Football and cheerleaders go together like peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, chocolate, marshmallow and graham crackers – well – you get the point. Cheerleading squads are so intertwined with football that it's difficult to imagine one without the other. Though strangely enough, of the 32 NFL teams, there are still 6 who don't have squads – the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, and Cleveland Browns. Given the disastrous years some of those teams have had over the last few seasons, you'd think they'd want to run a cheerleading squad out there just to give the fans some distraction from the abomination they're putting on the field. But that's neither here nor there, we suppose.
Cheerleaders are more than just pom-pom shaking pretty faces though. Well, they are that, but they're much more than that. The squads are often heavily involved in their communities, performing for the troops on the USO tours, developing apps to keep the squads and their teams tightly connected with their fans, and perform a ton of charity work. Some cheerleaders have gone on to be reporters, actresses, models (of course), beauty pageant winners (also, of course), professional athletes, singers, and even stand up comedians. A couple of Indianapolis Colts cheerleaders even recently had their heads shaved to honor coach Chuck Pagano – who was diagnosed with cancer – and to raise money for cancer research. The pair combined to raise more than $20,000 dollars with that one act.
CNBC.com ranks the leagues cheerleading squads annually, based on a number of factors that include of course, their “hotness,” but also take into account other factors like community service, use of technology to push their “brand,” and charitable works, among other things. Michele Crawford-Carnegie, a seven year veteran of the Atlanta Falcons cheerleading team, and the owner of the Alumni Cheerleaders social networking site, gave her power rankings of the 2013 NFL cheerleading squads. And she picked some good ones, let us tell you.
With that in mind then, here are the NFL's top 10 cheerleading squads.
10 Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders
The Dolphins' cheerleaders certainly know how to fire up a crowd – and a city. These lovely ladies, despite not having much to cheer about, make the best of things and never let the crowd get too down about their team. Even when their team is getting thrashed yet again. But even more than that, the Dolphins' cheer squad has created a fun and unique way to keep their fans entertained. During a photoshoot for their annual calendar, the cheer squad filmed a music video using Carly Rae Jepsen's “Call me Maybe.” Musical “taste” aside, it was yet another way for the cheerleaders to stay connected to their fans, and with their video having more than 20 million views on YouTube, we'd say it worked pretty well.
9 Denver Broncos Cheerleaders
Denver's cheerleaders have had an easier job getting and keeping their fans fired up during games for the last few years. Of course, having Peyton Manning and a high octane offense dropping 50 points a game helps. But the cheer squad goes above and beyond in staying connected with the fans and keeping them fired up. Their Facebook page has more than 230,000 “likes,” and their photo gallery is the team website's top viewed page. They are also heavily involved in the community, logging more than 1500 hours of community service. Said Michele Crawford-Carnegie, “They are very active in the community with helping those less fortunate.”
8 Washington Redskins Cheerleaders
Founded in 1962, Washington's cheer squad has a long and illustrious history and some very notable former members. 2007 Miss Maryland USA Michae Holloman was a member of the squad as was Monique Thompson, Miss District of Columbia. And Maureen Gardner is the wife of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. Washington's cheer squad does more than most other teams in terms of entertaining and supporting the troops, and they are also heavily involved in their community.
7 Indianapolis Colts Cheerleaders
Back when #18 wore the blue and white, it didn't take much effort to keep the fans fired up. But when the Peyton Manning era in Indianapolis ended, it was a much different story. Into the breach stepped the Colts cheerleaders doing all they could to keep Indy's enthusiasm and spirits up. And if you've seen them dance, you know that they were probably pretty successful. Now that they have Andrew Luck, the pressure if off them to be the only entertainment at the game.
6 Houston Texans Cheerleaders
There really is no other squad in the league that does more to stay connected to the fans than the Houston Texans cheerleaders. Their fan interaction is second to none. The squad does more than 40 appearances a year as it is, but it's said that they will never turn down a request to do even more. From having a very active Twitter feed, to meet and greets at the games, the Texans' cheer squad is very proactive in keeping fans connected to them, and to the team.
5 Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders
Beautiful, athletic, and passionate – the Eagles cheerleaders have it all. They're also very stylish, being the only squad in the league to be wearing uniforms designed by the very notable Vera Wang. They are also the only cheerleading team to be invited to perform at the amFAR Inspiration Gala in New York, and they were the first squad in the league to design and launch a cheerleader calendar mobile app – where it ranked in the Top 5 paid mobile apps. Yeah, that's not shocking in the least.
4 Atlanta Falcons Cheerleaders
Given the fact that Crawford-Carnegie is an alumnus of the Falcons' cheerleading squad, it's not entirely too shocking to see them make this list. But she insists it is completely unbiased and that the Falcons' cheer squad earned their place, saying that they've had great spirit over the years, through the good times and the bad. And given the amount of bad the Falcons have endured over the years, we'll just give them a pass here. One of the most interesting aspects of Atlanta's cheer squad is that to make the team, the women must either have full time jobs already, or be pursuing a college degree. Said Chato Hendrix, Falcons Cheer Coordinator, “The Atlanta Falcons Cheerleaders are definitely some of the most cheermazing attorneys, chemists, psychologists, accountants and educators you will ever meet.”
3 Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
One of the most iconic cheer squads in the league, they are also one of the most well publicized and marketed as well. In addition to the multitude of public appearances they make, the Cowboys cheerleaders have also appeared on television programs like “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?”, and are currently the focus of a show on CMT – Country Music Television – titled, “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team.” Which we figure is a lot like HBO's “Hard Knocks” series, only with hot, very scantily clad women. Which is a-okay by us.
2 New England Patriots Cheerleaders
What's most surprising about the Patriots' cheer squad is that they wear such skimpy outfits, when the weather out in Foxboro is usually about 10,000 below, and that New England Head Coach Bill Belichick doesn't insist that they all simply wear ratty, battered, beat up gray hoodies like him. We're thankful that he doesn't though, because we'd all be missing out. But they're more than just beauty though, the Patriots' cheer squad is heavily involved in the community, including a new initiative called “Cheers for our Heroes,” which recognizes military members, as well as PAWS Cat and Kitten Rescue – they're beauty, heart and brains. What's not to like?
1 Oakland Raiderettes
Aside from the Cowboys' cheerleaders, the Raiderettes are easily one of the most iconic and recognizable cheer squads in the history of the league. Though they've not had much to really cheer about since 2002, the Raiderettes have kept up the spirit and the enthusiasm for the team. They are heavily involved in the community and log a lot of hours doing charitable service and public appearances. Said Crawford-Carnegie, "Their performances are exciting and thrilling to watch. Their hard work is obvious at every game, and that kind of commitment is very special.”