With the unfortunate demise of Smash ‘n Dash – aka LenDale White and Chris Johnson – as a nicknamed dynamic duo, we thought it would be fun to play football relativity with the league’s best nicknames. This is not an exhaustive list, so leave your favorite nicknames in the comments and we’ll integrate them into the list. 10 is the nickname that’s the most fun; 1 is a nickname that’s kind of dumb. Again, we’re rating just the nickname here, not the player or the coach.
Before we begin, a historical note. It seems like there are countless great nicknames for groups in the NFL in the past – Minnesota’s Purple People Eaters; the Rams’ Fearsome Foursome and, later, Greatest Show on Turf; Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain and Blitzburgh; Washington’s Hogs; and Atlanta’s 1970s Grits Blitz. We also have team-wide nicknames like Carolina’s Cardiac Cats, Atlanta’s Dirty Birds, the Bungles and the Aints. Unfortunately, there aren’t those kind of nicknames anymore. We will definitely take ideas for such nicknames here – who knows, maybe we can start one.
10 – Ochocinco (aka Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco) – This started as a nickname and now it’s a legal name. Yes, it’s bad Spanish, but it’s a heck of a lot catchier than ochenta y cinco, and we have to give Chad props for that. We also have to praise his commitment to the nickname. In the end, this has all the elements a good nickname needs – it’s fun, catchy, and memorable. That’s why it’s atop this list.
9 – Megatron (aka Lions WR Calvin Johnson) – I love this nickname. It’s current – Transformers is a hit movie (if a terrible one, according to Roger Ebert). Megatron is bigger, badder, stronger, and better than all the other transformers, and those same attributes describe Johnson as well. The only hangup I have with this nickname is that Megatron is a bad guy and Johnson isn’t. Oh well – guess we can’t have it all.
8 – none yet
7 – Lights Out (aka Chargers OLB Shawne Merriman) – One of the few defensive players on this list, Merriman gave himself this nickname. It’s in reference to his ability to knock players out – put their lights out, so to speak. This isn’t an all-time classic nickname, but it is one of the better ones out there right now. Give Shawne two points for creativity on the name – even though the Lights Out dance stinks.
6 – Matty Ice (aka Falcons QB Matt Ryan) – This nickname hasn’t completely stuck yet, but if it does, it would be a good thing. It’s catchy, and it describes Ryan’s calm under pressure. Let’s hope Ryan continues to play well so that we get another good nickname into the hopper.
5 – Fast Willie (aka Steelers RB Willie Parker) – This nickname isn’t complicated, but its simplicity is its virtue. Fast Willie is in fact fast, and it’s fun to say. Sometimes we gravitate toward nicknames that are more clever or more complex, but this is an old-school name that works.
4 – Earth, Wind, and Fire (aka Giants RBs Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Derrick Ward) – This nickname was a bit derivative, and it was dated as well. But it did a decent job of describing the running styles of each player. Unfortunately for the nickname game, Ward left for Tampa during the offseason, so Earth, Wind, and Fire is no more.
3 – T.O. (aka Bills WR Terrell Owens) – We won’t include all initials and abbreviations on this list, because those are generally too easy. But in Owens’ case, the initials qualify as a nickname because they tie back to an actual term in the game. It would be like someone whose initials spelled YAC (yards after the catch). Of course, YAC would be a much better nickname, but T.O. ain’t bad.
3 (con’t) – Big Ben (aka Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger) – Big Ben is tall. Big Ben is alliterative. Big Ben is not a unique nickname. If Roethlisberger didn’t have two rings, this nickname wouldn’t be memorable. But it’s sticky and not stupid, so it stays off the bottom of this list.
2 – Mangenius (aka Browns head coach Eric Mangini) – This New York tabloid nickname became Mangini’s moniker during his time with the Jets. It’s catchy, but the problem is that it’s not so much true, given the fact that Mangini made the playoffs in just one of his three Big Apple seasons. Mangini will need better success at his second coaching stop to prevent this nickname from being used derisively.
1 – The Tower (aka Bears LB Pisa Tinoisamoa) – We can’t rate this nickname all that high, since we’re the only ones using it at the moment. But we shall include it, because we’re on a campaign to spread the word on The Tower.