Looking good: 22 January 2011

Well done to the NFL Network.  On a day when there’s no football (what?), the network featured a classic “game of the week,” the 1968 meeting between the Packers and da Bears. A 43-yard FG by Mac Percival won the game for Chicago, who also had Gale Sayers running the ball for them. But the coolest thing about watching the show was the fact that Green Bay and Chicago were each sporting the same uniforms they wore 40+ years ago. Classic never goes out of style.

Which got me to thinking …

The NFL has seen a movement over the last few years to “modernize” (I guess that’s the right phrase) some team uniforms, often with dubious results. But that’s a post for another day. Some of the best uniforms have hardly changed at all over the years, while others, more recent, look great on the field. Along those lines, here’s my Top 10 Best Uniforms in the NFL:

Old school rules on this list
10. TIE: Kansas City and Cleveland –First of all, red is a great uniform color. KC’s colors are bold and easy to spot, and the helmet is simple, but effective (and is a nod to their stadium, Arrowhead). When the original Dallas Texans transformed into the Chiefs, they put together a winning combo that still works today. The fact that they’ve hardly tinkered with the look over the years  speaks for itself. Likewise, Cleveland’s look is unique for a couple of reasons. Who would have thought brown would work as a uniform color? Brown and orange? But it does. Maybe it’s the perfect chocolate color of the brown. Or maybe it’s simply because “We’re the Browns, we wear brown.”  Cleveland’s also the only team in the NFL with an unadorned helmet. And it works with this uniform, especially when you look at some of the “artwork” on other helmets around the league. The overall impression is an old-school team from an old-school era of greatness. Maybe someday they’ll play that way, too.

9. San Francisco: Red again. The 49ers have made minor modifications over the years, but the basic look remains the same, a good combination of red and gold. Again, clean lines and a simple helmet make the team instantly recognizable, whether it’s the John Brodie era or the Steve Young era. And after 5 Super Bowl wins, I’m glad they kept the classic look, rather than succumb to the “modern” upgrades.

 

 

8. Washington: Personally, I can’t stand the team — I live in northern Virginia, so it’s a case of familiarity breeding contempt — but they look good on the field. (Looking good and playing well being two different things.) The Redskins have changed helmets a few times, and messed with the tint of the gold, but, again, the basic look remains the same, and it’s a good one. The current helmet, which is probably the most recognizable, is a bit gaudy, but it works with the burgundy. They also have one of the best-looking home jerseys in the league, even if they have slipped into the habit, a la Dallas, of wearing the white jersey at home.  God knows why, the home jersey rocks.

7. Chicago: Da Bears. Serious old school action from one of the first teams in the league. I would have put them higher, but, honestly, the uniform, which gets high marks for its classic look, is a little boring. I do like the clean, almost subdued, look. A no-frills, blue-collar approach to a no-frills, blue-collar kinda town. But I’m not a huge fan of flat black and dull orange. Still, when you think of football in the ol’ Black and Blue Division, you automatically think of Chicago, and there’s something comforting about knowing that, whether you’re watching a clip from the ’60s or yesterday’s game, you’re going to know it’s the Bears. Want proof? Check out the photo of Sweetness. That picture is from the ’70s.  same uniform they’re wearing today.

6. Pittsburgh: Another classic team with a classic look.  The only color better on a uniform than red is black, and the Steelers have plenty of that. And this uniform has seen 6 Super Bowl wins (and counting).  Black and gold are a personal favorite of mine (a shout out to the New Hope Trojans), but the red and blue (in the helmet logo) are distracting. Actually, there’s a lot going on with the Steelers uni, but it all comes together nicely. I especially like the logo only on one side.  The Steelers are all about keeping it real, and they do that by continuing this practice.

5. New York (Jets): I love the Jets’ uniforms, especially since they “modernized” a few years ago by going back to their original look.  They harken the days of the AFL, Joe Namath and a time when a football uniform looked like, well, a football uniform. The green is bold, the helmet logo is cool, and the sleeve stripes are classic old-school. Clean lines, great simple colors spell J-E-T-S.

 

 

4. New York Football Giants: Like the Jets, the Giants decided to return to form a few years ago with their original scheme, and the football world applauded. A lot of people think the uni is too simple — the jersey is unadorned, the pants are gray and the helmet is simply and “NY” logo. Works for me. It’s clean and bold. The combination of red, blue and gray is perfectly balanced to the point of near elegance. The red-blue stripe on the pants is the perfect highlight for a football uniform.

3. Indianapolis: I love it when the Colts play on “throwback uniform” day — because they wear the same thing! I can still remember being a first-grader and painting a horseshoe on the side of my toy (white) football helmet in honor of Johnny Unitas. The shade of blue in the uniform is perfect, the sleeve stripes have endured through the years, and the helmet is one of the best in the league — that horseshoe says it all.  I usually don’t like white football helmets, but the Colts are one of the very few teams that pull it off.  The Colts are also one of the few teams left that look pretty much the same on the road as they do at home — their road uniform is simply a white jersey over their white pants.  Which is the way it was when God created football. You wore white pants and a dark jersey at home, white pants and a white jersey on the road.  The Colts pull off both better than most teams.

2. New Orleans: I’m probably going to catch heat for this, but, eh, I never said I was objective.  What is there not to like about the Saints’ uni? The one thing (only one) that kept them out of my top spot — their tendency toward the “all-black” look in the Dome. Don’t like it. But this uniform can be a work of art. I’ve already mentioned my penchant for black and gold and the Saints do it better than anybody. The gold pants, with the broad black stripe and black jerseys, stripeless but adorned with an image of the state of Louisiana, is an awesome uniform. The gold helmet with a unique logo is the best in the league. I say “unique” not because it’s a fleur-de-lis so much as it is a symbol of the city. Most teams slap something gaudy on the side that evokes the name of the team (Seahawks, I’m looking at you), but few teams actually use some sort of symbols (the Rams come to mind). The Saints went in a different direction and came up with a cool helmet (especially since they went to the smaller logo in ’99).

1. Green Bay: No, I’m not a closet Packers fan but green is my favorite color.  Especially Green Bay green. Their home jerseys haven’t changed in a lifetime — in fact, the entire uniform has endured unchanged. And why not? It’s the best there is. Don’t tamper with perfection. Pretty good for one of the first teams in the league, in one of the smallest markets. Green and yellow match up as well as any two colors in the Crayola box, and keeping it simple, both in the uniform and the helmet, creates a championship look. And, by the way, The “G” on the helmet wasn’t originally intended to stand for “Green Bay” — it was to stand for “Greatness.” And like the Colts, when the Pack travels, they simply swap their green jerseys for a white one and, bam, road uniform. Can’t beat that.

Tomorrow, best “new” uniforms. Stay tuned.

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