The Great Debate: 'America's Team'

The Cowboys, Steelers, Packers and Patriots can all make a legitimate claim to the title of "America's Team." ESPN.com's Matt Mosley, James Walker, Kevin Seifert, and Tim Graham debate each team's case.

The Originals

By Matt Mosley

In putting together a highlights video for the 1978 Dallas Cowboys, NFL Films needed a catchy name. Then editor-in-chief Bob Ryan is credited with coining the phrase "America's Team."

Cowboys coach Tom Landry resisted the title early on because he thought it would provide opposing teams with even more incentive to knock off the Cowboys. But the incomparable marketing genius, Tex Schramm, the club's president, fell in love with the title and was delighted when it was mentioned during a CBS telecast at the start of the 1979 season.

But the Cowboys' remarkable playoff consistency during the Landry era helped justify them as "America's Team," while Schramm took care of the marketing side by making sure the Cowboys played in the marquee games such as on Thanksgiving Day and "Monday Night Football."

Love them or hate them, the Cowboys are still the most polarizing franchise in the NFL. Even during the lean years of the late 1990s and early 2000s, the networks still craved the ratings generated by the Cowboys. That's why I laugh when people talk about how the Steelers or Packers should be in the running for "America's Team."

I don't think Art Rooney would've wanted that at all in Pittsburgh. He wanted the Steelers to be Pittsburgh's team. And that's exactly what happened. Green Bay and Pittsburgh fans will travel across the country to watch their teams. And when you talk to them in the parking lots, you find that most of them spent time living in those areas.

It's different with the Cowboys. You show up at a hotel in downtown Charlotte, N.C., and there are 400 Cowboys fans roaming the lobby. Maybe a handful of that group made the trip from Dallas. No team in the NFL casts a wider net than the Cowboys in terms of fans. And that's why the Cowboys remain the true "America's Team."

112,000 Reasons The Packers Are "America's Team"

By Kevin Seifert

There are many ways to dismiss the Green Bay Packers as America's Team -- and 112,000 reasons to reconsider.

Certainly, the Packers wouldn't qualify as America's Team if you based the claim on pure numbers. Green Bay is the nation's 260th-largest city (population just under 101,000), and the Packers generate their base in the mid-sized state of Wisconsin. Intuitively, it's hard to imagine their fans outnumber those of the Dallas Cowboys or Pittsburgh Steelers.

It's also easy to understand why more fans across the country would identify with the Cowboys or Steelers. Green Bay is known as "Titletown" and the Packers have won an NFL-high 12 championships, but 11 of them came before the television-aided surge in pro football's popularity. Since the 1970 merger of the NFL and AFL, the Packers have one title: Super Bowl XXXI after the 1996 season.

The Packers, however, represent working-class America like no other NFL team. They are a citizen-owned small business and a true civic property, one that requires not only accountability but also substantive interaction with fans. Founded as a non-profit corporation by a newspaper publisher, the Packers are now owned by 112,120 shareholders who possess about 4.75 million shares of stock. A seven-member executive committee, elected by the board of directors and comprised mostly of local residents, operates the team.

Every summer, team officials make a full report to shareholders at Lambeau Field. Unlike any other team, the Packers' football executives must explain their approach and answer questions. Shareholders do not have voting rights, so fans can't influence football decisions. But no fan base can claim a more significant connection to its team.

Some might consider all of this to be a quaint facade for what is now a subsidiary of a profit-driven league. But in an age of billion-dollar stadiums and insulated leadership, the Packers look more like America than any NFL team.

More Hardware Gives Steelers The Edge

By James Walker

In this historic period of great change, it is time that NFL Nation reconsiders its options.

And we should start by giving the Pittsburgh Steelers the label of "America's Team."

The current version -- the Dallas Cowboys -- no longer deserves this distinguished title. During their term in office, they've made horrible decisions, overspent the annual fiscal budgets and grossly underperformed (zero playoff victories since 1996).

Meanwhile, the Steelers are what's happening now, as reigning champions, and what's happening for the long haul with more Super Bowl wins (six) than any NFL franchise.

As a small-market team, Pittsburgh has done extremely well in the private sector. The Rooney family provides tremendous leadership and has earned the respect and admiration of President Barack Obama, who by the way approves this message.

If you're looking for consistency, Pittsburgh's blue-collar work ethic has stood the test of time. Turn on tapes of the 1970s Steelers or today's Steelers and you see the same smash-mouth team with different names on the back of the je

Also, consider this important question: Who's better prepared to make a State of the NFL Nation address than Steelers coach Mike Tomlin? He has the liveliness and swagger to address our country's dedicated fan base. The coaches of the Cowboys (Wade Phillips), Green Bay Packers (Mike McCarthy) and especially the New England Patriots (Bill Belichick) would put everyone to sleep.

In Pittsburgh's Cabinet would be the experienced Dick LeBeau, who is perfect for the role of secretary of defense. The Department of Treasury would be led by Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, who is phenomenal without overspending.

Everyone loves a winner, and Pittsburgh does it in a classy and respectful manner. So what's not to like, America?

Steeler Nation is the best football fan base in the country and takes over more opposing cities than any team in the league. If that doesn't sound like "America's Team," then I don't know what is.

The only thing missing is the label.

Dallas had its run as the primary focus of NFL Nation. Now the Cowboys are just a glitzy, overhyped team that underperforms when the chips are down. New England isn't very likeable outside the Boston area, and the Green Bay Packers are so 1960s.

The Steelers are just the right mix of class, tradition and current success.

So vote for change, NFL Nation.

Make the Pittsburgh Steelers the new version of "America's Team."

It's The Patriotic Thing To Do

By Tim Graham

Not everybody stands up to salute "America's Team."

All of those franchises that have qualified to represent a nation -- New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Lakers, Notre Dame Fighting Irish -- also are among the most hated.

To a good portion of the populace, America's Team wears a black hat. Let us consider the hoodie.

The New England Patriots, with three Super Bowl victories and four AFC titles, have been dominant for the past nine years. Tom Brady is the embodiment of the All-American quarterback, a dashing leader who flings touchdowns and makes the ladies swoon.

A similar formula is what drove NFL Films to slap the original "America's Team" label on Tom Landry, Roger Staubach and the rest of the Cowboys some 30 years ago. (Ted Turner stole the catchphrase for his Atlanta Braves, but Biff Pocoroba was no Golden Richards.)

It's time to rescind the Cowboys' honor and turn it over to the Patriots. The Cowboys are known for wanton spending and attention-mongering with zero results. The Patriots are widely regarded as the NFL's most efficiently run organization. Their owner, Robert Kraft, was a season-ticket holder who aspired to buy the team one day -- and did. The American dream and capitalism all in one.

What's more, the Patriots were formed in Boston, a.k.a. "The Cradle of Liberty" and crucible for the American Revolution.

They were an original member of the American Football League, which is celebrating its golden anniversary this year.

They changed their name to New England to reflect their meaning to a region where Pilgrims landed. Some teams, such as Minnesota and Arizona, claim a state. The Patriots claim six.

The Patriots wear red, white and blue. When they score, Minutemen line up behind the end zone and fire their muskets into the air.

They're loved. They're despised. They give a nation of sports fans plenty to talk about. They win.

They're called the Patriots, for crying out loud.

What's more American than all of that?

Mark Schlereth and James Hasty offer their take on the "America's Team" debate.