren’t for their fluky Super Bowl win in 2002, there would be little good to say about them as a franchise.  I like them in Tampa for now, especially amid the occasional, unfounded rumors that they’re headed to London.  I despise the idea of an NFL team overseas for a variety of reasons, but that’s a topic for another post.  I think Pirates is one of the most ideal pro sports nicknames, but Buccaneers works as well-especially on the gulf coast.  Their old much-hated Bucco Bruce digs were pretty terrific, but the pewter-and-red is a little more respectable.  Sport Change Verdict:  OK for now, but if relocation is a topic, the Bucs should be brought up.

-Indianapolis Colts (relocated from Baltimore, 1984)  The Colts were so painfully extricated from Baltimore, that I imagine Baltimoreans to cringe with resentment whenever they see the Indy Horseshoes.  Baltimore’s franchise should be the Colts, and Indy should’ve chose a new name at the time.  But that is water long under the bridge, and both the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens have established themselves and collected some history.  Looks wise, I think the Colts have one of the best brands in the NFL, though it looked better on Johnny U and Bert Jones than Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck.  It’s a tough call, but I think Indiana holds the Colts too close to their breast for any changes to occur.  Sport Change Verdict:  Nothing is going to change, but it would be fun to think up a new brand for Indy.

-Arizona Cardinals (relocated from St. Louis, 1988)  I’m very glad that nowadays when most sports teams relocate, they rebrand as well.  In the past, the standard was to move everything (name and all) to a new city.  It’s awkward and takes time for the new fans and general sports fans to adjust to.  Worse than that, it’s an insult to the fans in the vacated city and closes the door on the rebirth franchise concept, utilized by the Cleveland Browns.  It’s cool that there used to be a New York Football Giants and a St. Louis Football Cardinals, even though St. Louis stole the Cards from Chicago, where they were named after the cardinal red color of their jerseys.  Phoenix could’ve picked a new name that reflects Arizona, but instead we have the awkward situation wherein the Cardinals are in Phoenix and the Rams are in St. Louis.  Much like I’m doing for the NBA, I’ll have a Vision of Reversion for the NFL and a new franchise for Arizona.  Sports Change Verdict: New brand would be nice, Vision of Reversion (VOR) or otherwise.

Why not stick the Cards back in St. Louis and give Arizona a new identity? Where will the Rams go? Take a wild guess.

-St. Louis Rams (relocated from L.A., 1995) Much of what I have to say about the Rams is similar to what I’ve already said about the Cardinals and Colts.  The Rams are an old franchise that make their mark in L.A. and belong in L.A.  The St. Louis Rams are unique in that they’ve won a Superbowl and established a mini-dynasty in the Greatest Show on Turf era.  St. Louis fell in love with the Rams, and even though the feeling has dissipated through several years of mediocrity, there is still a special place in the spirits of St. Louis fans for the Rams–especially among the younger set.  I remember thinking how stupid it was when they changed their uniforms from blue & yellow to blue & gold.  Change is good when times are tough, not right after a Super Bowl win.  Sports Change Verdict: St. Louis needs a team, but the Rams should revert to L.A.  Look for the VOR.

-Carolina Panthers (expansion, 1995)  How bizarre was it when two expansion teams roared out of the gate in 1995.  Both were 90s teal blue large wildcats from the Deep South.  Impressively, both teams became competitive very early in their existence and the bizarre feeling faded away.  The Panthers were warmly received by their SEC region, and Charlotte proved itself fully capable of supporting a franchise.  Panthers is very good nickname and even the teal works with the silver and white.  Sports Change Verdict: Nothing to change here

-Jacksonville Jaguars (expansion, 1995) Unlike the Panthers, the Jags have struggled mightily to keep seats filled and avoid blackouts.  When the NFL took a flyer on Jacksonville as a pro sports team, they erred.  J-ville can barely support a AA minor league baseball team, let alone a coveted franchise in the cash cow that is the NFL.  The Jaguars were certainly exciting in the Brunell/Taylor era, but several average and below seasons had LA eyeing the Jags lustily.  Then, from out of nowhere came north Florida’s superhero: the mustachioed magician Shahid Khan.  Khan’s deep pockets and enthusiasm for not only the Jaguars but the city of Jacksonville and it’s deep harbors has breathed new life into the franchise and kept the wolves at bay.  For now.  Brand wise, I think the Jags are making the right decision to abandon the teal blue completely.  I think that black and white with gold as a third color would be good.  Jaguars has nice alliteration with Jacksonville, but in the NFL big cat hierarchy, it’s below Lions and Panthers, though above Bengals.  Sports Change Verdict: Things are OK for now, but they should rebrand more aggressively.  Also, if any relocation conversation comes up, the Jags will be mentioned.

-Baltimore Ravens (relocation from Cleveland Browns, 1996)  If you read the Colts section above, you know my feelings about the NFL in Baltimore.  Baltimoreans must’ve felt strange to have Art Modell move the Browns to Baltimore, upsetting many fans in Cleveland.  After all, Bob Irsay did the same thing to them in the 80s.  Alls well that end OK, though, and the Browns are back and Baltimore embraced a new identity: the Ravens.  It was a great idea to use a name that honors Baltimore figure Edgar Allen Poe.  Luckily, the Ravens have won a Super Bowl and been consistently competitive, or Ravens would seem like a silly pro sports name akin to the Jaguars or Bengals.  I’m not a fan of the purple home uniforms, though the road black and white are nice.  Recently they’ve toyed around with solid black, and I think they should make it a permanent switch.  Sports Change Verdict: Nothing to change for now, but dial down the purple.

Tennessee Titans (rebrand from Oilers, 1999)  The Oilers were Houston and it was certainly bizarre when Bud Adams kept them the Tennessee Oilers for a few seasons.  Tennessee has been a decent place for a football city, and it’s especially interesting to have a team right in Nashville.  Titans was a terrific choice for a nickname.  The Jets were once the New York Titans, and of course Denzel Washington famously explained how Titans were greater than the gods.  Gregg Easterbrook calls the Titans the “flaming thumbtacks” because of their logo.  Personally, I like the logo.  The T kind of looks like a sword (appropriate for Greek mythology) and the logo borrows much from Tennessee’s attractive state flag.  I’m not a fan of the two-tone unis, though.  They should consider eliminating one of their two shades of blue.  Sport Change Verdict: Good enough.

The “Flaming Thumbtack” has taken some heat, but I think it’s a pretty cool logo.

-Houston Texans (expansion 2001)  Houston is a huge city and Texas is so football crazy that it’s almost hard to believe that there was no NFL team there for a few years.  When Bud Adams drilled the oil out of Houston’s heart and exported it north, there was vacuum to fill.  Luckily, Paul Tagliabue had promised Cleveland that the Browns would return and the NFL needed to expand to 32 to even things out and facilitate the greatest realignment in major sports.  Adams stilled owned ‘Oilers,’ so Houston needed a new identity.  They truly took the path of less resistance: a literal description of their people.  To make it even more boring, Texans was already once used as an AFL moniker before the Chiefs were in existence.  I liken it to the Washington Nationals brand.  Boring, but simple with little to argue with.  I love their color scheme and uniforms/logo.  The team ain’t half bad these days, either.  Sport Change Verdict: Good. Simple, boring, good.

A few additonal notes:

-Though they were founded well before the arbitrary blanket 1968 cutoff, the Washington Redskins drastically need a new identity.  This is an old issue that’s been tossed around quite a bit lately, and it will get its own Sport Change post sometime soon.

-Though the Raiders relocated in 1995, since it was a reversion to their previous Oakland identity, I ignored it.  I think the Raiders are an important part of football, and nothing needs to change.  Unless they move to LA.  Sport Change would be OK with that.

-I consider the Browns to be one complete franchise in two incarnations.  One of the best and most simple, historic teams in pro sports should’ve had Ray Lewis and Ed Reed leading them to a Super Bowl.  Some day, Cleveland, some day.

To wrap up:

-New brands will be explored for Cincy, Indy, and Arizona.

-A Vision of Reversion scenario will be entertained featuring St. Louis and Los Angeles

-Speaking of LA, I’ll have a post just for LA expansion talk

Thanks for reading.  Comments welcome.  If you’d like to read a similar post about MLB, click here.  For the NBA, click here.



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