Nicknames have been an integral part of NFL football for as long as the game has existed. Some come naturally, and others are forced into existence. They make the game, which is ultimately for the fans, more exciting and enjoyable.
Nicknames can be for a player, unit, or even an entire team. Some of the most classic nicknames in NFL history include Monsters of the Midway, which described the Chicago Bears defenses in both the 1940s and 1980s, or the The Greatest Show on Turf, which featured the high-flying offense of the St. Louis Rams from 1999-2001. Others include the Steel Curtain and the New York Sack Exchange.
These are some of the greatest nicknames of all time, but it’s true that some worthwhile ones have caught on in the NFL today. Here, we’ll be taking a look at the 5 greatest unit nicknames from the past decade.
The moniker “Sacksonville” was derived from combining the word “sack” with “Jacksonville”. It was the name given to the 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars defense, and with a league-leading 55 sacks that season, they certainly lived up to that name. “Sacksonville” featured a fearsome group of pass rushers, headlined by Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue, and Dante Fowler Jr.
What made that defense great, and what gave those rushers so much time to get to the QB, was the Jaguars pair of stud cornerbacks, Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye. The unit forced an astounding 45 total turnovers and returned 7 of them for touchdowns. Campbell led the team with 14.5 sacks and was one of 6 pro bowlers from that 2017 defense along with Ngakoue, Ramsey, Bouye, Malik Jackson and Telvin Smith. Campbell and Ramsey were both 1st team All-Pros.
Sacksonville led the team to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth before they eventually fell to the eventual champion New England Patriots. The reason Sacksonville only comes in 5th on this list is its longevity, or lack thereof. Following their incredible 2017 showing, the roster began to fall apart and almost all members of Sacksonville are now on different teams.
4) Killer B’s
“The Killer B’s” refers to a number of Pittsburgh Steelers offensive stars that all have either a first or last name starting with the letter B. The most prominent of these include QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Antonio Brown, and RB Le’Veon Bell, but K Chris Boswell and WR Martavis Bryant were also sometimes included in the group.
The three main components of the Killer B’s were together from 2013 through the 2018 season, after which Bell signed with the New York Jets as a free agent. The trio combined to create a prolific offense in Pittsburgh, and each put up gaudy stats in their own right. Roethlisberger’s best season likely came in 2014, when he threw for 4,952 yards and 32 touchdowns with a 103.3 passer rating. He set career highs in 2018 with 5,129 passing yards and 34 touchdowns.
During his time with the Killer B’s, Antonio Brown established himself as arguably the top receiver in the NFL, reaching 6 straight pro bowls and posting highs of 1,834 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns. Le’Veon Bell was also a top player in the NFL throughout the span, blossoming into a dual threat weapon as well as the most patient runner in the NFL. In 2014, he produced an other-worldly 2,215 combined yards rushing and receiving.
The only downfall of the Killer B’s was the fact that they never even made a Super Bowl. The three made 4 straight playoff appearances from 2014-2017, but only advanced to the AFC Championship once, falling to the Patriots in 2016.
3) No Fly Zone
The “No Fly Zone” was the nickname given to the Denver Broncos defensive backfield from 2014-2018. CB Chris Harris Jr claims to have made up the name, and also happened to be its longest tenured member.
It fits perfectly with the high altitudes of where they play in Denver. The key members of the group were Harris Jr, fellow corners Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby, and safeties Darian Stewart and TJ Ward. It’s not as star-studded as some of the other groups on the list, but the success they had together earns them the #3 spot on the list.
From 2014-2017, Denver was Top 5 in the NFL in total defense, and led the league in passing defense in both 2015 and 2016. Harris Jr and Talib made 4 Pro Bowls each with Denver, while Ward and Stewart made one each.
Aided by superstar edge rusher Von Miller, the No Fly Zone carried the Broncos all the way to the Super Bowl in 2015, where they defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-10. Although the unit is entirely disbanded now, Broncos fans have hope for a new No Fly Zone led by up and coming safety tandem Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson.
2) Legion of Zoom
The most recent nickname on the list, the Legion of Zoom refers to the incredibly speedy Kansas City Chiefs’ receiving core. The main players in the group include Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson. Hill, Watkins and Robinson were together in 2018 for QB Patrick Mahomes II’s MVP season before Hardman joined the group this past year.
The nickname fits them well, as they’re possibly the fastest group of wide receivers in NFL History. Hill, Hardman, and Watkins were clocked in at times of 4.29, 4.33, and 4.43 respectively on their 40-yard dash times. That blazing speed makes every Chiefs game a track meet. That breakaway speed gave Chiefs fans plenty of long touchdowns to cheer about throughout the 2019 season, the longest of which an 83 yard bomb from Mahomes to Hardman.
The Chiefs cruised to a 12-4 record in 2019, and won the Super Bowl, defeating the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 31-20. The defining play of the game? A 44 yard heave from Mahomes to Tyreek Hill on the now-famous “Jet Chip Wasp” play. Kansas City can thank the Legion of Zoom for their Lombardi Trophy, and the fact that these dynamic playmakers are still so young earns them #2 on this list.
1) Legion of Boom
An easy choice for the #1 slot on this list, the “Legion of Boom” is simply the most imposing nickname in the NFL today. It rose to popularity in 2011, and the term is still in use despite most of its original contributors either off the team or retired.
Those original members of the vaunted Seattle Seahawks secondary include Safeties Earl Thomas III and Kam Chancellor, as well as CB’s Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell, and Brandon Browner. Each player truly brought their own element to the team. Sherman was a lockdown corner and a fantastic ballhawk, tallying an astounding 16 interceptions between 2012 and 2013.
Kam Chancellor was a terrifying strong safety and one of the hardest hitters in the game. Earl Thomas III was the eraser in deep coverage with the speed to reach every blade of grass. Together, the trio reached 14 Pro Bowls during their time in Seattle. However, it wasn’t just the three of them.
The Legion of Boom grew to encompass the entire Seahawks defense, including linebackers Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright, as well as pass rushers Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin. Together the unit took Seattle to the playoffs in 5 straight seasons, making 2 Super Bowls and culminating in a 43-8 shellacking of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.
The best part about the Legion of Boom? The trash talk. Asked about facing Michael Crabtree and the San Francisco 49ers in the 2013 NFC Championship, Richard Sherman said “I was making sure everyone knew Crabtree was a mediocre receiver. And when you try the best corner in the game with a mediocre receiver, that’s what happens. I appreciate that he knows that now.”
The Legion of Boom was brash, confident, and won a whole lot of football, making them worthy of the top spot on the list.