If nothing else, Nike’s NFL uniforms have been … creative.
Nike burst onto the NFL scene in 2012 when it became the league’s official uniform provider, immediately redesigning the Seahawks’ and Jaguars’ looks. One’s already a stalwart look — the other, not so much.
Nike has had some swings-and-misses when it comes to their redesigns. While the concepts are cool, some suffer from over-design — or over-branding — where a little simplicity would have gone a long way. In some cases, that over-design came at the cost of a team’s brand, which led to less-than-stellar results.
To be fair, none of the uniforms on the latter half of this ranking is truly awful — there have been really, really bad uniforms in sports history and none of the ones on this list fit that bill.
The Buccaneers, Falcons, Browns, Rams, Chargers, Colts and Patriots all got new looks in 2020, and they were all pretty, pretty good. The Bengals got a new look in 2021, and they followed a similar trend for Nike: Less design, more simplicity for effect.
Let’s take a look at how Nike has done over the years with their current fits. Here’s how they rank:
15. Jaguars (2013)
The Jags are one of a few teams to get updated uniforms more than once since Nike took over. That’s with good cause: The first attempt at updating their uniforms turned out to be a bit of a mess.
While the team was in desperate need of a new design, something about these uniforms just felt patchwork. Maybe it was the different-colored shoulders, the multiple stitch bordering the numbers or the really bad gradient helmet. Actually, it was probably a combination of all three.
The best thing to come out of these updated uniforms was the new logo, which was sorely needed and added a lot of detail. In all, these were probably the worst of the makeovers that Nike has done, which is why the Jags changed it up at the next available moment.
Best uniform feature: At least the Jaguars embraced their color scheme, which is among the best in the league.
Worst uniform feature: The shoulders and the helmets were egregious. There’s gradient and then there’s fake gradient, and the Jags helmets were definitely fake gradient.
14. Buccaneers (2020)
Back to the future for the Bucs, but you don’t need a DeLorean.
If these uniforms look oddly familiar, it’s because they are oddly familiar; they’re adjacent to the uniforms they had prior to Nike’s redesign in 2014, with a few minor changes. The team even references it in their official release via their website.
The numbering doesn’t feature any kind of new flavor and the actual plain-ness of the uniforms themselves is such a turnoff considering, at minimum, Nike tried something new and different with the design of the Bucs prior uniforms.
In all, these uniforms are just painfully bland. They’re not bad. They’re just bland. They’re unappealing and not at all inspiring. The font and number doesn’t do anything new or original. The design is something so basic that it’s a wonder why they ever changed in the first place.
Best uniform feature: The subtle orange striping on the pants and (apparently) orange outlining on the numbers blends nicely.
Worst uniform feature: The numbers and font. It’s like the front office was so scared of a little criticism of the old numbers and reverted into the fetal position with the design. Ah, well.
13. Jaguars (2018)
Where Nike went heavy on the design in 2013, they went very simple in the most recent iteration of the Jags and uniforms. Bland and toned down, clearly inspired by Tom Coughlin.
They ditched the gradient helmet (thank God for that) for a solid black one and removed the odd, different-colored sleeves. The Jaguar secondary logo patch on the chest was replaced with the primary logo, as well.
Their color scheme is still featured prominently, which is a good thing: Jacksonville’s teal, black and gold is among the best color schemes in the league. But there’s just something missing here. Maybe they’re due for a logo update, or maybe they should throw some outline on the uniform numbers. The plain look of them just feels a little too bland.
Best uniform feature: There can be beauty in simplicity. Beauty is a bit strong, but they’re pretty altogether with the numbers, lack of over-design and color scheme combining for a decent package.
Worst uniform feature: These uniforms certainly could have benefited from a gold outline on the numbers, but even that went out the door with the redesign.
12. Browns (2015)
In a word: Bold.
It’s not easy to make brown and orange work as primary colors in sports. They’re just so drab. So when Nike took these uniforms, they just amped up the “boldness” in it.
Whether it was the contrasting stitching in the uniforms, the “BROWNS” on the side of the pants, the aggressive shadowing on the numbers or the thicker shoulder stripes, Nike took Cleveland’s branding and Browns-ed it up. It was neither good nor bad. It just … was. There’s nothing particularly outwardly offensive about these uniforms.
The Browns’ new kits are coming soon, and there has been a promise to make the uniforms “nothing fancy.” Well, we shall see.
Best uniform feature: The orange was much less assaulting on the eyes than the previous orange, and it worked well with the brown in the uniform.
Worst uniform feature: The shadowing — my God, the shadowing. I’m not sure that any team really needs shadowing now, unless they really envy ’90s artwork.
11. Buccaneers (2014)
The Buccaneers’ uniforms are pretty much hated, and some of it with good reason. The numbers — accused of looking like a digital clock’s — are inspired by “Buccaneer blade carving” fonts, which is understandable. The problem is, the numbers do look like a digital clock, and that takes away from a lot of the uniform. The font also just makes the uniform seem empty, too.
(A simple fix: if Nike were to remove the inner lines of the numbers, the jerseys would make much more “sense.”)
Then there’s the color scheme. The red would work better if it wasn’t juxtaposed next to a pewter color that almost looks more light brown than it does grey or silver. The orange trim designs on the jersey feel a little out of place as well, even if it pays homage to the Bucs of yesteryear.
In all, these unis aren’t nearly as bad as people make them seem. They’re just a little too outside-the-box, with too many colors mixed in, to be appealing to the eye.
Best uniform feature: Nike did well to enlarge the logo on the helmet, and it looks much better overall.
Worst uniform feature: Once you move past the numbers, there’s another egregious error. The pewter isn’t — or doesn’t look like — pewter. It looks almost brown. Had the pewter been more … pewter-y, these uniforms would probably look better altogether.
10. Browns (2020)
It’s really no fault of Nike that the Browns rank in the latter half of this ranking, considering Cleveland doesn’t have a whole lot to work with. They’re not the Buccaneers, Titans or Falcons who each have a lot to work with by way of color scheme, logo and general lack of traditional looks. With a singular, defined look throughout their history, the Browns reverted back to a scheme that is much more familiar to fans.
Nike and Cleveland removed a few features from these unis: the number shadowing and the Cleveland from the chest among them. They also re-added the striped socks and opted for a more traditional look on their pants, with some striping, which is a welcome sight.
Best uniform feature: The re-added striped socks really fit with the kits overall.
Worst uniform feature: Hard to pick one because they’re so simplistic, but maybe leaving the “Cleveland” wordmark on the front would have been nice? Who knows?
9. Titans (2018)
The Titans, like a lot of other teams in pro sports, utilize a palette of blue and white with some red sprinkled in. The most notable changes in the uniforms is the helmet — which features a single stripe — and the shoulders, which resemble a sword. The font on the uniforms was also changed to something that resembles “stone-carved lettering.” It’s less bold than the previous numbers and, while unique, feel a bit thin and over-styled.
While the sword thing seems a bit out of place on an NFL jersey, it’s not terrible considering their logo is a sword, anyway. It’s certainly new and somewhat daring, so having that blade-themed imagery on the jersey in addition to the helmet isn’t a bad idea.
The stripes on the pants aren’t bad, either. All in all, they’re nice uniforms that fit their brand, and Nike did a good job with the new look.
Best uniform feature: The new navy-blue helmets work much better than the old all-white deals, and the sword stripe is neat. Though, it’s certainly pushing overused.
Worst uniform feature: Speaking of overused, the sword stripes on the pants are a little weird. It’s not awful, just weird.
8. Falcons (2020)
In a word: OK.
There’s definitely a mixed bag here with the Falcons uniforms. While the team stuck with their logo, the uniforms are updated with new numbering and shadowing (oh, the shadows!) and a striping down the sides.
The “ATL” across the chest is fine, considering that other teams in the league (Browns, Jets) have their city names across the chest above the numbers, as well. It’s a nice little flavor addition to add some identity.
But here’s what’s going to cause the stir: the gradient uniforms. It’s safe to assume that the black and white ones will be the primary, with the gradient black-to-red uniforms an alternate. It’s not a bad idea — it will just take some getting used to. We haven’t really seen that with pro teams before, and if they’re going to be used on special occasions (primetime games, big divisional matchups), it’s not all that bad. (Side note: Why does Nike love gradient so much?)
In all, the Falcons toned down a once-futuristic look for something simpler, and overall, it works pretty well. Not dazzling, but appealing and original.
Best uniform feature: Both the silver and gray are featured more prominently throughout their unis, with a really sexy chrome/silver facemask planted on the helmet.
Worst uniform feature: Again with the outlines, man. The shadowing on the numbers seems very ’90s while the outlining of the logo on the helmet is a bit over the top.
7. Lions (2017)
The Lions uniforms remain one of the best in football, and it’s all thanks to that Honolulu blue. But the subtle, streamlined updates that Nike made to these uniforms in 2017 make these among the best in football.
First, Nike removed the black coloration in the uniform, replacing it with anthracite — a color that blends more seamlessly into the uni as a whole. The numbers and nameplate, which were originally white, were updated to silver for the home uniforms and blue for the aways. The helmet was also redesigned, with updated striping down the middle.
William C. Ford’s initials were added to the shoulder pads — which also had updated striping — and the facemask was altered from black to chrome. The new font is more in line with Detroit branding, as well.
Nike showed that sometimes a simple update to what’s already there can lead to near-perfection.
Best uniform feature: The colors blend better than any team in football. The Honolulu blue is arguably the best shade in the sport, and the light gray pairs perfectly with it.
Worst uniform feature: Outlines are going a bit too far. Have you seen how many outlines the Lions logo has? It’s like, 10. (Actually, it’s four, but two would do.)
6. Patriots (2020)
The Patriots took their alternate uniforms — arguably one of the better sets in the NFL — and upgraded them for their home look. It’s the first update to New England’s uniforms in two decades.
The alternates were first introduced as part of Nike’s Color Rush campaign some years ago before the Patriots adopted them as their official alternates. Now, alternates no more, their current fit features striped shoulders and a primary, home blue uniform that pairs with blue pants. For away games, the uniforms feature white tops and blue pants.
There’s something simple and elegant about these uniforms, and something decidedly Patriots about them, as well. New England isn’t a team that’s going to push the envelope of design, and these uniforms fit very well in their personality and motif.
Best uniform feature: Nice to see the Patriots keep the bold-fonted numbers on the front and back. They’re large and in charge. Also, the colored socks are a nice add to really help these stand out.
Worst uniform feature: The Patriots should have gone with a white helmet to really change it up. The silver is nice, but something about it feels dated.
5. Vikings (2013)
The rumors of an intense makeover for the Vikings in 2013 were actually substantiated by then-running back Adrian Peterson, who said the original design he viewed felt like “a bit of a reach.”
These aren’t, though. The updated, bold fonts which supposedly are supposed to mimic the curves on a viking ship fit really well on the uniform, and the unique shoulder design gives them a distinct look as well.
The fresh matte helmets were introduced in 2013 as well, though a small tweak of the color came before the 2019 season to better match the uniform under the lights. This is how you make an identifiable, unique and futuristic-looking uniform without overdoing it.
Best uniform feature: The understated design on the shoulder is a welcome addition. Nike shows that you can do something other than traditional striping on a uniform and it’ll work.
Worst uniform feature: While the striping on the pants is straightforward, the bottoms don’t really have as much of a “look” as the tops.
4. Jets (2019)
A lot of people ragged on the Jets uniforms when they were released, because it’s social media law to hate new things. But where Nike usually adds a bit of unnecessary details to uniforms, what they did with the Jets was the opposite.
The Jets’ prior uniforms looked horrible on TV; the green looked like two different shades, and both faded to a pretty horrible looking brownish-tint during the season. But now, with the simplified stripe that runs from the shoulder to the chest and a more vibrant shade of green, the unis really stand out on Sundays.
While some mocked the uniforms for looking “too much like a college/CFL team” (a complaint that never made much sense to begin with), on Sundays, in action, they looked sleek and sharp. The updated green was a welcome sight from the muted, deep green they had in prior iterations of their uniforms. The black alternates work well enough, even with the overuse of black in the league today.
Best uniform feature: The helmets really shine under the lights. The black facemasks work well there, too.
Worst uniform feature: The logo is still horrendous. While it fits on the helmet, there’s no personality to it. We get it — Jets football. How about something that adds more identity than just the team name?
4. Bengals (2021)
Obviously, any time you have an animal as recognizable as a tiger, it’s hard to perform that balancing act between “accurate” and fashion forward.
Nike did a good job with the new Bengals uniforms, their first uniform change in nearly 20 years. Nike ousted the shoulder color blocks and color blocks down the side, opting for a simple, smoother, single-color look for each of the three uniforms.
Thankfully, the worst uniform feature (the shoulder block) being removed makes the new Bengals uniforms much nicer to look at overall.
Oh, and they kept the iconic helmet. That’s a win in and of itself.
Best uniform feature: The solid color between shoulders and side makes these much less blocky and much smoother.
Worst uniform feature: The helmets are truly iconic and cannot be touched — but can we get a different facemask color?
3. Dolphins (2018)
It’s hard to debate that, when it comes to the total package, the Dolphins don’t have the best color scheme, logo or uniforms in football. That’s why a lot of people held their breath when it was announced the Fish were getting new looks for the 2018 season.
But the updated logo, the solid stripe on the helmet and the removal of the stripes on the sleeves give the Dolphins’ unis a pleasantly fresh, solid and simple look.
Best uniform feature: The updated logo is something that works really well. While the helmet dolphin (Snowflake?) is sorely missed, the new logo keeps the same spirit while offering a much-needed update.
Worst uniform feature: While the simplicity is certainly welcome, it does feel like they could use striping on the shoulders like the previous iteration of their uniform. Also, understandably, it likely wouldn’t fit.
2. Chargers (2020)
It’s hard to improve on greatness. The Chargers have the nicest color scheme in football, and there’s something special about the Chargers’ powder blue uniforms.
With a recognizable bolt logo, a sensational color scheme and limitless ways to approach these uniforms, Nike kept it mostly simple while updating some motifs — the shoulder bolts and pants update — and hit a home run with these uniforms.
With the powder blue home kits, the white away and two separate alternates that feature an amazing navy blue look, the Chargers took one of the best uniforms in football and made them better. They also added numbers back to their helmets — a classic staple of their look — and changed the number font up so it looks better and more filled on the front and back.
This is how you take a look and improve upon it — Nike needs to do more of this stuff.
Best uniform feature: Torn between the simple bolts on the shoulder and the numbers on the helmet. Both add back signature looks. Also, the elongated bolt on the helmet makes them stand out more.
Worst uniform feature: It’s not exactly a “worst,” but do we need two alternate uniforms? You only play 16 games a season, after all. Getting to fill in all the different color combos and mixing in the alternates is tough.
1. Seahawks (2012)
Quite possibly the best of the Nike redesigns, the Seahawks went from ham-sandwich bland to steakhouse-dinner amazing.
Nike spent a lot of time on the detail in these uniforms, from the collar designs inspired by indigenous Seattle-area tribes to the feather-design numbers and helmet, inspired by coastal Native American art.
They’re futuristic without being over-designed, with enough local flavor that represents the city without being overbearing. Not just the best of the Nike redesigns, but one of the best uniforms in football altogether.
While the color palette is a bit dull, the neon green in the uniform highlights the rest perfectly without being overbearing.
Best uniform feature: The helmets feature the feather design present on the rest of the uniform, and it really stands apart when paired next to other uniforms in the league.
Worst uniform feature: While the Seahawks logo is certainly iconic, when Nike redid the logo in 2012, they stripped out the green that’s now featured in the uniforms. A curious change for the “Emerald City.”
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