Ah, the gridiron, where uniform revisions are not merely a matter of aesthetics or merchandising—coincidentally or not, teams that have revised their uniforms in recent years have seen their fortunes improve on the field. The Titans, for instance, changed their unis along with their team name last season and promptly found themselves in the Super Bowl. Other recent examples: the ’98 Jets, who revived their old-school uni design and advanced to the AFC title game; the ’97 Broncos, whose garish, Nike-designed uniforms somehow broke the franchise’s long-standing Super Bowl jinx; and the ’97 Buccaneers, who unveiled their red-and-pewter color scheme and went on to make their first playoff appearance in 15 years.
Despite this correlation, football is stubbornly tradition-bound. Some franchises, like the Colts, Chiefs, Cardinals, Bears, Browns, Lions, Packers, Vikings, Saints, and Raiders, have made no appreciable uniform changes in over 30 years, and the NFL has resisted the alternate-jersey craze that has infected other sports. The Broncos’ design seemed to signal the dawn of a new generation in football unis, but the trend never materialized—three years later, not a single team has tried anything remotely similar.
That said, a few teams have tinkered with their wardrobes this year. Here’s the rundown, including Uni Watch’s exclusive rating for each new design, on a scale of one to five helmets:
•Giants: Although the Jints’ back-to-the-future uni has been widely described as a straightforward throwback design, it’s actually composed of elements dating back to different times in team history: the ny helmet (originally used from 1961-1974), gray pants (1954-1965), and red numerals on the white jerseys (1950-1963). All in all, it’s a keeper, although Uni Watch could have lived without the little GIANTS insignia on the jersey chest. A dozen teams now employ this device—hasn’t anyone told them that football fans can’t read?
•Rams: The Super Bowl champs have switched to a rather drab navy-and-brass color scheme, banished the ram horns from their shoulders, put a cheesy new logo on their sleeves, added stripes running down the sides of their jersey (the one aspect of Denver’s design that is slowly gaining favor around the league), and hopped aboard the insignia-on-jersey-chest bandwagon. Is this any way for a champion to behave?
•Patriots: The league’s most USFL-esque design has received a welcome face-lift. The team logo has moved from the shoulders (where it looked absolutely adrift) to the sleeves, the drop-shadow that made the numbers so hard to read has been eliminated, and the new blue road pants look sharp. Too bad about the stripes running down the sides of the jersey, but this is still a major improvement.
•Cowboys: In honor of the late Tom Landry, Dallas is wearing a chest patch depicting the longtime coach’s trademark fedora. Despite being a confirmed Cowboy-hater, Uni Watch is forced to acknowledge that this move is sheer genius—the little hat icon says more than a black armband or set of initials could ever hope to convey. Bonus points for coming up with a uni revision that sounds like a punch line from King of the Hill.