Who doesn’t like a good nickname? I have a nickname, some of my friends have nicknames, and you probably have one too. Well, I’ve been watching an episode of NFL Top 10 and I thought well why don’t I make a list of top 10s. Okay here we go:
10. The Over The Hill Gang. “Hey, there you young whipper-snapper let me teach you how to play some football.” Washington’s gregarious group led by George Allen. George Allen had this theory that his team was going to be built around veteran experience so he traded most of his draft picks for “Over the hill” veterans. Amazingly, under these old men, Allen never had a losing season but he couldn’t win the “Big one”. The Over The Hill Gang got, well, old by the end of the season. Indeed the Over The Hill Gang was over and done with.
9. Big Blue Wrecking Crew. New York Giants’ defensive unit under Bill Parcells in the late 1980s and early 90s who’s motto was “What the offense builds, we wreck.” When Bill Parcells walked in, the Giants were perhaps the worse defensive unit in the NFL but that changed with the drafting of one of the most feared players in NFL history: Lawrence Taylor. Adding to Taylor was linebackers Harry Carson and Carl Banks, and the Giants quickly became of the best defenses in NFL history winning two Super Bowls.
8. Steel Curtain. “Gentlemen, there’s an iron curtain falling over the NFL”. No doubt I’ve just angered the Steel-heads of Pittsburgh but this is a list of my opinions. Pittsburgh’s defense of the 70s was perhaps the best in NFL history. The Steel Curtain was first referred to Pittsburgh’s defensive line namely “Mean” Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Ernie Holmes, and Dwight White, but has synonymously has come to be recognized as Pittsburgh’s defense overall which featured more Hall of Famers then I cared to count. This wall of a defense was the backbone of Pittsburgh’s dynasty years winning four titles. Indeed, there was an iron curtain cast over the NFL.
7. Monsters of the Midway. Chicago’s team of the 40s primarily has sometimes been referred to the great ’85 Bears team. The Monsters of the Midway was a brutal team that featured great linebackers. The Bears at the time of the 40s were the most penalized team in the NFL led by George “Papa Bear” Halas. The Bears had then captured three titles in four years. When you played against the Bears, you weren’t playing against another football team you were playing against actual monsters. The name faded a bit from time but whenever Chicago had a great team that name would come back. Just ask the ’85 Bears.
6. The Greatest Show on Turf. “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! Welcome to the circus! A fierce, primitive fighting force that smashes relentlessly forward against impossible odds: This is the circus — and this is the story of the biggest of the Big Tops — and of the men and women who fight to make it–The Greatest Show on Turf!” St. Louis’ top flight offense from 1999- 2001. The Rams made history as the only offense to score over 500 points in three consecutive years. The offense led by no-name quarterback Kurt Warner and superstar Marshall Faulk had made two trips to the super bowl and was named both offensive players of the year and NFL MVPs. Through the three years together the offense was first in total offense, and their flashy style has made it the best show to ever hit the field.
5. Purple People Eaters. Did they really eat people? In a way they do. Minnesota’s front line composed of Hall of Famers Alan Page and Carl Eller as well Jim Marshall and Gary Larson who’s motto was “Meet at the quarterback”. They were a cold hearted horde that pillaged offenses. Norse gods among teams. The Purple People Eaters made three Super Bowls in four years and made four trips overall but failed to win a single one. The Purple People Eaters, one of the greatest teams of all time to never win the Super Bowl.
4. Fearsome Foursome. Why wouldn’t you put the Fearsome Foursome at number four. They had four frightening defensive line that could eat you up in sack master Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen, Lamar Lundy, and Rosey Grier. Jones and Olsen eventually went into the Hall of Fame. The Los Angeles Rams’ Fearsome Foursome was the hot counterpart to the cold Purple People Eaters. Whereas the Purple People Eaters were know for stoicism, the Fearsome Foursome was Hollywood. Led by coach George Allen, the Fearsome Foursome devoured the offensive lines of other teams in becoming one of the most feared defensive lines in NFL history. Sadly, they had no titles to show for it.
3. Air Coryell. “Attention passengers please remained seated as we prepare to lift off. Thank you for choosing Air Coryell.” San Diego’s football was forever changed when Don Coryell became head coach and invented a system that changed NFL offenses. Instead of being a ground pound team, the Chargers was bombs away. Led Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts and Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow, the Chargers had become the “Super Chargers” leading the NFL in passing five straight years (1979-1983). This high powered attack was fun to watch and the staple of many current NFL offenses such as the Greatest Show on Turf. They had changed not only offenses but positions as well, taking Kellen Winslow and turning him into such a dangerous weapon, no one could stop him. Only a lousy defense could keep this team from reaching the Super Bowl, but it was still a heck of a way to fly.
2. The Hogs. “Oink! Oink!” Can you imagine a wall of massive pigs defending your quarterback? Redskins offensive line under head coach Joe Gibbs did just that. After the 1981 draft, the pieces fell into place for Washington’s three Super Bowl seasons in 1982, 1987, and 1991. There was only one common factor among those Super Bowl teams and that was the mighty Hogs. The monicker was coined by offensive line coach Joe Bugel who said “Okay, you hogs, let’s get running down there.” The Hogs became a Washington trend with people wearing pig noses and t-shirts, but the men who took it to the extreme was termed the “Hogettes”. Basically, men crossed dressed while wearing pig noses to the games. The Hogs were tough, they were feared, and they were the only line that could handle the best defenses of the decade including the Bears, Niners, and Giants. The Hogs were an exclusive group that no one could get in, even quarterback Joe Theismann…well unless you were fullback John Riggins. The Hogs to this day remains one of NFL’s most dominate lines.
1. America’s Team. “They appear on television so often that their faces are as familiar to the public as presidents and movie stars. They are the Dallas Cowboys, ‘America’s Team'” They are also my number one nickname. Who wouldn’t want to be called America’s Team, the big heroes? The term comes from vice president and editor-in-chief of NFL Films Bob Ryan who quoted “I wanted to come up with a different twist on their team highlight film. I noticed then, and had noticed earlier, that wherever the Cowboys played, you saw people in the stands with Cowboys jerseys and hats and pennants. Plus, they were always the national game on television.” The Dallas Cowboys led by coach Tom Landry and “Captain America” Roger Staubach made the playoffs eighteen of twenty years winning two Super Bowls in the 70s kicked off America’s Team as most teams that won were on the East Coast, and therefore the Cowboys had more fans in America as they were the only other big time winner not in the East Coast. The term America’s Team faded in the 80s when Staubach and Landry retired and the Cowboys became the worst team in America. Things looked hopeless that “America’s” heroes would never ride again, but the name was revived in the 90s when Jimmy Johnson and “The Triplets” (Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith) arrived and turned them into a dynasty. Obviously, the nickname didn’t sit well with other teams, particularly the Pittsburgh Steelers who claimed, and probably are, better than them because they beat them twice in the Super Bowl, but polls would tell you that the Cowboys are the most popular team in the NFL and is the number one team on my list.
You may have your own list of top 10s, but that’s okay. Everything is a matter of perspective.