Matching Rivals: Packers and Redskins

The look of champions.

The Green Bay Packers have one of the signature uniforms of the NFL, it's instantly recognizable and associated with championships across various eras of history. Aside form occasional minor tweaks, the uniform Aaron Rodgers puts on each Sunday is essentially the same as the one worn by Ray Nitschke as designed by head coach Vince Lombardi in 1959. Prior to that, the Packers had gone through a myriad of changes and uniform styles. The primary team color changed back-and-forth between navy blue and bright kelley green. That all changed when Lombardi took over, and he eventually took that uniform with him to his next coaching stop in Washington. But he drew his inspiration from the NFL's preeminent powerhouse of the 1950's who had their own unique look which was devised by the legendary Paul Brown.

Vince Lombardi began his NFL coaching career in 1954 as the Giants offensive coordinator, where he watched and studied the tendencies of the Cleveland Browns offensive machine twice each season. From their charter season in 1950 through Lombardi's last with the Giants in 1958, Paul Brown's team was the Eastern Conference's representative in the NFL Championship Game every season excepting 1956 and 1958, where they finished in second, right on the heels of the Giants.

When the Browns joined the NFL from the AAFC in 1950, sleeve stripes were either non existent or a simple two or three-stripe pattern (most often the Northwestern style.) The Browns five-stripe pattern was unique - three dark brown stripes divided by two thin orange ones, which was replicated replicated on the socks. On the brown jersey featured the negative three white, two orange.

It's no wonder then that when remolding the then schizophrenic Packers uniforms that Lombardi chose emulate the look of a winning program. Beyond the primary colors of dark green and yellow, the 1959 Packers had a familiar look. A plain helmet shell featuring the team's secondary color, bisected by a white stripe. Lombardi added the flanking green stripes, and interestingly, Brown then added the brown stripes to Cleveland's helmet in 1960. The Packers white away jerseys were near exact replicas of the Cleveland jersey - three dark green stripes separated by two yellow. The only difference was Lombardi added green and yellow stripes to the collar. Also like the Browns, matching white socks replicating the white jersey sleeves were worn for the 1959 season. 

The green jersey featured a unique pattern. Although it featured five stripes, they were not contiguous as on the white jersey. Between each band of yellow and white was the dark green of the jersey. {Perhaps coincidentally - given that Paul Brown was now in Cincinnati - Cleveland replicated this pattern on their uniforms in 1969.}

The most significant difference in the new Packer uniform was the yellow pants, most likely with the design idea coming from the Easter Conference's other successful team. The separated green - white - green was reminiscent of those worn by the Giants in 1958. {Cooincedentally again, in 1975 Cleveland abandoned their traditional white pants in favor of orange ones, giving them their most Packer-like appearance.}

Everything was in place after the football shaped "G" was added to the helmet for the 1961 season. Having drawn inspiration from two different sources, Lombardi created a look and mystique that defined the 1960's era NFL and continues today. These are the uniforms Green Bay won NFL titles with in 1961, 1962 (both against the Giants), 1965 (against Cleveland) and the first two Super Bowls in 1966 and 1967.

After spending a year as the Green Bay GM, Lombardi reemerged on the sidelines in Washington, again attempting to resurrect a slumbering franchise. The glory days of Slingin' Sammy Baugh launching bombs against Sid Luckman's Chicago Bears in NFL Title matches were distant memories. The Redskins had enjoyed only one winning season since Baugh's retirement following the 1951 season.  Over that time, the Redskins burgundy and gold uniforms went through several changes, which included two unique helmet designs. The first from 1959 through 1964 features a large white feather running from the back of the burgundy helmet over the front. In 1965 the feather was replaced by a white and gold spear on either side of the helmet (a design that would be replicated by the Florida State Seminoles in 1976.) The uniforms were a solid burgundy jersey with white block numbers and white jerseys with burgundy shoulder stripes over dark mustard yellow pants and solid burgundy socks. Like he did in Green Bay, Lombardi began his reclamation project in the locker room, outfitting his team with uniforms that made them feel like winners when they put them on.

Although Washington's colors officially remain "burgundy and gold" they aren't quite what they once were. Lombardi lightened the burgundy to something more like a cranberry red and brightened the pants to the point they almost matched the Packers yellow. The truly interesting thing about the design was unlike the makeover instituted in 1959 where Lombardi made some subtle changes to the Cleveland design, in Washington he practically cloned the Green Bay uniforms. The striping pattern on the jerseys, pants and socks were identical.
His plan included yellow helmets with a single letter logo, however they were not ready from the manufacturer for the start of the season. The spear helmet served one more season (with a lighter shell to match the new jerseys) before Lombardi's yellow "R" helmet posthumously appeared in 1970. That helmet only lasted through 1971, as coach George Allen desired a different look and with the help of a South Dakota native American tribe, devised a new logo (which somewhat recalled the ones worn on the sleeves of some of Sammy Baugh's teams in the 1930's) to put on a burgundy shell. These were the uniforms Larry Brown and the rest of Allen's "Over The Hill" gang wore to Super Bowl VII against the undefeated Miami Dolphins, which included a Divisional Round playoff win over the Packers.

With just the subtlest alterations to sleeve and neck stripes, these Lombardi style uniforms lasted through 1978, until new GM Bobby Beathard instituted an almost complete makeover, leaving just Allen's helmet design intact. However, this uniform style proved to have longevity after a period of dormancy.

In 2007 the Redskins revived the 1970 Lombardi uniforms for a game as a one-game throwback (wearing the white jerseys at home in deference to then head coach Joe Gibbs preference) and then. George Allen's some Bruce Allen assumed Washington's GM position in 2010 and immediately brought back the Lombardi style pants and socks as alternate combinations for either jersey.


11/26/72 WAS (burgundy) vs GB (white)
12/24/72 WAS (burgundy) vs GB (white) {NFC Divisional Playoff}
11/3/74 WAS (white) @ GB (green)
11/21/77 WAS (burgundy) vs GB (white)


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