By: Elias McMillan
So, I did this once before about 7 years ago. Since then, there’s obviously been many changes across the NFL uniform scape. Going into this 2020 season, we’ll see seven different teams with new duds. I thought this would be a good time to refresh my original rankings. This time, I separated my grades, not by conference, but by categories (Classics, Modern, and The Worst). I used a A+ to F grade scale for each uniform combination being used by the teams currently. At the end of each assessment, I ask myself if the team should totally REBRAND, GO BACK to a prior uniform, or STAND PAT with what they currently have. Through this experience, I’ve learned that I’m a tough grader. When I did break it down, 4 different divisions ranked higher than the others averaging out to B+ grades. The lowest division was the NFC West. Alright, let’s begin with the teams that scored the highest: The Classics.
Las Vegas Raiders – A+
Grades: Black/Silver: A+, White/Silver: A+, Throwback: B+
Summary: The best uniform in the NFL. Timeless. Iconic. Throughout different cities, the Raiders brand remains as strong as ever with the shield logo and the silver and black uniforms. The silver numbers on the throwback don’t look as good as the road ones but its still a decent uniform.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? STAND PAT: They can’t make changes now even though they’re in a new city. I shutter to think.
Chicago Bears – A+
Grades: Blue/White: A+, Orange/White: B-, White/Blue: A+, Throwback: A
Summary: The Bears have the iconic uniforms in the NFL if you ask me. Pretty much unchanged for most of this franchise’s history, the Bears blue, orange, and white scheme has stood the test of time. The Orange jerseys are not the best but they serve as a nice switch up.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? STAND PAT: The Bears might play around with different throwbacks each year but their basic home and away duds will remain.
San Francisco 49ers – A+
Grades: Red/Gold: A+, White/Gold: A, White Throwback: A-
Summary: Here’s another iconic uniform in NFL history. The 49ers have had plenty of great moments in franchise history in the home reds or the white away jerseys. The gold helmet and pants are synonymous with their history. They’ve had some bad alternates in the past but their current throwbacks have received a warm reception. I never really liked the blocked numbers for them but the all-white is clean.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? STAND PAT: They’ve flirted with some disasters so; they’ll be better off sticking with their current uniforms.
Dallas Cowboys – A
Grades: White/Silver: A, Blue/White: B, Blue/Silver: B+, Color Rush: A
Summary: The Cowboys, currently, have inconsistencies with their blues and silvers but they still have one of the most iconic uniforms in sports. You can’t beat the silver helmet and white jersey combo. It just feels like Sunday afternoon. The Blue jersey doesn’t get enough love either. Their color rush, a play on the throwbacks that they wore in ‘94, are solid and clean.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? STAND PAT: The brand is too iconic to change. Once the one shell helmet rule changes, we’ll see the throwbacks with the white helmets again.
Pittsburgh Steelers – A
Grades: Black/Yellow: B+, White/Yellow: B+, Color Rush: A, Throwback: A+
Summary: The black and gold of the Steelers has been a staple when you talk about iconic uniforms in sports. They’ve pretty much stuck with the basic black helmets and yellow pants with black striping for decades. The italic numbers were groundbreaking in the ‘90s but they probably should go away. The Steelers have had some terrible alternates in recent history but they should definitely stick with their current ones.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? GO BACK: They brought back the block numbers as a throwback and they are awesome. They should just bring that back to both home and away uniforms. I don’t care how close it is to Iowa’s uniforms.
New Orleans Saints – A
Grades: Black/Gold: A-, Black: A, White/Gold: B+, White: B, Color Rush: A
Summary: The Saints have some of the sharpest uniforms in the league. They are basically the Raiders of the NFC sans the successful history. The gold numbers on the all-white color rush uniforms really pop and are among the most popular sets in the league. The all-blacks at home are good. They’ve recently started wearing white pants on the road, which actually look good as well.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? STAND PAT: The Saints have no reason to change anything. Don’t bring back the gold jerseys.
Green Bay Packers – B+
Grades: Green/Yellow: A+, White: B+, White/Yellow: A, Throwback: C
Summary: Green Bay’s uniforms have been virtually untouched for decades and that’s how it needs to stay. Either home or away, they have one of the NFL’s most iconic looks. I like the addition of the white pants just so the announcers can call them the “White Cheese” uniforms. The throwback uniforms they currently have are awful. I’m sure they can find some type of better alternate from their past to use.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? STAND PAT: I don’t need to explain why. Simple and iconic, there would be great outrage if Nike ever switched them up.
Indianapolis Colts – B+
Grades: Blue/White: B+, White: B+
Summary: The Colts uniforms have been virtually untouched for the entire history of the franchise, spanning between decades and different cities. In 2020, they will be introducing some winkles that aren’t really dramatic but are different. There will be a new number font and a few new logo marks but their home and away uniforms will pretty much remain the same.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? STAND PAT: The uniform is boring but classic. No need to change these, ever.
Kansas City Chiefs – B
Grades: Red/White: B+, Red: B-, White/Red: B+
Summary: Kansas City’s uniforms have stood the test of time and are a modern day classic. The “fire truck” red stands out in all of their combinations.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? STAND PAT: No reason to modernize these.
Miami Dolphins – B
Grades: Aqua/White: B+, Aqua: C, White: B, White/Aqua: B-, Throwback: A, White Throwback: A
Summary: After a rebrand and a slight number font change, I think Nike finally got the Miami Dolphins right. Their “regular” home and away sets are okay but only overshadowed because of how good their throwbacks look. Bringing those back were a gift and a curse. At least they’ve moved from their “orange” phase.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? GO BACK: Miami opened Pandora’s box when they brought back their throwback uniforms. Time to scrap the rebrand and embrace this “return to the past” fad.
Buffalo Bills – B
Grades: Blue/White: B, Blue: C, White: B+, White/Blue: B-, Throwback: A-, Color Rush: C
Summary: Buffalo’s uniforms should be acknowledged as a classic. The decision to go back to white helmets turned out to be a good one. I think their best look is their all white throwbacks with the vintage mark on the helmet. The red color rush needs to go but Shady McCoy did a great job making that uniform look cool in the snow a few years back.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? STAND PAT: Reebok had Buffalo in some strange looking threads years ago. They won’t go back to that.
New York Giants – B
Grades: Blue/White: B, White/Grey: C, White Throwback: A
Summary: I hate the Giants as a team (I’m a Cowboys fan) but I must admit, I really like their home uniform. Something about that solid blue jersey. The away duds almost look like they’re from a different team. It’s just that the red has become too dominant. The away set should be closer to what their current throwback is.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? GO BACK: In fact, to piggyback off of my last point, the Giants should just go back to the uniforms from that era.
The Modern Designs
The Chargers absolutely nailed it.
Los Angeles Chargers – A+
Grades: Blue/White: A+, Blue/Yellow: A+, White: A+, White/Yellow: B +, Throwback: B, Navy: A+
Summary: Where do I begin?! I love everything about this rebrand. As they said in the promo video, they took an already classic uniform and improved it. Love the addition of the numbers on the helmet. The lightning bolt down the pants are great. The all-Navy alternates maybe my personal favorite in the set, especially with the navy bolt logo on the helmet. Just about every detail on these new sets are a homerun.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? STAND PAT: Don’t change a thing. I’m already thinking of playing with the Chargers in the next addition of Madden just so I can use the uniforms.
Cleveland Browns – A+
Grades: Brown/White: A, Brown: A+, White/Brown: A, White: A
Summary: Maybe its because the Browns were in uniform hell for a while. But besides that, Nike really nailed it with this reboot for Cleveland. Going back to a more traditional uniform has gain a positive reaction and I think it will influence more teams to do the same (looking at you, Seattle, Arizona, LA Rams). I’m biased because my high school colors were orange and brown but the Browns have always had a classic look. It’s just that the product on the field was so bad that fans couldn’t even notice. They kept the color rush from last year also which is a good thing.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? STAND PAT: No need to change anything now. No orange jerseys. Orange pants? Maybe. Make the playoffs, first. Then, we’ll talk about orange pants.
Minnesota Vikings – B+
Grades: Purple/White: A, Purple: B, White/Purple: A, Color Rush: B+
Summary: I like Minnesota’s current set. I like their unique number font and I like how they fixed the color on the matte helmet to match the purple on the jersey. The color rush with the yellow numbers isn’t bad either.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? STAND PAT: The Vikings are another team that needs to stick with this traditional look.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – B+
Grades: Red/Pewter: A, White: B, White/Pewter: A, Pewter: C
Summary: Tampa Bay is yet another team that will be entering the 2020 season with new uniforms. The greatest part of this upgrade for Tampa is that Nike got rid of those awful “alarm clock” looking numbers. With the new set, block numbering returns and none of the weird piping. It’s a simple uniform but bold because of the red and pewter. Tampa already had an awesome helmet. Now, it’ll be paired with the pewter or white pants. I think Nike get a lot of warranted criticism but they at least got this one right. I don’t even think the all-Pewter uniforms are bad.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? STAND PAT: They just left uniform hell. They’ll be keeping these new ones for a while, I imagine. I know many are wishing for the original Bucco Bruce to return with the orange creamsicle uniforms. Maybe when the NFL changes its “one-shell” rule with the helmets.
Baltimore Ravens – B+
Grades: Purple/White: B-, Black/White: B, Black: A, Purple: B-, White: B, White/Black: A-, White/Purple: C, Color Rush: B
Summary: The Ravens have had their look for a while now and it’s starting to get boring. I think the black jerseys and pants combos are their best look, easily. The purple pants are interesting but looks out of place with the white jersey and black helmet. They have one of the better color rush uniforms but that doesn’t say much.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? STAND PAT: The Ravens look might of gotten stale with me but I cringe to think what Nike would do to them. I think Baltimore should keep what they have currently.
Carolina Panthers – B
Grades: Black/Grey: B, Blue/White: B-, White: B, White/Black: C, Black: A, Blue/Black: B-
Summary: Carolina has had one of the best color schemes in the league since they entered it. Their uniforms have been mostly unchanged but the few changes that have been made were good ones. The addition of the black pants was popular as their all-black uniform is one of the best in the league. I like their light blue alternate jersey but it doesn’t look quite right with the white or black pants. I wonder why they don’t just pair them with the home grey pants.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? STAND PAT: Like I said, outside from minor changes, Carolina has had the same look for years. Nike has no need to muck it up.
Philadelphia Eagles – B
Grades: Forest/White: B, White: B+, White/Green: B+, Black: B
Summary: The Eagles have had their sharp look for a while now and it’s starting to get dull. It’s either that or too many people are clamoring for the Kelly Green uniforms to come back. But if we all just stop being nostalgic, you’ll notice that the current set is decent. The helmet goes great with the green jersey or with the all-white uniform. The black underlining might be the first thing to go if they ever do make a change.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? GO BACK: Though the current set isn’t that bad, they should totally go back to the Kelly Green, ditch the black, and bring back the grey pants. Basically what Atlanta should have done. Philadelphia can beat them to the punch.
Jacksonville Jaguars – B
Grades: Black/White: B+, Black/Teal: B, Teal/White: C, Teal/Black: B, White/Black: A, White/Teal: C-, Black: A, White: A
Summary: It’s been a wild ride but I think this franchise is content with their latest set from Nike. The actual jerseys and pants set are kind of boring but they pop enough to make a pretty unique and great uniform. But I can only say that for half of the set. Jacksonville’s uniforms have been iconic because of the success they’ve had in them. When I think about the all-Black or the black helmet/pants combo, I think of big post-season wins. The black helmet is great when paired with the all-white uniform or jersey. Not so much with the teal jersey but it looked much better in the past. The teal pants look like they don’t belong in this set.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? GO BACK: The teal jersey with the black helmet really looked nice with the original number font. Jacksonville should at the least bring this jersey back as a throwback.
Houston Texans – B-
Grades: Navy/White: B-, Red/White: C, White: B-, White/Navy: B, Navy: B, Navy Rush: B+
Summary: Houston has had the same uniforms for 20 years. The Navy helmet and jersey combo is starting to get bland but it is still one of the nicest looks in the league. The red jersey looks out of place in the set since they’ve stopped pairing it with the red pants. The red numbers, however, on the navy color rush really pops in a good way. Houston’s white sets of uniforms are also good, I think.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? STAND PAT: There’s an outcry from Houston football fans to bring back the “Love Ya Blue”uniforms. But I think the Texans would be better off sticking with their current set.
Washington – B-
Grades: Red/White: B, White/Red: B+, Throwback: C
Summary: Nickname and logo aside, Washington actually has a pretty decent and iconic set. As one of the league’s oldest franchises, they bring a unique combo with the burgundy red and yellow. I think their road uniform is currently their best. They used to have yellow pants, which were good with the home jersey; not so much with the road. The throwback they currently wear isn’t bad but it doesn’t match the helmet color.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? STAND PAT: The right answer is a total rebrand but that’s a conversation for another day. As long as they have that team name, I’ll expect them to just stay with their current uniforms.
Detroit Lions – B-
Grades: Blue/Grey: B, White/Grey: B, White/Blue: B-, Throwback: B+, Silver: C
Summary: Detroit rebranded a few years ago and it was a positive move. Sticking with their original blue/silver/white set and moving from the unneeded black outlines. Detroit also kept their throwbacks which one of the nicest looking ones in the league. I’m not too crazy about the all-silver uniform. They added blue pants with this current set and it isn’t too bad.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? STAND PAT: Nike rebranded them recently so there isn’t a need to make any dramatic changes.
New York Jets – B
Grades: Green/White: B, Green: B-, White: B-, White/Green: B+, Black: B+
Summary: The Jets recent rebrand was met with a mixed reaction but I don’t really think of it as being a complete failure. I think they did miss a chance to do something real special and different. Instead, we got a boring template for a uniform and a barely changed logo. I do like the new helmet. Usually I’ll hate on the BFBS trend but these black uniforms aren’t bad.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? STAND PAT: These current uniforms are an escape from the past so I don’t see them going back anytime soon.
New England Patriots – B-
Grades: Navy: B-, White/Navy: B-
Summary: New England is yet another team that is getting new uniforms for 2020. But these are a surprisingly underwhelming. I guess they are based off the navy color rushes from recent seasons. New England’s previous uniforms weren’t that great to begin with but these new ones are just too plain looking. Not terrible but boring.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? GO BACK: Not sure what route New England should go but many liked the Patriot Pat on the helmet and the red jerseys.
Seattle Seahawks – C
Grades: Navy: B+, Green/Navy: D, White/Navy: A-, Grey: C, Green: D
Summary: The grades for Seattle are kind of skewed because they decide to still wear those lime green abominations. The Navy uniforms aren’t bad and their best on the road have been with the navy pants. That green is terrible though. And I’m on the fence for the grey uniforms as well. The designs of these uniforms aren’t terrible but some of the color combos are.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? GO BACK: I remember when Seattle rebranded in the early 2000s, they had a vote for the color of the helmet. I guess navy won, but now’s the time to go back in history (like every other franchise, apparently) and bring back the silver and royal blue look from the 80s.
Aaron Donald is too good of a player to be seen in these this season.
Los Angeles Rams – D
Grades: Blue/Yellow: A, Blue: C-, Bone: F
Summary: I keep trying to spin this into a positive for the Rams. But then, I look back at the reveal and I’m blown away. How could Nike let this happen? They had a chance to just keep things simple and return to the glorious uniforms of the early 90’s. Instead, we got gradient numbers, nametags, and something called “Bone”. Here’s the one positive: prior to this, the Rams were an absolute mess. Mismatched logos. Mismatched helmets and uniforms. It was bad. With this new set, at least they have what looks like the classic blue/yellow home uniform. But the all-Blue looks like ridiculous pajamas. I hope they plan to wear the yellow pants on the road. Whoever thought this “Bone” idea for the road uniform was a good one should be punished by wearing it. One last positive thing: the new helmet is great. It’s a modern twist on the classic and the horns are meant to resemble the ones on the new logo.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? GO BACK: I didn’t hate the new Rams logo set as bad as everyone else did. They just need to go back to the drawing board with the uniforms. No need to complicate things.
Denver Broncos – C
Grades: Orange/White: C-, Blue/White: B-, White: B, Orange: C
Summary: The Broncos broke ground with their rebrand in the late 90’s but now; their current set is bland. They had the right idea going with the orange jersey as their home uniform years ago but it just looks mismatch now with the blue helmet and white pants. The all-Orange Crush color rush is probably a glimpse of what they will wear in the future but they are clearly in line for maybe not a total rebrand but at least new uniforms.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? GO BACK: With the Orange color rush, you get the throwback “D” logo on the helmet but it still doesn’t look quite right with the current navy blue. When they do the rebranding of the uniforms, they’ll need to not only bring back the orange home jerseys with the block numbers but they’ll need to also bring back the rocky mountain sky blue.
Atlanta Falcons – B-
Grades: Black/White: B, Black: B+, Red Gradient: D, White: C, White/Black: B, White/Red: B-, Throwback: A-
Summary: The Falcons rebrand for 2020 was disappointing to me. The two obvious things that bothered me were the red gradient jersey and the “ATL” word mark on every jersey. I feel like pro uniforms usually don’t have city names on the front, seems like a college move. Atlanta’s throwback uniform seems to be unchanged from recent years but they missed a great opportunity to bring back the grey pants. The new helmets even include a grey facemask so, it would make even more sense. Atlanta’s new matte helmets are the best part of the uniforms, btw.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? GO BACK: In about five years, Atlanta will do what Cleveland has done and get rid of the city mark and the gradient uniform and go with a more classic look. And they better bring back the grey pants.
Cincinnati Bengals – B-
Grades: Black/White: C, Black: B, White: B, White/Black: B-, Orange/White: C, Color Rush: B
Summary: I feel like I’m being kind here with the B- grade. The all-black and all-white uniforms aren’t too bad for me but it goes downhill from there. Reebok really screwed up this redesign from the early 2000’s. The patchwork jersey and weird piping is where this design is doomed. The color rush “white tiger” isn’t a bad idea but the helmet is still orange so why even try.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? REBRAND: It is an open secret that Cincinnati will be getting the full Nike treatment sooner than later. I bet they incorporate elements from the white tiger uniform. I hope this doesn’t mean a gradient helmet. Nike, please, learn from your mistakes in Jacksonville and now Atlanta. The NFL is changing the one shell helmet rule soon anyways. Stick with the tiger stripes and just simplify the uniforms.
Tennessee Titans – B-
Grades: Navy: B+, Blue: B, Blue/Navy: B, White: B, White/Blue: C, White/Navy: B, Navy/Blue: C
Summary: Tennessee rebranded a few years ago with mixed results. I don’t hate the helmet change but the uniforms have been really underwhelming. The Titans have many different combinations but I had a tough time deciding which one I liked best. Tennessee “best blue” in this set is the navy but I feel that it should be the light blue because division rival, Houston, is navy. The light blue jersey in this set is okay but the light blue pants just don’t look right.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? REBRAND: Tennessee’s uniforms are way too busy. They need to rebrand to something a lot simpler. I’m not sure what that would look like. They should make light blue their primary color and maybe red numbers. That could work on a simpler uniform.
Arizona Cardinals – C
Grades: Red/White: B-, Red: B, White: C, White/Red: C-, Black: B, Black/White: C-
Summary: The Cardinals have pretty much stayed the course since rebranding in 2005. It seemed radical at the time but I think it was only because their uniforms were so boring before. All of the losing didn’t help either. But its kind of ironic now that the more basic designs are starting to comeback. Arizona’s set fails to hit because of its weird piping that was trendy with the NFL at the time.
Rebrand, Go Back, or Stand Pat? REBRAND: I don’t think they need to completely turn back to the 90’s but I hope their next rebrand is simpler and uses yellow as a secondary color over black which makes them look like an Atlanta Falcons knock off. Also from the 90’s, they used to incorporate the Arizona state flag. They should try that again. I’ve seen mock-ups that aren’t too bad.