Out with the old, in with the “new:” 23 January 2011

As promised, today’s all about ugly ducks and swans.

I’m like a lot of football fans — I tend to obsess and complain about team uniforms, especially when they change a lot. Over the last 10-15 years, the NFL has seen a lot of changes, some needed, some not. I know it’s like Charlie Brown’s Christmas — it’s a racket run by a big syndicate — but it still makes for interesting sportsgeek conversation.

Football isn’t the only sport that does this. Major League Baseball, with a few notable exceptions, has been tinkering with uniforms for years, too, but we’ll get to them in the summer.  The NBA essentially overhauled every uniform in the league, but that’s the NBA, so I don’t care.

So, following up on the Top 10 best uniforms in the NFL, today is a look at the 10 best makeovers in the NFL, based mostly on how they look as opposed to how they used to look. Disagree? Leave me your top 10 list in the “Comments” section.

10. New York (Jets): In the late ’70s and early ’80s, fashion restlessness took hold in the NFL, and both NYC teams were hit with the bug at the same time. The Jets, in keeping with the trends of the time, threw out their original Joe Namath-era unis for something simpler. Too simple, actually. All adornment of the jersey was tossed in favor of a solid green, boring jersey and matching helmet. The new “JETS” on the helmet was cool at first — I wasted plenty of time in chemistry class drawing it on my notebook — but the novelty soon wore off. The boring uniform must have worn off on the Jets’ play, too. With the exception of Boomer Esiason and Mark Gastineau, there was little to get interested in.  So, #10 is actually (like #9 to follow) a return to form. A welcome return.

9. New York Football Giants: The Giants did it, too, and botched up their uniforms as badly as the Jets. Never a fancy uniform to begin with, the Giants set a Big Apple standard for boring, and included a helmet that practically insulted the football world and white pants that screamed “BLAH.” With an ugly block letter “GIANTS” on the helmet, the message seemed to be, “In case you’re too dumb to know, you’re watching the Giants.” When they went back to the original, things seemed a little more right in the universe.

8. Houston: Houston hasn’t really changed its uniforms because it’s still a new franchise. But they made it to #8 because of all the “new-look” uniforms in the NFL, theirs is pretty slick. Granted, they have a few too many combos, and the “all-red” look they occasionally sport looks like somebody threw a bunch of Popsicles on the field, but the helmet logo is badass. And the colors, highlighted with the now fashionable trim, really works.


7. Philadelphia: The Eagles, back in the day, followed a trend common in the NFL — have your helmet adornment represent the name of your team, especially if your team is named after an animal. The Rams had their horns, the Eagles got wings. The uniform of the ’70s, though, was ugly. A retina-hurting green and silver that looked more like gray, and gaudy white stripes on the jerseys. When they re-did the uniform in the ’90s, they definitely improved the look: a green more pleasing to the eye (thanks to the adding of some black to the hue), more silver and redesigned wings. I’m still not a fan of the wings, but they definitely look better.

6. Arizona: The Cardinals moved from St. Louis and took their look with them. How boring was it? So boring I had a hard time finding images of the original uniform. The new one is a big improvement over the original with one exception — the white helmet with the original cardinal looks like a 1950s helmet on a 2010 uniform, which is exactly what it is. The new togs look great with the highlights, piping and vivid red, but the helmet needs some work. Maybe the Cardinals need to spend some time studying Atlanta’s look.


5. Jacksonville: The Jaguars are a mystery. An expansion team that went to the AFC Championship within five years that now can barely fill a stadium. A team with a cool, albeit unlikely, nickname (really, are jaguars prevalent in NE Florida?). A well-dressed team to begin with that decided on an “upgrade.” I don’t know why they did it. The uniforms looked fine before and they look fine after. Some people are just never satisfied, I guess.


4. Tampa Bay: OK, full disclosure here: I actually liked the original Tampa Bay uniform. At the time the orange-sherbet colors (especially the orange facemask) was uber cool. Of course, that was the 1970s. And the now-famous Winking Gay Pirate (not that there’s anything wrong with that) was cool, too. But, apparently, the masses disagreed, and the Buccaneers got a new wardrobe. And the Bucs proved that new can be good, especially when you put it all together with the darker orange/pewter look. And, best of all, they got rid of the white helmet. I’m not a fan of the cutesy football inserted into the Jolly Roger flag, but, eh, it’s football. It works. The only knock I’ve got against the new unis is there are too many combinations.

3. Atlanta: My hatred for the Falcons extends to their old uniforms. If you look at the “before” pic on the left and think you’re looking at the Georgia Bulldogs, don’t feel like you’re the only one. The colors are almost a total ripoff. That 8th-grade art class rendering of a falcon on the helmet is confusing as hell unless you study it. The original Falcons were overly simple — red jerseys and helmets and white pants. That changed during the Jerry Glanville era, and not for the better. The helmet was changed to black — and the falcon remained black.  Black on black just doesn’t work. They also went to a black jersey (they read the report that said black NFL merchandise sells better than anything else). But it was still a plain look. Today’s uniforms, however, are a huge improvement. I’m not a big fan of the piping and slashes and all the other multi-color decorations on jerseys, but on the Falcons, the look is awesome. White, black and red. And the falcon got a facelift. It may look a little outer space but it’s far, far better than the original. The Falcons are now one of the best-looking teams in the league.

2. New England: This was a tough call — where to place the Pats. Their original uniform was atrocious. It looked outdated in the ’70s. I like stripes on the shoulders, but the color combination and flat colors made the Patriots look bland. And the helmet — besides being white — was hideous. I get it, a “patriot” snapping the ball. Lame. And unless you were right next to player, it was hard to discern exactly what it was, especially in the days before HD TV. The current look is actually a variation on their remake. The first remake was a do-over that vastly improved the look. Since then, they’ve tweaked the jersey, added blue pants, and modified some of the striping. And it’s a great modern look. Even the helmet is brand-new — and it’s not white!

1. Denver: Folks, the original Broncos uniform was an abomination. It looked like it fell out of the ugly tree and hit every limb on the way down. Orange jerseys that could induce Immediate Cornea Meltdown, a baby-blue (baby blue??) helmet with a snot-slinging horse inside a big D. Oh, and white pants. No wonder they lost all those Super Bowls. The other team couldn’t quit laughing — or puking. But when the Broncos unveiled the new unis, I was impressed. Gone were the blinding orange and baby blue, replaced by a darker blue and orange trim. Finally, sanity landed. Denver was one of the first teams I noticed doing a complete re-do (after the Patriots), and one of the few teams that got it right. Since then, several teams have tried to do it, some with horrible results (Minnesota, take note). But Denver is by far and away the most improved uniform in the league.

Next up, worst uniforms.


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