From Cleveland's 1960s elf to knife-biting dreamboats to a secret Jets emblem that looks like it's constantly judging you, NFL logos come in all shapes, sizes, colors and various forms of animal cruelty. We ranked the 35 best in the NFL history as well as the 25 worst. All logos come courtesy Chris Creamer's sportslogos.net. Some secondary logos were used and are denoted with an asterisk.
THE BEST // 35. Cleveland Browns (1959-69)
I got my 2-year-old daughter an "Elf on the Shelf" this year. It basically looks exactly like this 50-year-old Browns logo. If you're not familiar with EOTS, "Holly" (named after John McClane's wife in Die Hard) appears every morning if my daughter has been good the day before. If she hasn't been, Holly goes into hiding. So, rather than pull that charade every day, Robert Griffin III's elf converted and just started celebrating Hanukkah instead.
It's hard to tell whether the bengal has run out of his helmet (Bryce Harper style) or if he's sprinting to dodge one Vontaze Burfict threw at him.
32. Washington Redskins* (2004-08)
The favored design of the Joe Gibbs' hats of the Redskins' 10-year heyday, this script "R" made a comeback when Gibbs made his. It's simple, classy and, best of all, wouldn't lead to self-righteous Washington Post columns.
31. Buffalo Bills* (1965-69)
Is he stiff-arming the buffalo? Is he following its block? Is it one of those races like that time Usain Bolt raced a cheetah? Did the guy catch a deep pass like DeSean Jackson and then start taunting the buffalo? Are they about to go at it like Odell and Josh Norman or the buffalos on the Oregon Trail that always used to kill members of my party?
30. Chicago Bears* (1999-present)
Far better than the team's official logo, which is a plain "C." I mean, it's a solid letter but like the least intimidating one.
29. Cleveland Browns* (2003-14)
Look at the anger in those eyes. That's someone who's seen the Cody Kessler-era up close.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers (1945-61)
This logo really goes all-in on the steel-making process, which is pretty awesome though a bit confusing because all the coke in the photos might make you think it was the logo of the infamous Dallas Cowboys' White House.
27. Baltimore Colts (1953-60)
This was the Colts' logo during the "Greatest Game Ever Played." Sort of makes you doubt the veracity of that statement, doesn't it? (That doesn't mean the logo isn't great though, mixing steeplechase with ball carrying with helmet-strapping and fonts that look like they were ripped off from the beginning of Mary Poppins.)
26. Buffalo Bills (1974-present)
Here's the explanation for why this logo was created, via the Bills website: "We are attempting to portray the Buffalo in a forward accelerated motion concept, and some of the people here thought if the red stripe started out in the eye or horn area in a smaller size and extended toward the rear in a wider design, it would give more of an impression of acceleration or propulsion." Well, that, or just because it looks pretty cool.
25. Chicago Bears (1946-73)
You'd think the weight and claws of the bear would squeeze the air out of that football. Huh, maybe that's why he's nicknamed "Da Deflator." Thanks. All day, people. All day.
24. Miami Dolphins (1997-2012)
The little details, like the M on the dolphin's helmet (or the mere fact that the dolphin is wearing a helmet), are great. But check out that scowl. Flipper looks like he's about to crackback block Pacman Jones.
23. Denver Broncos (1962-69)
This looks like something you'd see at a Renaissance fair or on a poster at a PETA rally.
22. New Orleans Saints* (2000-05)
Call me old fashioned, but when I see a star on a map, even a map painted gold with a fleur-de-lis covering up Shreveport, I expect that star to represent the state capital. Map-key ignorance aside, maps + logos = thumbs up.
21. Pittsburgh Steelers (2002-present)
A complete rip-off of the U.S. Steel logo, not that there's anything wrong with that. Given that the company was founded by J.P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie and their Robber Baron friends, it means the Steelers logo has more money behind it than any other logo in the NFL - at least until the Texans change theirs to a silhouette of Brock Osweiler's head.
20. Houston Oilers (1960-61)
This was the Houston logo for only one year before the same picture was redrawn to give our cowboy a football helmet and considerably more facial and arm hair. But I saw Deepwater Horizon. Those guys aren't wearing football helmets. I need my logos to tell a truthful story. (I didn't actually see it but I saw the preview.)
19. Super Bowl III (1969)
These look like trunks Muhammad Ali and/or Apollo Creed would have worn.
18. Oakland Raiders (1963)
Basically an older version of the current Raiders logo, this one comes out on top because of the lower silver background and the wordmark. However, if said wordmark led to players identifying themselves as from "THE Oakland Raiders" on Sunday Night Football, then "THE Ohio State University" would quickly become the second-most annoying place around.
17. Washington Redskins (1970-71)
Given that the most vocal opponents of the Redskins name are going to have something else to fixate on for the next four-to-eight years, I wonder if the name-change will continue to be a story. Either way - and I've said this for years - I believe that if Dan Snyder had changed the 'Skins current logo to this (which looks better anyway) he could have skated on the whole racist nickname controversy.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (1948-68)
Kelly green. It's not hard, Philadelphia, which is good because up until now your signature achievement is putting cheese on chopped steak.
15. New York Giants (1956-60)
Get it: He's a giant and a Giant.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers (1962-68)
This guy is probably in his late 70s by now but was nonetheless just signed as a kicker by the Cincinnati Bengals.
13. NFL (2008-present)
Though there have been a few minor tweaks along the way, the NFL logo as we know it was created in 1941, the earliest of America's big-three sports. That was almost 30 years before MLB's (1970) and the NBA's shameless MLB rip-off (1971). Though the concept of "the shield" has been much maligned over the past few years, the actual shield projects power, and patriotism. Or something like that.
12. Green Bay Packers (1956-61)
At least the starred city on this map is helpful because, let's be honest, none of us knew where Green Bay was on a map of Wisconsin. Also props to the Packers for letting No. 41 throw the ball, using the little-used safety option toss.
11. New York Jets (1961)
New movie idea: Sully and his new co-pilot, Joe Namath, try to successfully land the Jets jet while an unruly, bearded Harvard graduate in coach argues that he belongs in first class.
10. Super Bowl XXVII (1993)
Super Bowl logos are traditionally boring and have little attachment to the host city, which is odd because the NFL makes such a big deal of those host cities even though they affect about 0.001% of the people watching the game. Anyway, the Rose Bowl is the crown jewel of football stadiums and roses are pretty so congrats, Super Bowl XXVII.
9. Denver Broncos (1970-92)
Of the many logo-changing crimes of the 1990s, getting rid of the bucking bronco with an allergy problem was one of the biggest.
8. Green Bay Packers (1980-present)
This logo has been around for decades but in 1980 the team added the gold outline around the oval.
7. New England Patriots* (1960)
This Revolutionary War staple is known as a tri-quarter hat and who'd have imagined a piece of headwear from the 18th century could make such a good look. ("I can see it," Cam Newton says while calling Neiman Marcus to see if they can hook him up.) The official logo that year was the same thing without "PATRIOTS," which I think it needs because the hat alone might look like a bat, snake or rejected logo for Megadeath. The helmets that season had a number under the hats, a lost art in the NFL.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1976-96)
People think it was the Bucs who got rid of Bucco Bruce but it was actually Bruce who parted with the Bucs, figuring the team's horrendous first two decades was cramping his style with the chicas.
5. Buffalo Bills (1970-73)
The simplicity of this design is awesome (and looked it when the Bills wore these helmets before the NFL banned such things) but, dude, how bored does that buffalo look? Look at his deadened eyes. His poor posture. His curled up tail. This is a man who's had enough Doug Marrone for a lifetime.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers* (2014-present)
The Bucs logo now is just a flag from this pirate ship which seems like a wasted opportunity. It'd be like if We Are The World had cut the Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Bob Dylan parts to exclusively make it a Cyndi Lauper joint.
3. Dallas Cowboys (1964-present)
Jerry Jones is said to be fond of Dallas's huge, famous star but isn't against replacing it with a picture of Tony Romo's back X-rays.
2. New England Patriots (1971-92)
You know how some team names are words with meanings you never actually think about? For instance, how often do you think of airplanes when you hear "the Jets?" When you hear "the Wizards" you know what's popping to mind? Basketball futility, not Dumbledore. But back when Pat Patriots was New England's logo, you'd think about those heroes of the Revolutionary War when the Pats took the field. Now it's just another empty, subdued name more associated with cutoff hoodies and chin dimples.
1. Houston Oilers (1980-96)
On one hand, props to the Titans for realizing the name Oilers had absolutely no business on a football franchise in Tennessee. On the other, if we're stuck with the LA Lakers, Utah Jazz and St. Louis Blues, the least you could have done is keep the name with the best logo in sports.
THE WORST // 25. Carolina Panthers* (1995-2011)
This legitimately could have been on either list. It looks like Step 4 from one of those how-to-draw an animal book. At the same time, its simplicity is beautiful. On the other hand, cat's not wearing a tie. Suspension.
24. San Francisco 49ers (1946-67)
I don't know, bro, I'd be careful where you point that thing.
23. New York Jets* (2002-present)
The Jets' last division title came in the year this logo debuted so you have to give props to the designer for accepting the past and predicting the future by making an angry football face that shows more emotion than Todd Bowles has all year. According to Creamer's website, the logo also includes an airplane landing on the football - I suppose the furrowed eyebrows and evil eyes are the belly and wheels of the plane, respectively? If the wheels didn't descend, would it then be called a buttlanding?
22. San Diego Chargers (1974-87)
Powder blue, guys. What's so hard about this?
21. Chicago Bears (1974-present)
The aforementioned boring Chicago "C." When you have a choice between a vicious man-eating member of the ursa family and the first letter of the name of your city, it should be a no-brainer.
20. Detroit Lions (2009-present)
Though effective during the Ndamukong Suh era, as the charging lion would unavoidably have to stomp on things to land after his attack, this is just boring. And lions aren't blue.
19. Cincinnati Bengals (1970-80)
I actually kind of like this if it were an old-school logo from, say, the 50s or 60s. But they used this as late as 1980. Anthony Munoz played under this logo!
18. Kansas City Chiefs (1963-69)
It was pretty presumptuous of the Chiefs to dub themselves the team of the Plains states. Also, I don't know but I'd wager this is the nakedest logo sports has ever seen.
17. Seattle Seahawks (1976-2001)
Back when the Seahawks were bad and nobody in Seattle cared about them, were the fans referred to as the 11th-and-a-half man? Just wondering. As for the logo, the seahawk looks so passive and bored, like if Pete Carroll was a bird, only the exact opposite.
16. Miami Dolphins (2013-present)
If you're going to change your logo, change it. Don't make a so-called modern update that's going to age about as well a running back's knees.
15. Baltimore Ravens (1996-98)
Quoth the raven: "Elite no more."
14. Jacksonville Jaguars (2013-present)
It's the teal tongue that does it. The Jags were created when teal was the hot new color and since the team hasn't changed its color scheme the Jags had to somehow get teal into an animal known for its spots and non-tealness. Hence the tongue that looks like it just got finished with a Fun Dip.
13. Super Bowl (2011-2015)
Starting with Super Bowl XLV, the NFL went to a generic logo whose only differences are a drawing of the outline of the stadium and all-caps print of the game's location. This one wins the worst because it's the first for the ridiculous North Texas designation. Say the game's in Dallas. No one cares about the technicalities and egos of city and county councils. The league went back to the same template this year but at least added splashes of red to give the thing some color.
12. Arizona Cardinals (2005-present)
I don't know, he just looks awfully pleased with himself, doesn't he?
11. Atlanta Falcons* (1998-2002)
You know when a couple of cities bid for expansion teams and they each release their potential logo, all of which look dumb? This looks like one of those logos. Memphis had one back in 1993, when Jacksonville stunned the world and the bounds of logic by getting the NFL's 30th franchise.
10. Dallas Cowboys* (1960-70)
In true Cowboys fashion, the ball carrier is going to get all the praise while the horse does most of the work.
9. Baltimore Ravens (1999-present)
Look, tattooing your face is fine if you're Gucci Mane but otherwise - not a good look. Why people decided this raven needed a B on its cheek with no accompanying R in the vicinity is beyond me.
8. St. Louis Rams (1995-99)
Is that the St. Louis Arch? The top of the Edward Jones Dome? The temporary frown on Jeff Fisher's face until he remembered he's getting tens of millions of dollars not to go 7-9?
7. Jacksonville Jaguars* (2013-present)
"Jag" is a great insult. Has been for years. Clean, clear, concise, able to be said in an exasperated manner, an homage to the CBS procedural drama of the same name and, most importantly, is more jokey than mean. If you're not familiar, the Urban Dictionary definition is surprisingly on point: "An irritating individual with no sense of a social filter and no realization of the implication of his actions; socially inept." Somebody who hits on your wife at a bar or cuts the line at the pharmacy or drives all the way to the end of a merge and tries to squeeze in rather than being a reasonable human and using the alternating-lane method favored by us civilized folks - jags, all. The Jags themselves are not jags but coming up with a logo that says Jags is totally a jaggy move.
6. Minnesota Vikings* (2004-present)
This is the laziest logo I've ever seen. It looks like something a guy named Mark Vincenzo would doodle on his notebook during third-period chemistry. You'd think they could have hidden some secret message in there, like an outline of a viking's face hidden between the letters or a dig at Gary Anderson or something.
5. Denver Broncos (1997-present)
The logo itself is ugly enough, what with the Carrot Top hair, the long, serpent-like head and the odd way the mouth looks like one of those annoying pet birds that'll bite you if you put your finger in the cage to say "what up." It doesn't look like any bronco I've ever seen, which is none (I don't do wild horses), but I've listened to that Stones song a lot and think that gives me some decent insight. But the weirdest, creepiest part of the whole thing, and this is something that's easy to overlook, is the fact that the eye of the bronco is orange making it look like it was either possessed or hanging out with Keith Richards for a weekend.
4. Tennessee Titans (1999-present)
Why are the Titans called the Titans? "Titans come from early Greek mythology and the fact that Nashville is known as the 'Athens of the South' makes the Titans name very appropriate,"the late Bud Adams said in 1998. Why does the logo look like something cratering to earth, intent on destroying everything around it? The fact that Nashville is known as the 'Athens of the South' made it natural to depict the Greek economy by way of logo.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (1996-present)
The worst logo in recent history belonged to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. No politics here, just fact. It was a blue H with a red arrow making up the middle part and pointing toward the right. So not only did the arrow cause your eyes to look away from the logo and not only was there the subtle symbolism of a rightward shift but the arrow was red!!! It was horrible. I mention this because Philadelphia's logo is of an eagle pointed the opposite direction in which you're looking and flying straight into the ground. Metaphors abound.
2. St. Louis Cardinals (1960-69)
This combines three of my least favorite things: Anthropomorphic animals, animals dressed as humans and ball carriers who don't protect the football.
1. New England Patriots (2000-present)
I've never understood why people call it the Flying Elvis logo. It looks far more like John Kerry. Now, I don't know if this is actually the worst logo in the NFL. But it's close and seeing as how it replaced one of the top three logos the NFL has ever seen, it gets the ignominious top ranking on our worst-list.