By Drew Granthum
“Hey, if you’re garbage, you might as well look good doing it.”
This was a quote given to me a long time ago by a wise man, good friend, and TMP correspondent Jordan Waldrep about the importance of good, clean uniforms in sports. I’d like to think it was also a neatly-wrapped metaphor and ponderance on the importance of excellence in presentation as well, as Coach Waldrep is above all things, a thinking man’s thinking man. Or person. Whichever you prefer.
He’s absolutely right too. A team can be utter garbage, but have respectability in my eyes for having great uni’s. (See: The Cleveland Browns pre-2015) Consequently, a team can be historically good and be considerably meh in my eyes because of bland uniforms (See: The New England Patriots). Ultimately winning is all that matters…but a close second has to be looking good while on the field.
I am a connoisseur of uniforms in sports. They have to exude something, make a statement, have a color palette and design that says something about the team, its fans and its history. The right uniform can make all the difference, and watching a team that has great uniforms switch to something hideous (Cincinnati Bengals and my beloved Miami Dolphins, I’m looking at you) tends to physically pain me, while a team righting a uniform mistake brings unmitigated joy, as you will see.
Seven NFL squads are changing their uniforms this year, and because you love lists, and I love uniforms, I felt the need to rank them, worst to best. (NOTE: The Los Angeles Rams have not released their updates at press time. When they do, they’ll be placed in this list. OTHER NOTE: If they aren’t the throwbacks, don’t expect a high ranking.)
Without further ado, here are 2020 NFL Uniform Update Rankings:
6.) The Atlanta Falcons:
Whooooboy. What a mess. The previous Falcons jerseys debuted in the mid 2000s during the Vick era, and did a nice job of walking the line between historic and futuristic. They embraced the bright red of the Bartkowski years and also the Dirty Bird era black and silver with great balance, and updated the Falcon logo into a hidden “F” which was also a nice touch. They weren’t my favorite uni’s ever, but they were pretty darn nice, and while some people associate them with 28-3, I thought they were great.
These updates, however, walk the line between Mean Machine and an XFL franchise. They’re awful. From the block “ATL” on the front, to the gradient red and black, these just scream “period piece.” This trend of matte colors and simple, flat designs might be good for websites, but they are the 2010-20s sports equivalent of 90’s teal. The Dolphins went simple and flat. It was terrible. The Lions did it. Also disappointing. The Browns did it in 2015 and it just made me angry. All of the aforementioned had great, classic uniforms. Why mess that up?
The Falcons are a franchise that, while not having much in the way of a winning history, have had some great players and seasons come through. Two Super Bowl appearances. They deserve better than this. Their fans deserve better than this. If they changed the weird number font, got a way from the drop shadows around the numbers, and removed the city tag from the name, they might have something. To make matters worse, when you compare the historical throwbacks in the same picture, it just highlights how unfortunate these are. Hang in there, Falcons fans.
No. 5: The Indianapolis Colts
I have to hand it to the Colts. They realized they have one of the best looking uniforms in all of sports, and they knew messing it up would be disastrous. So they simply changed the number font, added a new secondary logo, and changed the wordmark.
All good choices. Putting the Indiana within the “C” logo is a nice touch, almost like saying “Hey we’re sorry about that whole Andrew Luck thing, Indiana. Here’s our tribute to you, ‘cause we’re gonna need each other to get through the next few years.”
So why is it not higher? Because it really isn’t that much of a change, and the only real change was changing the wordmark font from a weird old west style font to what they have now. It was so miniscule I had to look it up to even remember they did it. So good on them for a refresh without horrific results. (*cough Bengals cough*)
No. 4: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
On one hand, thank goodness. The calculator numbers were the worst. On the other hand, you had a chance to embrace the creamsicle uniforms, and passed.
In all seriousness, the Bucs realized they had a mess on their hands, and you can’t expect Tom Brady to wear trash. It was a great move to return to the red and pewter with orange trim, and while not too outside-the-box, it is a return to the most successful uniform win-wise in Bucs history. I would have loved a return to the creamsicle, but alas, the Bucs did the right thing and the smart thing here. I do love that they kept the incredibly oversized pirate flag on the helmet to give this a truly modern take on a retro styling. Good work, Tampa Bay.
No. 3: The New England Patriots
You know, I really like these. We’re starting to see a modern trend of teams taking classic uniforms and tweaking them ever-so-slightly to give the uniforms a timeless look. See: The Colts above. And New England realized they had two problems on their hands: 1.) They still had the Tom Brady era jersey, and no Tom Brady–and they certainly weren’t going to tarnish the reputation of these with subpar seasons, and not Tom Brady–and 2.) These uniforms are really dated. Like really dated. They’re better than the Bledsoe era uniforms, but these smack of 2002. It was time for a change.
And a change we got: Gone are the weird block font numbers, and instead, a more traditional number font has been brought in. The colors have been simplified. And the stripes? Ooo the stripes look really, really good along the shoulders and down the side of the pants. I know this is their color rush, with an added away jersey, but this is sharp. This is how you do a redesign. And this team name on teh chest? Perfect. Perfect sizing, perfect font. Nothing crazy like “THE BORO” or “PATS.” It just says the name, with the logo, and gets out of the way.
As a Dolphins fan, it pains me to say this, but…excellent work Patriots. This is best redesi—whoa, wait a minute.
No. 2: The San Diego Chargers
Wait, they moved?
No. 2: The
San Diego Los Angeles Chargers
This is awesome. This is an absolute perfect execution of a redesign. There’s so much to unpack here: You have the Chargers embracing all of their uniform history in one kit: From the 60’s, to the 80’s to now, the Chargers have finally found a look that is clean, simple and pops. The powder blue looks so sharp, but so does the navy. And I thought the Fouts-era jerseys were pretty rough to look at, but the are represented nicely here. I was a huge fan of the LT-era jerseys, and only recently warmed up to the last iteration, but these? These are perfect.
Removing the navy out of the bolt, and then adding the number to the helmet seemed like a tough proposition: I always felt that the number on the helmet along with the bolt made for a crowded helmet, making it look busy and taking away from the design. Not here. The font they chose for the helmet numbers is outstanding. There’s a stance about that font that I just love. And while we’re on fonts, if you are going to stray away from the standard uniform number font, use this as your guideline. THese break from tradition without being a distraction.
The variety is beautiful as well. As I said before, I was not a huge fan of the yellow numbers on the navy jersey, but these are amazing. It pops, and it’s cohesive, and it draws you to it. It’s also really tough to make powder blue work, but they did it. And did it well.
The Chargers belong in San Diego, and they may not have the most fans in LA, but if the Rams bonk their redesign up like I think they will, the Chargers will have the best uniforms in that town, bar none. GREAT work, Chargers. So why aren’t they No. 1?
No. 1: The Cleveland Browns
Okay, before I get flamed for picking the team that essentially went back to their old look, hear me out: The previous iteration of the Browns’ unis was soooo bad, it figured into my decision. Look, love them, hate them, make them the butt of every joke, whatever, the Browns’ pre-2015 away uniform was one of the cleanest in all of sports. It literally was fall colors against a white background. The orange was billiard ball orange, and in my eyes, popped like crazy against the brown and white uniforms.
So when they went to the atrocity of the Manziel era jerseys, which included a different shade of orange, drop shadows on gaudy orange jersey numbers, the stupid city name on HUGE block letters on the chest, and the name of the freaking team along the pants leg, to me this was the epitome of Browns football.
(Side note: Can we do away with the huge city/team name on the front of the jersey? No city needs their team repping them that way. You’re an NFL franchise. Everyone knows where you are located. Even the Jaguars. This needs to stop.)
It was such an egregious mistake in my eyes, that it made me angry to see the Browns on the field. So, when ownership recognizes a mistake this big, and decides to right it, that counts for a lot in my eyes.
The uniforms themselves are clean; the gaudy orange jersey numbers are gone, replaced by white on teh brown home jersey and brown on the white road, and thankfully, the drop shadows are gone. The stripes have been returned to a full-length, slimmer tri-stripe on the pants, and a retro-inspired multilayer stripe on the sleeves, white and orange for brown home jerseys, orange and brown for the white road jerseys. The pants have been changed; the brown jerseys that the team wears from time-to-time have been edited to be the color rush pants, and will alternate with the white pants. The socks also feature the multi-stripe.
It all looks so clean. There have been a few changes, namely the font used for the numbers and player names. It is more of a rounded stance, but thankfully takes a page out of the Chargers’ book and looks modern but aggressive. I’m sold.
This is how you fix a mistake and update your uniforms to embrace the past but still have a modern flare. And for that, Browns, you finish first. Enjoy it.
Thoughts? Comments? Hatred? Leave a comment below. Oh, and Dolphins and Bengals, call me.