Posted October 11, 2013

Eight in the Box: The NFL’s best throwback uniforms

Eight in the Box, San Diego Chargers
(Chris O'Meara, AP)

Think of what we were deprived of when the Bucs cancelled plans to wear this throwback. (Chris O’Meara/AP)

The San Diego Chargers will roll out their popular throwback jerseys on Monday night, for a matchup with the Indianapolis Colts. In honor of that decision, this week’s Eight in the Box takes a spin through the best throwback jerseys the league has to offer.

Honorable mention: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Unfortunately, Tampa Bay had to scrap plans to wear its bright orange throwbacks because of a new NFL rule prohibiting players from switching helmets during the season — other teams sporting throwbacks are able to swap decals on previously approved helmets. Opinions on these Tampa Bay uniforms vary wildly, from those who love it to those who loathe it, usually with very little in-between. That the look is synonymous with one of the worst teams in NFL history, the winless 1976 Bucs expansion team, could be a point for those against the garish apparel.

Without the helmets, though, these throwbacks are not worth using. The “Bucco Bruce” logo of a swashbuckler with a knife in his mouth is an all-time classic.

8. Kansas City Chiefs

(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The helmet makes the jersey. This helmet puts this Chiefs throwback over the top. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Again, it’s the helmet that puts this throwback over the top. The jerseys and pants themselves are not all that different from what the Chiefs usually trot out on game days. But the helmet logo — an outline of the state of Texas — is simple without being boring, and it offers a cool reminder of the team’s history. Before moving to Kansas City in 1963, the Chiefs won an AFL championship as the Dallas Texans.

Also in this category: Buffalo’s buffalo-helmet design and the Titans’ Houston Oilers throwbacks — both available for viewing here.

7. Washington Redskins

(Aaron M. Sprecher, AP)

When did RGIII play for Florida State? (Aaron M. Sprecher/AP)

Sure, the most recent Washington throwbacks look a lot like Florida State’s uniforms. And, yes, the decal on the right shoulder is the increasingly controversial Redskins Indian chief logo. But come on: These are sharp. If you do not like the uniform adjustments, at least appreciate that the team took the effort to make its helmets resemble the leather helmets used in football’s early days.

6. Atlanta Falcons

(Paul Abell, AP)

Black uniforms don’t always work, but they certainly do for this Falcons throwback jersey. (Paul Abell/AP)

In general, I’m not a fan of teams using black uniforms. (Carolina gets a bit of a pass because it matches its logo; others, like the Lions’ mid-2000s alternates, should be thrown away forever.) For some reason, however, it really works for the Falcons. It may be because the black provides such a distinct contrast to the red helmets, giving the Falcons’ throwbacks a truly unique look.

5. St. Louis Rams

(Seth Perlman, AP)

The Rams sacrificed distinction with their switch from electric yellow to gold in their jerseys. (Seth Perlman/AP)

Not sure about you, but I cannot glance at the Rams’ throwbacks without seeing Eric Dickerson blowing through tackles in the 1980s. St. Louis toned down its color scheme in the new millennium, trading in yellow for a much tamer gold. I’d go back permanently, if I were the Rams. Those helmets — and that electric yellow, in particular — are among the most recognizable in the league.

4. Chicago Bears

(David Stluka, AP)

The Bears nicely reflect their storied history with these 1940s throwback jerseys. (David Stluka/AP)

The NFC North actually has a couple more old-school getups that could have made their way onto this list — the Packers’ 1929 blues and the Lions’ traditional blue-and-silver both have arguments for inclusion. The Bears did claim a spot, though, with their 1940s homage. The numbering brought a one-of-a-kind feel here, relaying the same historical ambiance.

3. Philadelphia Eagles

(Brian Garfinkel, AP)

Imagine how fast Chip Kelly’s offense would seem to move in these bright green threads. (Brian Garfinkel/AP)

Like the Chiefs or Bears (or Patriots, still to come on the list), the Eagles accomplished a throwback look that’s classic without being overwhelming. Some Philadelphia fans have been pushing for the organization to re-adopt this kelly green color scheme, over the dark green that the Eagles have worn for the past several seasons. I’m with those fans: This uniform should be in the permanent rotation.

2. New England Patriots

(Photo File, AP)

These Patriots throwbacks sport a classic logo and a patriotic color scheme befitting the team’s name. (AP)

Maybe it’s because the old Electric Football set I owned pitted the ’85 Patriots and Bears against each other that I hold a deep appreciation for New England’s throwback duds. Whatever the reason, it’s hard to argue with this look — even if the pants call to mind the University of Arizona’s gear. The red, white and blue fits the team name; the jerseys are far more of an eye-catcher than the Patriots’ every-Sunday uniforms; and the logo (a colonial soldier snapping a football) is among the best the NFL has ever produced.

1. San Diego Chargers

(Paul Spinelli, AP)

You know you’ve got a great throwback uniform when it earns alternate jersey status. (Paul Spinelli/AP)

The best of the best. There’s a reason that the Chargers have kept their powder blues very much in the uniform rotation over the last few years. No one would mistake that jersey for any other team — it is distinctly San Diego, and it is unmatched in the world of NFL throwbacks. How popular was this one? So much so that it is now the team’s official alternate jersey.

35 comments
T-Ray
T-Ray

The best throwback jerseys are :

- Chargers' powder blue

- Oilers

- Lions (yeah, I like blue for throwbacks)

- Falcons (nothing matches the aggressiveness of black jerseys/red helmets)

- Former Jaguars jerseys

RonRowland
RonRowland

The Chargers' powder blue is actually their alt, not a true throwback. It uses the fonts and trim design of the rest of their current uniform set.

Username_Taken
Username_Taken

How do you write about throwback uniforms without mentioning the Carolina Panthers? Is it because there a newer team and don't have the same storied history as the franchises listed above? What ever your reasoning may be, I find your list completely inaccurate. PS I'm a 49'ers fan!

KeysSteven
KeysSteven

Terrific TBs, Chris (Bucs' creamsicles #1), but gotta' take issue with those Redskins embryonics ("sharp?",,dull) and would prefer LA Rams originals (white & blue), per the "Fearsome Foursome" days.  "Outta' sight, man!" 

Dave48
Dave48

Oh ya, all the different helmets are from years past. Obviously not this year. All teams are wearing one helmet this year. There are a few teams where the helmet decal could change, and would be considered a throwback. Ala, the bears

Dave48
Dave48

The chargers have the best throwback, as what the title of the article says. Yet they put a pic if the ALTERNATE up!!! Come on Chris Burke. Jeeze. Throw a pic of the true throwback up there. Both powder blue and white top.

DanaBougon
DanaBougon

Brings back memories.  I always thought the old Falcons uniforms was great (while despising them-- Go Saints!) and still to this day when I think of the Rams I think of those gorgeous uniforms.  I loved the Eagles kelly green too.  I forgot about the Oilers oil well!  

It's a shame that every team seems to have toned everything down. Bring back the fun!

Ramon Solis
Ramon Solis

Incomplete without the Bills unis in there somewhere. Those beat pretty my everything but eagles and bears.

BillWensel
BillWensel

How is it the Bucs can't wear a different colored helmet, but it very much looks like the 'boys can?  

DEJ1948
DEJ1948

Those kelly green Eagle uniforms made me a fan way back in 1959.  Although I would never consider changing my allegiances based on laundry, please bring those old uni's back.  If I understand correctly, owner Jeffrey Lurie's ex-wife chose the god-awful midnight green colors they've been wearing for the last 8-9 years,  Since the Luries are now divorced, what better reason to change up the color scheme than to have one less reminder of a marriage gone south?    

LeeStokes
LeeStokes

After all of that, you choose & picture the Chargers ALTERNATES? Ill conceived and no where close to their original beauties.

So sad, what they could of done, but chose not to.

Jim21
Jim21

How could the Raiders not make the list. They are as NFL old school as it gets and I'm a Bears fan. I love the old NFL films of Al Davis and his Just Win Baby days. That was a good time for the NFL

BY
BY

Those Redskin unis are butt ugly....The worst on the list. I agree with yadda that the old Seattle unis were good.

yadda71
yadda71

The old Seahawks uniforms were pretty distinctive with that classic totem hawk on the helmet. They were not as cool as their new ones though, or even the blue grey ones.

yadda71
yadda71

Much as I hate the Cowboys, their white uniforms with the big blue stars on helmet and shoulder are pretty cool.

foustart
foustart

The Raiders' away uniforms with the silver numbers are pretty cool, as well.

CharlesTerrito
CharlesTerrito

What about the Bills? Their inaugural uniforms were awesome! GO BILLS!!

Joseph F
Joseph F

HORRIBLE choices.  The Chargers are without a doubt THE best throwback, and the Rams and Patriots are good.  The rest SUCK


Rob23
Rob23

The Chargers WILL NOT be wearing throwbacks Monday Night. I wish they were. instead they will wear the powder blue ALTERNATES, which are identical to the current uniforms, just powder blue. Please NEVER confuse the alternate version of the current uni with the TRUE throwbacks. The throwbacks are the best uni in the history of the NFL, the current alternates are not the same thing.

SDRHYTHM
SDRHYTHM

The powder blues should be the Chargers permanent dark uni.

piratejosh76
piratejosh76

Increasingly controversial Indian head logo?  It's only increasingly controversial because of the distributed talking points among the media.  People don't care.  Polls show 90% of Native Americans aren't offended...

SweetDickD
SweetDickD

been a life long chargers fan.  i hate the throw back inspired jersey they use this season.  please either: use the original throw back or use the Dan Fouts Era jerseys.

RandallAllen
RandallAllen

I know they're ugly but I kind of like the Pittsburgh Steelers "bumble bee" throwbacks...

kemp1313
kemp1313

The Black Falcons jerseys aren't throwing back very far.

Cool
Cool

Help me here.. "Throwback" uniforms refers to wearing a uniform formally used by a team... so wouldn't this just be a vote on peoples favorite team uniform over the years? 

Sports101
Sports101

Eagles w/ white helmets may be better than the pic above but definitely agree with Falcons red on top of black!!   Skins with the spear on the helmet!!  Dan Snyder needs to go away.   Wishing in Washington - -   

JohnMatuszak
JohnMatuszak

not a fan of teams using black uniforms? the silver and black are the most iconic uniforms in sports history

mollymeggleston
mollymeggleston

@BillWensel i was wondering that same thing bout the Patriot and 'skins uniforms they showed. The patriots helmet is white with the throwback, but silver for the regular uniforms, and those redskins ones were brown and trying to look like leather. i wish they'd explain that better in the article.

PeachtreeBart
PeachtreeBart

@kemp1313 Those are the 1966 uniforms from the first Falcons' season.  I'd say 47 years is a significant throw-back.  

c5brown
c5brown

@JohnMatuszak  I think they're referring to all the teams that switched and added a black jerseys that traditionally didn't use black. Pretty much every team in the NHL, MLB are notorious for that. NBA has a bunch of teams too. For the Falcons, they were maroon traditionally, then switched to black jersey's. So it isn't much of a throwback as a revisit to one of the jerseys they used in the past.

FDowney
FDowney

@c5brown @JohnMatuszak Right. Some teams have always, or for a very long time, worn black (Raiders, Steelers, Saints, Spurs in NBA, Bruins in NHL). But, let's face it, there has been a recent trend of throwing black willy-nilly into color schemes that have never had black. (Those horrendously bad Mets unis come to mind.) The Falcons are kind of in between those two poles--they did start in black, but then wore red for a long time, and then wore black for a few more years, and then back to red, and so on. While they're not an iconic "black" team like those mentioned above, they're also not the Mets. Or those horrible Lions unis Burke mentioned.

ceefax72
ceefax72

@c5brown @JohnMatuszak The falcons throwbacks are from the original 1963 team, I don't recall them ever wearing maroon jerseys, they did wear red jerseys and helmets from 1971 until Jerry Glanville changed the uniforms to black helmets and black jerseys in 1990.