The Worst Uniform in the History of Every NFL Franchise
It’s safe to say that there are a lot of serious decisions to be made over the next few weeks for all of the teams in the NFL as free agency starts to wind down and the NFL draft gets a little closer.
But if you’re looking for some serious analysis in this piece, we can absolutely assure you that you’re wasting your time.
That means we’re going to have a different kind of fun (because the NFL offseason is to be enjoyed as well).
So be it permanent changes, tributes to the past or any other reasons, mix and match, experimentation, here’s a look at all 32 current franchises' worst moment in terms of best costume.
The reasoning will be different for each club. And take all of this with a grain of salt. Finally, feel free to chime in with your own memories of the day your favorite football team showed you what not to wear.
So without further ado, here are our choices for the bad and the ugly. And feel free to come up with your best…uh, worst suggestions.
More importantly, the focus here is fun and not offensive. No matter how offensive some of these outfits may appear.
We know that the NFL’s Cardinals have been around since 1920 and haven’t won an NFL title since 1947, the longest current drought championship-wise in the league.
And we also know that these are indeed the “Redbirds.” But they opted to take that to a new level in 2002 when they first decided to pair red jersey and red pants. Sorry, the glorified long johns look just doesn’t cut it. What’s next for the team…footie pajamas?
Still, give credit where it’s due. In 2005, the team altered the logo on the helmet to give the cardinal a meaner work.
Hence the forerunner to today’s “Angry Birds.”
From their debut season in 1966 to Hall of Famer Deion Sanders’ debut year in the NFL in 1989, the Atlanta Falcons were certainly not known for winning football on a consistent basis.
In 1990, the team’s 25th in the NFL, new head coach Jerry Glanville and the Falcons unveiled a new look. Out with the red helmets and in with new black helmets, black jerseys similar to their early day and grey pants just adopted by the club in 1978.
What a look. But one year later, the Falcons found themselves in the playoffs for only the fourth time in their existence and the team would make three more trips to the postseason in that attire, including the franchise’s lone Super Bowl appearance in 1998.
Eventually, better taste took over. Perhaps with that occasional success, they found those uniforms too legit to quit them.
I’m sure we all remember the early days of the Baltimore Ravens.
The artist formerly known as the Cleveland Browns turned in Lake Erie for Inner Harbor, and the results speaks for themselves.
But the current defending champions have had that menacing raven on the helmet since 1999, the year before they won their first NFL title via Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa, Florida.
And as for that logo of the crest with the capital B and wings, that is a look strictly for the birds.
The Buffalo Bills first put a buffalo on the side of their helmets in 1962, the franchise’s, as well as the AFL's third year of existence.
A little over two decades later, the Bills’ helmet made a different kind of news.
The story goes that quarterback Joe Ferguson, who played for the team for a dozen seasons from 1973-84, was having his issues spotting his receivers, especially during those snowy days in Orchard Park. And cited was the fact that the team’s based-white helmets were part of the problem.
So in 1984 (which proved to be Ferguson’s last season with the club), the Bills changed their lids and since have offered various combinations to that look.
But when you combine red helmets with blue facemasks (which the team did for three seasons), safe to say it’s a little hard on the eyes.
The Carolina Panthers have played 18 seasons in the National Football League dating back to 1995.
There have been some good and bad moments but not a lot of changes when it comes to attire.
Still, we’ll head right back to last season and the team’s Week 10 tilt with the visiting Denver Broncos.
You’ll find a prevailing theme here with the dark jerseys with dark pants. It just doesn’t seem to work.
Call us old school.
Call them unbearable?
The Chicago Bears, aka the “Monsters of the Midway”, certainly didn’t look so fearsome in this get-up in 1994.
Once again, it’s back to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary celebration. And here’s quarterback Erik Kramer and the team’s tribute to the franchise’s early days, when they began as the Decatur Staleys (1920), became the Chicago Staleys (1921) and settled in as the Chicago Bears in 1922.
Now, there are various theories about vertical stripes and whether they make you look thinner or fatter. In any case, this look gets the nod over the occasional appearance of those orange jerseys.
It’s simple and it says it.
I guess that was the point when it came to the original look of the Cincinnati Bengals, born out of expansion in 1968 in the American Football League with the aid of owner and head coach Paul Brown.
As in Paul Brown of the Cleveland Browns…
Get the picture?
Of course, the story behind the story that once owner Art Modell relieved Brown of his head coach duties after the 1962 season, he not only eventually founded the Bengals but the team drew this remarkable resemblance uniform-wise to the NFL’s Browns. The exception was the word Bengals on the side of the helmet.
In 1981, the franchise made the switch to the much-jazzier stripes that we see today in all different combinations. Ironically, the team’s first season in the new uniforms saw the club reach Super Bowl XVI.
Simply put, they are the Cleveland Browns.
They’re not the Cleveland Oranges.
Yes, we know that the franchise's official colors are brown, orange and white.
Still, while the helmets are indeed orange, the team opted to pull out the orange jerseys (not seen since the mid-1950s) and give them an occasional whirl over the course of three seasons from 2002-04.
Funny enough, that 2002 season marked the lone time the franchise has been to the playoffs since re-entering the league in 1999.
Okay, Browns fans. Perhaps it’s not so funny.
They remain "America’s Team" whether you like them or not.
The fascination with the Dallas Cowboys never ceases to end.
Born out of expansion in 1960, it wasn’t until 1964 that we began to see the silver and blue helmet and uniforms now symbolic of the club.
Still, in the spirit of tradition, the franchise rolls out the old-school uniforms from their early days. With all due respect, they’re pretty plain and do little or nothing other than remind some that the team didn’t win a game (0-11-1) during its debut season.
Okay, it’s a reach.
Slick and modernized, the current Denver Broncos uniforms are a vast departure from their past.
And when you consider that they made their Mile High debut in 1997 and the team went on to win their first of two straight Super Bowls that year, they obviously have mystical powers as well.
Frankly, the days of Tom Jackson, Randy Gradishar, Billy Thompson and the “Orange Crush” defense, featuring those fabulous helmets with the horse emblazoned within the capital D, was as good as it gets.
But you can’t have a bad uniform discussion without talking about the pancake syrup-colored jersey, chocolate pants, vertical-striped socks of the original Broncos from 1960-61.
Out of consideration for the reader, the photo is an original black and white of those ghastly threads.
Be it the more modern look of today or even its recent predecessors, the Detroit Lions have always had one of the better looks around the NFL.
And even though their tribute to the original days comes in the form of these nondescript blue and silver outfits we have seen on occasion (most notably on Thanksgiving), the look leaves us a little flat.
Frankly, it’s just not the Lions without that lion.
And we’re not lion.
Green Bay Packers
There’s a reason that Green Bay, Wisconsin is referred to as “Titletown.”
That’s because when it comes to NFL championships, no team owns more than the Green Bay Packers (13).
But how can you been Green Bay without any green?
We get the salute to the franchise’s early days in the 1920s and early 1930s. But in this shot from the team’s win that day over the visiting San Francisco 49ers in 2010, you would never know which NFL club this was unless the game was at Lambeau Field (which it was).
In some ways, the G on the sides of the helmet stands for green and gold. Without that, the Pack is back…to being ghastly.
The Houston Texans have only been in existence since 2002, so there’s not exactly a huge sample size when it comes to finding the ugliest uniform in the team’s history.
Don’t worry. We found it.
Simply click back to our first slide regarding the Arizona Cardinals and you know how we feel about the matching jersey and pants.
In the case of the Texans and the Lone Star State, it’s even more offensive. Because everyone knows you don’t put ketchup on a fine steak.
Do you feel lucky?
Not if you wore what the Indianapolis Colts were wearing for a bit in 2010.
It was a tribute to the franchise’s first three seasons from 1953-55, uniforms with big numbers on the front of the jersey and blue helmets.
Make that blank blue helmets.
The Colts without their fabled horseshoe on the side of their helmet (it was actually tucked near the back in 1954-55)?
What’s next? No Peyton Manning?
We won’t waste a lot of time with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Like the Carolina Panthers, they have been in the NFL less than 20 years and haven’t made a lot of changes to their look.
In 2002, the teal, black and gold was sometimes replaced by an all-black look from helmet to pants. And as you have summarized by now, we’re not big fans of the one-tone look.
And here’s something to think about. If the Jaguars had somehow reached Super Bowl XLVII and wore those uniforms in the Superdome, we may have never found them after the lights went out in the third quarter.
Kansas City Chiefs
We’re at a loss here.
Before they became the Kansas City Chiefs in 1963, the franchise was located in Dallas and was named the Texans.
So this photo from 2009, the year the NFL celebrated the 50th anniversary of the American Football League, is pretty spot on from the original look that began in 1960.
So what do we do? That arrowhead with the capital KC in the middle shows some solid thinking and imagination. So by default the original look makes this list.
And to be honest, we won’t feel very good about this.
So whose idea was this?
When it comes to creativity, perhaps only the New England Patriots (coming up soon) could give the Miami Dolphins a run for their money. The franchise first took the field in 1966 in the AFL and those colors, combined with “Flipper” wearing a helmet on the Dolphins’ helmet, is a classic look.
In 2013, you will see a revamped Miami team on the field wearing a revamped design.
Something fishy appears to be going on around here (I know, it’s a mammal. Work with me).
Pretty peculiar for a franchise that knows a little something about perfection.
The early days of the Minnesota Vikings uniform-wise aren’t that dramatically different from today, expect for a few bells and whistles here and there.
They are another team that is pretty recognizable via their colors and their helmet logo.
But in those early years the team helmets had a bit of a bloating issue, as the team didn’t streamline the horn on the side of their hats until a few years later.
That’s about as controversial as it gets when it comes to the Purple Gang.
New England Patriots
It’s been 20 years and it’s still perplexing.
Like the Miami Dolphins, you could make a case that the New England Patriots once owned the most imaginative look in the league with their clean look of that magnificent Minuteman (hiking the football) on their helmet.
In 1993, the franchise opted for a new design. And while it does feature red, white and blue, it just doesn’t have the same flair and creativity.
Now, granted, the Patriots have gone to a half-dozen Super Bowls (winning three) with their current look. But who’s counting?
And there’s something to be said about originality.
New Orleans Saints
We plan on taking it a little easy on the New Orleans Saints.
No, not because of last year’s forgettable offseason followed by a longer regular season.
The franchise first took the field in 1967, and it took them until 1987 to finish above .500 (as well as reach the playoffs).
So, 2012 aside, there have been some pretty good times for this franchise.
Hence in 1994, the year of the league’s 75th anniversary, the Saints had to trot out some of their duds from the past. And pun is definitely intended.
As if the team’s fanbase needed a reminder of the franchise’s ugly days.
New York Giants
In 1975, one year before they made the Meadowlands their home, the G-Men opted for a helmet design that had to make their fans say “gee whiz.”
Gone was the lowercase “ny” and in its place, a jazzed-up set of letters that looked like sophisticated cat scratches.
In 1976, Big Blue made it simple with the word “Giants” underlined on the sides of the helmet and there has been the change back to the old-school look since.
But that ’75 look was a rough read to say the least.
New York Jets
Yes, we’ve seen those renditions of the old Titans uniforms (the New York Jets’ nom de guerre before becoming the J-E-T-S in 1963)
But on principal alone, we’re calling out the franchise for their throwback look in 1994.
One can clearly see that the team took their current look that year, replaced that Jets logo that debuted in 1978 and replaced it with the old-school logo that is currently the look on the helmet today.
And you can guess even Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Namath had to wince at that look. I guarantee it.
Like the Oakland Raiders need to be picked on any more these days.
The team is a combined 49-111 over the last 10 years. So show a little compassion.
Still, we have a job to do here, so we’ll nitpick a bit and take a closer look at one of the franchise’s recent ensembles.
The first sign of the Raiders’ famed logo appeared in 1963, and that’s what you see in the photo above, a tribute to the Silver and Black during the 50th anniversary celebration of the American Football League in 2009.
But that logo looked like it was slapped on the side of the helmet before it was finished. A year later, someone obviously took the time to do a little fine tuning, hence the great design you see today.
One afternoon against the Detroit Lions in 2007, Easter apparently came either very early, or very late, to the City of Brotherly Love.
All kidding aside, the Philadelphia Eagles rolled out a variation of their uniforms from the early days of the franchise in the 1930s.
Laugh if you want (we sure did), but quarterback Donovan McNabb and company rolled up 536 total yards in a 56-21 win over the Lions, who probably lost a few of those jerseys and helmets in the sun.
And there’s no truth to the rumor that, despite the 35-point victory, the Philadelphia fans booed the outfits.
Last year, there was a lot of buzz when the Pittsburgh Steelers revealed their latest throwback uniforms, and even more when they first wore them versus the Washington Redskins.
And buzz would be the operative word considering Mike Tomlin’s club looked like real killer bees in a 27-12 victory over Mike Shanahan’s team.
The outfits were a tribute to the first Steelers team in 1933, when the franchise was originally known as the Pirates.
So, obviously, the team’s 8-8 finish in 2012 wasn’t the only thing hard on the eyes of Pittsburgh fans last season.
St. Louis Rams
So how does a team celebrate the franchise’s first NFL championship in 48 years?
Change their uniforms?
Yes, the St. Louis Rams, wearing those same colors that had served them well for a number of years in Los Angeles and Anaheim, opted for a hue changes starting in 2000.
Never mind that those beautiful blue and yellow pajamas helped Kurt Warner, Mike Jones and company secure a win over the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV following the 1999 season.
Keep in mind that they haven’t won a championship since and haven’t been to the playoffs since 2004.
That’s just in case you were wondering what the real issues have been with the team the last decade or so.
San Diego Chargers
Ah, those powder blues.
No team in the league gets more comments about its latter day look than the San Diego Chargers.
There have been several variations on the Bolts’ uniforms since the early days, and the look of the 1970s and most of the ‘80s was pretty sharp as well.
Then the franchise changed the color of that bolt from a gold to a white interior in 1988, and it’s been downhill ever since.
Yes, the team finally made its first and only appearance in the Super Bowl in 1994.
Unfortunately, all of that credit goes to the players on the field. Who knew?
San Francisco 49ers
It was a simple matter of overthinking.
Two years removed from their Super Bowl title season of 1994, the San Francisco 49ers blended a slightly different hue of their jersey with a bit of a glitzier version of their helmet.
Add in the team logo on both sleeves and welcome to the mid-‘90s.
Sorry, it just doesn’t work, especially in the all-white look pictured above. Add a few more patches and these Niners may not get back to the Super Bowl, but could lock up quite a merit badge.
How about a little lime sorbet with your chips and wings?
Obviously, the Seattle Seahawks took a little bit of a cue from their collegiate neighbors just south of the state of Washington.
And one look at that tribute to Fruit Roll-Ups in 2009 told you that perhaps this alternate jersey look around the league had jumped the shark.
Safe to say not even Arthur Fonzarelli would have thought these Seahawks looked cool.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
You've got to give the Tampa Bay Buccaneers credit. Today’s fearsome uniforms came in the right place at the right time.
The team was just coming into its own under head coach Tony Dungy, and that tremendous defense was made even more imposing by today’s look.
It was also quite a departure from the days of “Bucco Bruce” and those orange uniforms, which made the Buccaneers a walking billboard for orange Creamsicles.
Maybe that’s why the franchise, born in 1976, got licked an NFL record 26 straight times before finally winning a game during its second year of existence in 1977.
Okay, try to keep up.
The Tennessee Titans were originally the Houston Oilers, who in 1997 became the Tennessee Oilers and two years after that (1999) the Tennessee Titans.
During the Oilers’ heydays in the late 1970s under head coach Bum Phillips, the team reached two straight AFC Championship Games and the Astrodome was filled with cheers and signs proclaiming “Luv Ya Blue.”
But from 1966-71, the Oilers sported a look more suited for a tribute to the civil war than a football team, the combination of blue and grey made for an interesting contrast.
It's safe to say this combination wasn’t too slick.
The current uniform of the Washington Redskins, specifically the team’s helmet logo, is as sharp a design as they come in the NFL.
The team used several renditions of helmets until 1972, when the franchise gave us that detailed logo.
There was even a time when the Redskins featured maroon helmets with a spear on the side, a look somewhat associated with the Florida State Seminoles these days. We even saw the maroon paired with a feather during the late 1950s until the mid-1960s.
But that circled R with a pair of feathers hanging down the side that the club sported for two years (1970-71)...
A big letdown for one of the A students in this league, uniform-wise.