by Dave Bernreuther and Vincent Verhei
Vince: Before we move on to our reviews of the uniforms of the NFC West, we must revisit the AFC South. We covered that division last month, but last week the Houston Texans made a major, major announcement. You'd better sit down before watching the video in this Tweet.
Dave: (scrambles to find a chair)
— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) April 22, 2019
Vince: Yes, the Texans are adding their logo to the backs of their jerseys. And … OK? I mean, it's a subtle change -- you probably won't even notice when you're watching games -- but what's the point? Who is going to be watching games and thinking "I can't remember which team I'm watching here -- oh right, the postage stamp-size cow head on the back reminds me it's Houston!" Who is the fan who says "I wasn't going to buy a Deshaun Watson jersey before, but that itty-bitty logo totally justifies my $150?" I have no idea why they're even bothering with this.
Dave: But it represents their SPIRIT! (Rights self after falling on the floor)
I'm all for the idea that changing a tiny detail can make a huge difference. I've come full circle on the Chargers changing their facemask, for instance. But good lord. There's no need to make a movie trailer and PR campaign about it. I guess when you're the Texans you need to put yourself in the news however possible? Stay tuned for next week's press conference to announce that Brian Gaine got a haircut!
(All graphics appear courtesy of GridironUniforms.com.)
Vince: Of all my uniform taeks, this is perhaps my hawtest: the Arizona Cardinals all-white road uniforms are my favorite uniforms in the NFL. Bold, distinctive helmet logo? Check. Strong color contrast with simplistic yet characteristic striping? Check. Limited use of a third color (black), including borders on the numbers? Check, check, check. When you see those uniforms, you know in an instant that the Cardinals are playing. No doubt about it.
And the funny thing is, I usually hate uniforms where the helmets, jerseys, and pants are all white. What sets Arizona's uniforms apart is how much they use the secondary color -- the red runs all over the shoulders, down the sides of the jersey, and into the pants. Really, they're not all-white -- they're white-and-red, just with an unusual distribution of the colors.
Otherwise, I am uninspired by Arizona's uniforms. When they pair red jerseys with white pants (or vice versa), they are inoffensive, but boring. Same goes for the black jerseys with white pants; at least they match the black in the logo, so they're not just black-for-black's sake. The all-red and all-black uniforms are both awful. I'm not typically a fan of teams wearing white at home, but the Cardinals are the exception -- they should wear that look as often as possible.
Dave: We've talked about the all-white stuff before, and I generally agree. In some ways, perhaps because of the lack of a helmet stripe and the grey facemasks, I always thought that Arizona's starting point was even more boring than other white-helmeted teams. Like Atlanta, though, their all-white ensemble works because of how it uses color. I know several traditionalists and uniform analysts that can't stand either of those teams' more modern striping patterns, especially the side-of-jersey stripes (which are often unnecessary and also frequently end up askew from the continuation on the pants), but I think that as newer, more modern, sleeveless uniforms go, both teams did a great job with this -- unlike, say, a few of the attempts that the Vikings made before giving up and going semi-retro. I don't even mind the shoulder yoke on the whites, although I still think it might be better with a bit less of that, if only because its presence sort of makes the plainness of the helmet clash a bit with the busier and more modern look of the jerseys.
That said, it's a good helmet, and I don't suggest that they mess with it much. Still, I wouldn't mind seeing something small done, at least as a test. Maybe a red facemask. Maybe make the bird bigger (but not Tampa Bay logo bigger)? I don't know. I just want to see a *little* bit more color there somehow and see how it looks. Maybe it would be bad. Hard to know until I see it.
The red jersey/white pants combination follows all the rules and works well to me. The whites look so good with all-white that there is no way they should ever wear red pants; those improved the pre-2004 era all-white blandness, but not the new set.
The black jersey should be burned. Cardinals aren't black, you jabronis. Not even the females. And they look especially stupid with all-black and a white helmet on top. Whoever decided that was a good idea shouldn't be drawing a paycheck. Leave the blackbird look to the Falcons and Ravens.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
Dave: The Rams are in a bit of limbo between stadiums now, so I'll give them a partial pass on the clashing look they're stuck with due to the NFL merchandising rules. I say partial, though, because they've shown that they're perfectly willing to change the helmet decals, so there's really no reason why they couldn't have still come up with a bit of a gold accent there to tie it together and make it look normal. Likewise, the mismatch of the navy helmet vs. the royal blue of the throwbacks isn't their fault, again due to those illusion-of-safety rules. But it still looks pretty bad.
Vince: Agreed that under the circumstances, we need to cut the Rams a bit of slack. They're going through an awkward transitional phase at every level of the organization off the field (which makes their on-field success all the more impressive), including the uniforms. And they deserve extra credit for ditching the blue jerseys with the gold numbers last season. They tried that in their first two seasons back in L.A., and it was disastrous -- the 2017 game against Jacksonville was one of the ugliest NFL contests in years, sartorially speaking. I for one applaud the return of the white horns on the helmets -- I have always preferred the blue-and-whites to blue-and-yellows. And if that makes me a hypocrite for endorsing another navy blue team in the league without a strong contrasting color to set them apart from the pack, that's OK, because I am a hypocritical person, prone to changing my mind or opinions on virtually anything to suit my comfort level.
Dave: Without making a political joke, let me just say that it's totally fine to be a hypocrite to suit your comfort level as long as you own it. I'm sure over the course of this series I have done the same between three and thirty times already.
One thing I never really noticed until now is that the blue-and-white look is not nearly as long-spanning a part of their history as I thought. It only lasted nine years, which is far less than every other look aside from the inexplicable one-season switch to red in 1949.
Vince: I definitely prefer the simplicity of the Eric Dickerson uniforms as opposed to the blue-and-gold St. Louis uniforms, but the inconsistent use of colors has always bothered me, going back to the 1980s -- the jersey numbers are yellow, but the names are white. Numbers and names should always match. And if you're worried that yellow names wouldn't be legible on a blue jersey, well, maybe the numbers shouldn't be yellow either. And numbers should always have borders.
Dave: You know, I never even noticed until now that the names were still white in a uniform otherwise completely devoid of white. I agree that that's stupid.
That's it for the negative, though. I hate to give Stan Kroenke credit for much of anything, but I do like that the team wanted to go retro when they moved. I also kind of like that they seem to be leaning toward two color schemes too, with the all-white Deacon Jones era look AND the very yellow Dickerson era look. It's a bit visually inconsistent, but it's unique, it's a nod to two different eras of their long history, and it works.
This may be due to just how awesome their helmet logo is. The Rams, Eagles, Vikings, and Bengals all eschew the traditional logo plating in favor of something meant to be more three-dimensional, and I have always loved that. It was clever in 1948 when they introduced it, and it's still clever now. With that distinctive a look and lengthy a history, it is wise to throw back to it. And it doesn't seem like anyone at all is sorry to see the gold go, which is interesting because aside from overdoing the combinations, it actually looked pretty good. At the time it was a nice evolution/modernization of the prior set. They updated it, but they kept what was important. I liked that.
Vince: I have picked apart some details here, but I totally agree with you on the big picture -- the Rams' helmets are awesome, whichever color the horns are, and the way they tie them into the shoulder stripes is particularly pleasing. I'd love to see them wear the white version of the Dickerson jerseys, which included not only bold shoulder stripes but also yellow sleeves, and I am a sucker for football jerseys with different colored sleeves.
Dave: I'll drink to that.
Vince: The point is, when the Rams do get their new uniforms, they don't need to reinvent the wheel -- blue helmet with horns, pants that match the horns, numbers and names that match each other, and restrained use of a third color. Don't mess with that formula, and they'll be fine.
Dave: Which is a good segue to their current situation. New (old) city, brand new flashy stadium, contending team, and a huge new market that they're trying to dominate … few franchises have had the opportunity that the Rams do now. And it wouldn't be like Stan Kroenke to leave dollars on the table by letting people recycle their '80s gear if they just made the Dickerson throwbacks their permanent duds. But much like the 2000 reboot, this is not something that should be overdone. They need to stay true to their history but tweak it just enough to be modern, flashy, and stand out in the City of Lights.
Fortunately for them, I have the perfect idea.
Now, it's entirely possible that I'm crazy, but long before the Rams started threatening to move back to L.A., UniWatch did a contest where readers could submit concepts to redesign the uniforms for every/any team. And I loved the idea that maybe the Rams could go back to the blue-and-white motif instead, because obviously as a Colts fan and having grown up in a town whose colors were blue and white, I was partial to that combination. So I was thrilled when one of the submissions for the Rams pitched this idea. I was also very impressed with the artistic ability of whoever did it, because it was one of those 3D mannequin-like model photos with a perfect recreation of the helmet and logo and everything. I don't know how they made it so realistic, but it was great. And ever since they moved back to L.A. and announced that they'd be switching to new uniforms when the stadium opened, I have been looking for this, to no avail.
I emailed Paul Lukas about this and he wasn't able to remember it either. I really hesitate to take all the credit here … but maybe I just made it up in my mind. But in that possibly fake memory floating around upstairs, there's an absolutely incredible idea: silver.
Now, you're going to have to shut your eyes and just imagine this one, just as I am/did … but in my vision they add just a bit of a nice bright silver; brighter and shinier than the Cowboys' or Raiders' helmets, but stopping short of blinding chrome. With the old blue-and-whites as the basis, the silver becomes just an accent, like as a border on the numbers, a bit of shading to create a third dimension on the helmet horns, maybe the facemask as well. But that's it, really. Royal blue, white, and some bright silver accents. It'd keep what makes them iconic, but it'd be still be different, fresh, and really sharp looking. I realize that it'd ditch the yellow entirely, but they could still always wear the throwbacks once or twice a year, plus the other team in L.A. also wears blue(s) and yellow. Blue and silver would be unique both to the city and to the entire league. (To all four major sports leagues, actually, unless I'm forgetting someone.)
This needs to happen. And I really need to see this mocked up in three dimensions by someone with more artistic talent than I have. Any takers? I'll reward you with … well, I don't know. Maybe a copy of FOA 2019. Or maybe just my undying affection. But I'd love to see this put together in a format that we could send out to Les Snead and Stan Kroenke. I really do think it could be great.
You can see all the entries in the redesign contest here, but I wanted to highlight a few of my favorite entries.
Colors aside, I absolutely love what Brent did with the pants striping and logo here:
And I love what Ethan did with the slight 3D element to the horns here, plus the number borders:
And another 3D horn styling, which is a bit more obvious:
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Vince: Last time I talked about Denver's uniforms and how they were a case of not knowing what you've got till it's gone. For San Francisco, it's the opposite -- I never realized how ugly the Terrell Owens uniforms with the black trim were until the 49ers moved to the white-trim retro look in 2009. But it was a huge improvement -- the stripes on the helmets and pants really pop out at you now.
Speaking of which -- San Francisco is one of the few teams that still uses the platonic ideal of football uniform stripes: primary color background, two stripes of a secondary color running down the leg, white stripe in the middle. Back in the 1980s, this was the standard stripe set for probably 20 or more NFL teams, but you don't see it much anymore -- San Francisco, Dallas, Green Bay, a few other holdovers. Everyone else has done something more modern, but for clean simplicity, this look is hard to beat.
So overall, I'm a big fan of the 49ers uniforms, especially since they actually wear gold pants now. (I know the Joe Montana uniforms were technically gold, but come on -- those pants were tan at best, if not just brown.) I'd prefer a few tweaks -- the jerseys need some gold around the numbers and maybe on the shoulders, and the facemask would probably be better in gold too -- but all in all these are quite nice.
Dave: About the only thing I can add to that is that I always thought the drop-shadow era uniforms were bad, just the same as with the Dolphins. I liked that the gold turned into real gold, but from the moment those drop shadows appeared in 94 I despised them. I hated that they ditched the gold pants and wore those throwbacks in the 75th anniversary year when they won the Super Bowl, and while a slight black border on the sleeves and pants stripes was sharp, it always bothered me on the helmet and the numbers.
You speak of the platonic ideal of striping -- perhaps we should capitalize that and make it a Thing? -- and I agree. But what's odd is that it never applied to their numbers or the sleeve stripes. I always found that inconsistent.
Still, going back to the Montana era while keeping the pants shiny gold to match the helmets was a good move. I think a gold facemask would be too much, though. Keeping the red from the prior era would've worked nicely, I think. Heck, everything but the drop shadow from the prior era could still work and look good. But I have no complaints without that either. They look good, they're distinctive, and they tend not to overdo it (I'll blame Nike for the all-black monstrosities of 2015-17); As recently as 2014 their GUD graphic contained only two pairings. I'm definitely a big fan of that.
Vince: I will say this about those throwbacks -- and this is relevant, since they still wear a version of them today -- I do like the 49ers uniforms with white pants too. Just ditch the black striping on the sides. Maybe if they wore the white pants for day games and gold pants at night?
Dave: Hmm. Veto. Even though white pants are never necessarily BAD, when you have a helmet like that, which is lighter than the jersey, you should almost always match the pants to it. The Pats and Panthers get away with not doing this, but even though it looks OK, I'm still not convinced that either is better than they'd be with silver pants. If white pants were a throwback to a famous or successful period of time in 49ers history, I'd be more open to it, but they wore gold with gold helmets for literally their entire existence, aside from that weird period in which they pretended to be Ohio State (Someone explain that one to me -- the team is named for the California GOLD rush, yet for a while they decided instead to make their secondary color be silver. How does that make sense?) and '94, '96, and '97. Sure, the 2018 Color Rush whites matched that '94 set, but how is the tail end of a dynasty the thing you're throwing it back to?
Dave: (vomit emoji)
And so we arrive at your team. The Poster Children for the Nike-fication of the NFL, and the reason that we all feared what would eventually happen to every team when they got the uniform contract in 2012. When these uniforms came to be in 2012, I became Old Man Who Yells at Clouds. I *despised* them. I hated them so much that I started to root against them entirely because of their uniforms.
That is no longer the case. (I still tend to root against them, but for other reasons that aren't appropriate for this article.) In fact, given some time to adjust to them, I came to realize that they're a pretty significant step up from the previous Matt Hasselbeck-era Blue Man Group set. As a fan of the Rick Mirer-era silver helmet and color scheme --
Vince: Let me stop you right there. Out of all the football players who wore the classic Seahawks uniforms -- Hall of Famers Steve Largent, Cortez Kennedy, and Kenny Easley; Pro Bowlers such as Eugene Robinson and (the other) Curt Warner; the die-hards of Joe Nash, Jacob Green, and Jeff Bryant -- you picked Rick Mirer to represent the franchise? As a native Northwesterner, I'm appalled. Why, I almost spit my locally roasted coffee all over my plaid flannel and Doc Martens.
Dave: Heh. Well, allow me to retort. Actually I completely agree with you, so along with my apology let me just offer a simple explanation: when I moved to Chicago my roommate, a frequent attendee of Notre Dame games, used to routinely trot out a vintage white No. 3 Seahawks jersey. I got so accustomed to it that I completely forgot that Rick Mirer isn't exactly the most memorable of Seahawks.
So anyway, as a fan of the Steve Largent-era silver helmet and color scheme, I didn't *love* when they switched to the blue helmet instead, but I thought it still looked pretty good. From the neck up, anyway. From the neck down, the unitard look was abominable. They somehow managed to make it even worse when they introduced pants in the darker shade of blue, culminating in the set that gives the current Bucs and previous Jags sets a challenge for Worst Uniform Ever: the navy-green-blue look they wore in 2009 against the Bears. My goodness was that one offensive. Their new highlighter look hurts the eyes more due to the sheer brightness, but nothing the Titans or Jags have ever done from head to toe clashes on as many levels as that look, which they thankfully only wore once.
The new set? Well, it's still overdone. The carbon fiber look on the helmet is gratuitous. The striping is weird. There are too many combinations of colors and they still go full unitard way too often.
But the color scheme is far better than it was, the use of the little winglet thingies as pant stripes and elsewhere is well-executed, and in 2017 when the fat collars were retired, they made a very subtle change to the sleeve striping to make it a bit more horizontal across the shoulders in front, which actually comes together really well on the modern fitting jerseys. It looks pretty good, even to this shoulder yoke-hating guy. I miss the royal blue and kelly green and silver, and this current set is not anything at all like how I'd draw it from scratch. But if you told me they were going to take the field in 2019 with just the navy and the whites, I might actually end up putting their uniforms in the middle of the pack as opposed to the bottom third.
Vince: There have been three basic uniform designs in Seahawks history, and each tends to inspire strong reactions, so I feel like I should discuss all three.
The Classics: Gorgeous. Silver helmets and pants, blue jerseys, kelly green trim. Logo inspired by traditional Northwest art that tied the team to its community and honored the Native Americans who lived here first. They were cool from the get-go, and got even better when they worked the helmet logo into the sleeve stripes in 1983. I will say, they were not perfect. Numbers should have borders, and green borders would have been sharp. And the silver pants sometimes looked more like a drab, dingy white; I think clean white pants would have looked better, although modern fabrics would probably give silver pants a metallic sheen that would help. But overall they were beautiful, distinctive, and symbols of the area. They just looked like Seattle.
The Blue Man Group: A dramatic overhaul, and I understand the controversy. I actually liked the unitard look -- they weren't the first team to match jerseys and pants, but they were among the first to go full-time with it. Plus, the darker shoulders broke up the one-color look to a degree (and, as I mentioned with the Rams, I'm a sucker for jerseys where the shoulders/sleeves are a different color). And I know there were complaints about the bluish-grey colors, but … have you BEEN to Seattle on a gloomy late afternoon in the fall? That's what color the world is here! It was a perfect fit! I agree that the changes they made in the Jim Mora year -- the lime green jerseys and the dark blue pants that seemed like an attempt to bring skinny jeans into the NFL -- were a catastrophe, but then everything about the Jim Mora year was a catastrophe, so even that made sense.
The Nikes: The new uniforms and Russell Wilson arrived together in 2012. The Seahawks as a franchise were below .500 up to that point and have won more than two-thirds of the time since, so I don't think these threads are going anywhere any time soon. And I get why they are so polarizing, because there's a lot going on here. The college navy (I'm going to use the fancy-pants official terminology just to be pretentious and annoying), as dark as it is, is very vibrant, almost purple at times. The action green is a color that rarely appears in nature, and certainly not around here. The wolf grey at times seems unnecessary -- like green, grey, and white are fighting for space amongst all that blue. There are stripes across the chest AND patches on the shoulder AND a "feather" pattern on the helmets and numbers, and … yes, there's a lot going on at once. This is a look you are going to love or hate, with no in-between. I am in the "love it" crowd, especially the feather pattern. It definitely took some getting used to, but it works to tie everything together by markings instead of colors. In particular, the helmets work for me -- the matte finish sides with the glossy feathers down the middle are a winning experiment, a two-tone helmet that doesn't totally suck.
I will say that they rarely wear their best combination, the blue jerseys with the grey pants, which I don't think they've ever worn at home. Not only does it break up the unitard look, but since the numbers are also grey, the whole package is complementary in a totally unique way. Conversely, the white jerseys looks best with either white pants or blue, but not grey.
The green jerseys? I actually think those could work if matched with the white pants -- almost an Orlando Thunder look -- but as all-greens, yes, they are terrible.
Dave: I'd still rather they went with white pants and navy jerseys, because grey muddles things a bit, but I'd still agree that that beats unitard. And if the helmet thing I always saw as carbon fiber (I'm a car guy, give me a break) is also meant to be fins like the pants stripes, then it also makes sense … but I'll still stick with calling it gratuitous. Nobody would miss it if it disappeared.
Vince: (I'm not a car guy, but I am a Top Gear/Grand Tour fan, so when I read "carbon fiber," in my head I hear it in an English accent.)
Dave: Then you'll love that this petrolhead likes his interior trim to be made of both carbon fiber and Al-you-min-yum.
Fine point about the color scheme and the weather. Not sure that was really Nike's intent, but that's one brilliant glass-half-full argument.
As for the Hasselbeck era set, since you mentioned the shoulder thing twice in this chapter, I'll address it. I completely agree for the Rams, but sets like the old Seattle ones, where the color change happens not for any reason or with any element, stripe, or graphic, but instead just because there's a seam there, always struck me as poorly done. The Rams had the horn there between the colors. The Jets at least had that extra stripe. The Blue Men just had a seam. To me, that's just poor execution. The Nike set has a lot going on, but their unique shoulder/sleeve striping is a giant step up from that.