As we approach kickoff for the 2023 Hall of Fame Game in Canton and the official start to the 2023 Preseason, let us take a few moments to review the new uniforms and helmets that we will be seeing throughout the season.
I have ranked the 13 new uniform additions by team, whether it be a single new helmet or a completely new uniform. Additions that were used last year like the Pat Patriot throwback helmet/uniform in New England or the return of the red helmet in Atlanta are not included.
Here we go.
#13 - INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Nothing about what the Colts did makes sense. They have a regular blue jersey. They have a blue throwback jersey. Why do they need a third blue jersey? From a distance, the pattern in the new blue jerseys will likely be hard to detect. The black outlines around the white numbers will be hard to notice due to being against the aforementioned blue. And this doesn't even take into account how ridiculous these jerseys will look if the Colts also add 'Captain' patches onto the other side opposite the alternate logo placed on the left collarbone.
As for the black helmet, we likely should have seen this coming as a few years ago the Colts changed the color of the Nike swooshes on their white jerseys from blue to 'anvil black.' So does that mean anvil black is now a Colts color?
The Fix: The Colts should have just kept it simple and only added a dark-royal-bordering-on-navy helmet to pair with the blue throwbacks. When you overthink, this is what happens.
#11 (tie) - DENVER BRONCOS
There's a tie for the #11/#12 spots. Denver comes first alphabetically so I'll explain them first.
A white helmet. That's it. To be paired with Color Rush / Throwback-styled orange jersey and orange pants.
Why? What does Denver gain from this? They aren't going to have lucrative merchandising increase for a new helmet. The Color Rush costume hasn't changed (the helmet logo has minutely) since it came to be in 2016.
What's worse? In the reveal video, one Bronco is wearing the all-orange costume with orange socks, too. A second Bronco is wearing white socks paired with the all-orange. It doesn't seem like the team even knows what it's going to do with them.
The Fix: Denver has had the same Color Rush uniform since 2016. Alter it by replacing the navy blue with light royal blue trim. Add a light royal blue helmet in the same style. Add appropriate stripes to the socks. Boom.
#11 (tie) - DETROIT LIONS
A new blue helmet is added for the sole purpose of pairing it with the awful all-grey Color Rush uniform.
I'll ask again...Why? The short answer is that the all-grey uniform didn't match with the normal Detroit silver helmet. I can understand that. But then you create a blue helmet to rectify that one problem and you don't even bother to correctly match the blues of the helmet and jersey? At least it matches the blue of the anniversary patch the Lions will be wearing this year.
The Fix: Detroit's heart was in the right place and their intentions were good. Fix the helmet's shade of blue to match. This oversight reminds me of when the Vikings brought out their current look and their helmets bore a shade of purple that looked like the paint guy at Home Depot put in a little too much red and way too much white when trying to match colors resulting in a lighter, redder shade of purple. It's an easy fix. Admit it. Fix it. Boom.
Grade: D+ (can go to a C if they fix the blue)
#10 - HOUSTON TEXANS
This change may well have slipped under the radar. Select teams are not only adopting Nike's new FUSE template for their jerseys this season, but a small percentage are also using a modified version of the FUSE that has a straight seam across the upper chest rather than the more visible V-shaped seam. Houston is one of those teams. Incorporating that modified FUSE has enabled Houston to 'flip their horns.' Since their inception, the Texans' shoulder stripes (horns) have narrowed to a point directed away from the body. These new horns curl ever so slightly towards the center of the torso instead.
Was this change needed? No. Will it change how we view the Texans' uniforms in a bubble? No.
The Fix: This was a change that wasn't needed. For good or for bad, there's nothing to really fix. It's just...different.
#9 - CAROLINA PANTHERS
The Panthers' changes were two-fold.
They altered the hoop-stripes. The only problem is that there are still going to be variations of how those stripes look due to the tailoring of jerseys for players of different positions. This is the same problem Carolina has had for a while.
The second change was in tweaking the shade of blue. Honestly, if no announcement had been made, you'd have been hard pressed to find someone in Bank of America Stadium that said "Gee. Their blue sure looks different this year."
So they altered the hoop-stripes but still have wide variations in how they will look. They changed the shade of blue and almost no one will notice.
The Fix: Find a way to tailor these stripes so that they appear the same on all player positions. Worse comes to worse, change them to look the same as the Colts' hoop stripes. Vary the width of the stripes rather than having all three the same as the Colts do.
#8 - ARIZONA CARDINALS
The uniforms that the Cardinals have worn for the past 18 seasons were dated and bad. Not a good combination. This is a change that needed to happen sooner rather than later and that's why I have them rated one notch above Carolina.
Is there something that will make your eyes pop out of your head and go WOW!?! No.
An overdone uniform was replaced by a minimalist uniform. It's addition by subtraction. They're not great by any stretch, but they're an improvement. I think we all can agree on that.
The Fix: Remove the obnoxiously large wordmark on the chest of the red jersey or simply replace it with 'CARDINALS' in smaller type similar to what is on the sleeves of the other two jerseys.
I still maintain that Arizona missed the boat by using silver instead of copper. Arizona is the Copper State and a dark copper would have made for a much better trim color. The silver that is used will be hard to see against the white next to it.
The other fix will be to mix-and-match within reason. The reveal only included mono-everything: white, red, and black. Hopefully, like Washington who did the same thing at their reveal a year ago, they won't be afraid to mix things up.
Grade: C (C+ if they mix-and-match)
#7 - CLEVELAND BROWNS
Two years ago, the Browns celebrated their 75th Anniversary by introducing an all-white throwback to their very first season - 1946. However, due to the One-Helmet Rule, the Browns had to use their regular orange helmets with modified features to pair with them. Now, with the OHR discontinued, Cleveland introduces a white helmet to pair with the throwbacks.
While the 1946 leather helmet was plain white, the Browns have added stripes and a browns facemask. Despite the stripes, the white helmet is a wonderful nod to the team's history despite technically not being totally accurate.
The Fix: Honestly the stripes shouldn't be there if the Browns were attempting to construct honest throwbacks to 1946. But someone probably had to be THAT GUY in the room that said "I know its supposed to be plain white but it's just TOO plain. Add some stripes." These are the Browns. The 'No-Logo-On-The-Helmet' Browns. Plain is in their DNA and they love it. Lose the stripes.
#6 - NEW YORK JETS
The Jets surprised the football world by unveiling throwback uniforms from the 1980s. The correct helmet logo is placed on the current metallic green helmet. No biggie. The uniform is a great representation of the look the throwback is mimicking. Jets fans will like it.
The Fix: The only question I have is why is this franchise all of a sudden so averse to wearing green jerseys or pants? After the 2022 Preseason last year, the Jets wore green jerseys and pants together once and green pants below white jerseys once. That's it. Two games. Every other game was a combination of white or black pants and jerseys. I get that in the first half of the 1980s, the Jets wore white at home most of that time. However, with an infusion of green desperately needed, why not use the green throwback jersey instead?
#5 - SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
These throwbacks look phenomenal. The blue pops. The green is bright. The silver helmets sparkle. So why are the Seahawks only #5 for me?
It really isn't their fault. Due to modern jersey tailoring, sleeves nowadays probably only have about 40% of the area to work with compared to the jerseys they are trying to duplicate. For me, part of the appeal for the Seahawks' jerseys were how the stripes exiting behind the bird-head logo, continued all the way around the sleeve, and back around to the beak again. It was a brilliant effect, but, due to the minimal amount of space to work with, the current design can't offer that.
The same can be said with the helmet logo. Due to modern helmets and their design, the facemask and chinstrap snaps force many helmet logos onto the back half of the helmet for several teams. This is one of those cases. One Twitter follower said he thought he was looking at a 1970s football card of DK Metcalf because he was positioned facing the camera (below) and the logo could not be seen. He honestly thought they had forgotten to add the logo to DK's helmet or that, as in cards from the 1970s, it had been airbrushed off. The result is that the amount of helmet logo that can be applied to this throwback's helmet is greatly reduced.
The Fix: Unfortunately, there isn't one. We are limited by the times. That incudes Nike's inability to reproduce the shiny silver pants that we should be getting with these uniforms. The Seahawks did well with what they had. They did a great job replicating a classic look that fans all over will love. No one will say "That's a terrible looking uniform."
#4 - PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Finally, kelly green has come back to Philadelphia. The thing I like the most about these uniforms is how the Eagles didn't have to use some sort of gimmick to get the correct logo to fit onto the sleeves. No abbreviated stripes. No reduced size. Just right.
The pants have the correct striping and are pretty close to the shade of grey/silver. The only regret here is that Nike could not replicate the sheen of those original pants (See "Big Jerome" below). It also seems like the helmet is lighter green than the jersey instead of being darker than the jersey. The helmet is significantly lighter overall compared to its predecessor. The sock stripes also appear to have thinned somewhat.
The Fix: The only thing I'd tamper with here is to darken the green of the helmets. Unfortunately, it's highly unlikely that Nike is capable of fixing the pants otherwise they'd have already done it for the reveal. Oh, and where the heck are the black shoes? Black shoes are a must for these.
#3 - MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Let me start by saying that I'm not a Vikings fan. Their new throwback uniform goes back to their original look from 1961 and the first half of that decade, which is new ground for a Vikings throwback. Truthfully, everything about this uniform is 'spot-on.' Except for one detail. The helmet.
Why, if you are putting so much effort to get the look just right, do you make perfect versions of the jersey & the pants, but then drop the ball on the helmet? And here's the kicker...the Vikings are actually using a second helmet shell of a different color than their regular shade of purple. They had a chance to use the era-accurate glossy dark purple helmet shell. Instead, they opted for a lighter, matte purple than what was called for.
The Fix: If these throwbacks stick around, which I would guess they would, next year's throwback helmet will likely get fixed. I feel safe in that assumption. Why? Because the Vikings have done this before.
As I stated in discussing Detroit's new helmet, when the Vikings debuted their current uniform set in 2014, the helmet didn't match. It was much too light. And it was highly noticeable on TV, to boot. Unfortunately, it took until 2019 for the Vikes to fix their purple helmets. But the point is, they did. This fix won't take as long. And like Philadelphia, these uniforms absolutely require black shoes, as well.
#2 - TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Bucco Bruce and the creamsicle orange jerseys have returned. Nike went the extra mile and made these versions a more vibrant shade of orange than their 2012 efforts which were much paler by comparison. Even the red trim really jumps out at you. These were extremely well done and historically accurate.
The Fix: Nothing. But there is one thing to look for as far as being historically accurate. On the back of the helmets where the striping ends, the Bucs have always cut off the bottom corner of the red stripes' outer edges. It's a quirky little detail that I will be looking for. For some reason, the Bucs' reveal didn't include photos of the backs of the helmets.
#1 - TENNESSEE TITANS
Sorry to disappoint, Bucs fans, but these are just a little bit better. And it's funny but no one will look at these uniforms and call them Titans' throwbacks. These are OILERS uniforms.
Why are they better? Accuracy and attention to detail. The number fonts are a perfect match. The bold red outline goes BANG when you see them. But the best part of all is how they purposely mismatched the blues. Normally, this would be a problem but not here. Historically, these Oilers' blue jersey uniforms were done using two similar, but separate, shades of blue.
The jersey's blue needs to match the blue pants stripe. It does. The blue of the socks is slightly darker and matches the blue in the helmet logo and stripe. They do. You had to be aware of this ahead of time to plan the outcome the way it needed to be. They did. And it's magnificent.
The Fix: Are you kidding??? One thing, Titans. PLEASE do not have players disrespect one of the greatest uniforms ever by wearing plain white socks instead of, or overtop of, the actual uniform's socks. PLEASE!
That wraps it up, folks. One thing is certain, in a League dominated by darker colored jerseys, the majority of these throwbacks bring us back to a day when vibrant, colorful uniforms adorned our TVs every Fall weekend. That is a very good thing.