Although some may seem straightforward at first glance, many NFL team logos have a rich history. Numerous teams have tinkered with their original logo by changing colors or a particular image — though all have generally maintained the same theme and tradition since their formation.
Football fans immediately associate a team’s logo with that team, often without thinking what exactly that logo is or how it came about. Especially with the Super Bowl this weekend, it’s as good a time as any to dig into some of the NFL team logos and their meanings:
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
The origins of the Steelers’ logo and name tie in with the city of Pittsburgh’s history of heavy industry. The city saw its steel and iron industries develop quickly in the 1830’s, becoming one of the nation’s strongest producers by 1860.
On the left is the Steelmark logo, which was representative of the American Iron and Steel Institute. It contains three diamond shapes (hypocycloids). The team used the logo in a marketing campaign to educate consumers regarding the integral nature of steel.
In 1969, they implemented the three materials needed to produce steel — orange represents ore, yellow represents coal, and blue represents steel scrap. The Steelers petitioned the AISI to alter the word “Steel” to “Steelers,” with the resulting logo being similar to what we see today.
2. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons’ logo is a falcon in flight with its wings in a downward position. Its looks haven’t changed much since the team’s introduction in 1966. However, in 2003, they added red streaks to the hawk, as well as a more stretched-out neck and separated feathers.
The reason for the hawk’s shape is that, upon close inspection, you can see its resemblance to the letter ‘F’ — Falcons. The team credits its association with the hawk to high school teacher Julia Elliott, who won a contest in 1965 by highlighting how proud and dignified the animal is.
3. Buffalo Bills
The Bills have always featured a buffalo in their logo, though with varying colors through the years. Their first logo, shown above, only lasted from 1960 to 1961 and featured a buffalo and a football player with “Buffalo Bills” in white text and a blue background.
Their logo from 1962 to 1969 was similar, with a football player and buffalo, though lacking the aforementioned text. For three years, from 1970 to 1973, the team featured a logo with a red buffalo. That later evolved to what we see today: a blue buffalo lunging to the right with a red streak alongside it.
Similar to the Falcons, the Bills’ name came from a contest won by a fan, who suggested the name to inspire a “new frontier” feel.
4. Carolina Panthers
Apart from a few refinements in color and design, the Carolina Panthers’ logo has remained nearly unchanged since the team’s introduction in 1995. Panther statues adorn Bank of America stadium, so despite the team being relatively young, fans approve of the Panthers’ choice. The team valued the animal’s “swift, sleek nature,” which they hope to reflect on the football field.
5. New York Jets
The Jets’ first logo, pictured above, was very to-the-point. It featured the word “Jets” in white text, inside a green jet. It only lasted the first year though, as 1964 saw the introduction of a more modern logo. Although that iteration featured a white background and green ‘Jets’ text, it’s the same football-like shape of today, whose logo has a dark green background and white text.
The team took a detour from this logo for a lengthy period, from 1978 to 1997, with a straightforward green “Jets” adorned with a jet-like dash on top of the ‘J.’ However, they returned to the modern take on their classic 1964 logo in 1998, which is the logo the team uses now.
6. New Orleans Saints
The Saints logo has always featured the “fleur-de-lis,” translated to “lily flower” and representing French royalty. It’s been a symbol of New Orleans since the city’s founding in 1717. As the team’s logo, it’s a loving tribute to the city they represent.
The team’s first logo, from 1967 to 1999, featured a black fleur-de-lis with outlines of black and white. Today’s version, introduced in 2000, is the same, though the fleur-de-lis is gold.
7. New England Patriots
The Patriots’ logo has seen one of the most prominent evolutions among NFL teams. Their logo began upon the team’s introduction in 1960, with the simple blue tri-corner Revolutionary War hat pictured above.
It didn’t last long — 1961 to 1992 saw a similar iteration of a patriot in red, white and blue ready to hike the football. He looks like a bit like coach Bill Belichick, though that’s merely a coincidence.
8. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings’ logo is — naturally — of a fierce Viking. Its look hasn’t changed much since 1966. The team’s first logo, used from 1961 to 1965, also featured a Viking’s head, though facing left and not as clear or intimidating as today’s version. The name reflects partly the strong identification of Scandinavian-American culture in Minnesota, as well as the fierce and tough nature of historical Vikings.
9. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs’ present-day logo is quite tasteful, featuring an arrowhead emblazoned with the initials ‘KC’. Unfortunately, the same isn’t true of the team’s first logo, used from 1963 to 1971. It depicted an Indian chief running across the Midwest with a tomahawk and football. That logo showed a lack of graphical refinement, and would certainly be controversial today, so the team’s decision to opt for their present logo is a good one.
The Native American reference in the name and logo came about from the team’s former owner, Lamar Hunt, who took inspiration from Native American history in the area. It’s also possible that Kansas City Mayor H. Roe Bartle — nicknamed “The Chief” — inspired him.
10. Green Bay Packers
Excluding the addition of a yellow outer border to the logo in 1980, the Packers’ logo has looked largely the same since 1961. Art student, John Gordon, and equipment manager, Gerald Brashier, created that “G” logo in 1961, standing simply for “Green Bay.” Before that, their logo showed “Packers” in green, with a football in between the goal posts.
11. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys’ logo has always been a blue star, representing the “Lone Star” state. The team added white and navy outlines in 1964, though beyond that, the logo has looked the same since 1960. Cowboys are a common aspect of Texas culture, so it’s no surprise the team used them for their name and symbol.
In 1960, the original suggestion was to name the team the Rangers. However, general manager Texas E. Schramm felt people would mix them up with a minor league team of the same name. Therefore, he decided to use the Cowboys name, along with the “Lone Star” logo. It’s worth noting that the Texas Rangers baseball team had yet to be founded.
12. Chicago Bears
The Bears’ original logo, from 1940 to 1945, didn’t project much intimidation. The bear looks like it’s fresh out of a circus juggling act. The team moved the bear on top of a football, with an angrier face, in 1946. That logo lasted until 1973, when an incarnation of the current logo came about. The recognizable ‘C’ had no color from 1962 to 1973, though designers added a blue border and orange filling in 1974 to form today’s logo.
There you have the history of 12 popular team logos in the NFL. Do you have any stories surrounding your favorite team and their logo?Buffer