Advertisement
Best NFL Uniforms AP News
Photo by Manny Millan/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

The National Football League often does more jersey tinkering than any other major pro sport; baseball and hockey honestly don’t come close. Only the NBA seems to unveil many different looks, but even pro basketball can’t quite compete since NBA teams don’t mix and match pants and jerseys. And since football has been around for a long, long time, there has been plenty of time for experimentation.

Sometimes, that experimentation hasn’t quite worked. Most of the 2016-2017 Nike Color Rush Era (with two notable exceptions, which we’ll cover below) was a single-block color disaster best left to the dustbin of history. And for some reason, from 2000-2010, everybody decided navy was a great color uniform.

But there have been far more successes than failures throughout the NFL’s history. NFL teams have also unlocked a secret no other sport has managed: making black uniforms look cool. I don’t know how they do it, but they make it work.

True, not every NFL team tosses out winners all the time. The Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, Detroit Lions, New York Giants and Washington Football Team have never looked particularly good. But a lot more teams have gotten it done in the uniform department.

So which are the very best NFL uniforms ever? Which squads have looked the slickest in league history? These are a good start.

20. Atlanta Falcons: Classic Black

An Atlanta Falcons quarterback throws a pass in a black jersey.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Years Worn: (1990-2002)

Generally, I’m not too fond of black jerseys, but they worked far better than they had any right. The Falcons have had some combination of red and black for their entire history, but this classic look is the one that most gets it done.

Even the silver pants work — and I’m not someone who thinks silver pants typically work. I don’t know why they ever decided to get rid of these.

19. Los Angeles Chargers: Color Rush

San Diego Chargers players dive for the ball.
Harry How/Getty Images

Years Worn: (2016-Present)

The NFL’s “Color Rush” era was mainly was a failure; almost everything teams attempted failed. But there were a couple of exceptions, and in particular, the Chargers’ uniform was extraordinarily slick.

Advertisement

Royal blue is an underrated unicolor, and I’m not sure it’s ever looked better than what the Chargers did here. A rare success for the Color Rush era.

18. Cleveland Browns: Brown & Orange

A Cleveland Browns running back gets tackled during a game.
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Years Worn: (1976-1983, 2003-2004, 2015-Present)

There is no reason a brown uniform should ever look good. It shouldn’t be possible. It’s the worst uniform color other than navy blue.

And yet, somehow, the Browns make it work. To say this isn’t a franchise with a spectacular history is like describing the Pacific Ocean as “mildly damp.” Still, they looked good while failing in the playoffs at the worst possible time.

17. Philadelphia Eagles: Kelly Green

A Philadelphia Eagles quarterback drops back to pass during a game.
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

RELATED: The 10 Best Uniforms in College Football Put Everyone Else to Shame

Years Worn: (1935-1973, 1985-1995)

OK, I know the Eagles won their first-ever Super Bowl in their midnight green uniforms.

Still, did they have to get rid of the kelly green. This is the only time I will ever say anything nice about Philadelphia, but these unis were great.

16. New Orleans Saints: Black & Gold

New Orleans Saints defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson flexes after making a play.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Years Worn: (1986-2000, 2002-Present)

Advertisement

Black and burnished-gold is not a color combo I’d expect to work, yet here we are.

The Saints have had a version of this uniform nearly every year since 1986 (2001 was a weird exception), and I’m not sure why it works, but it does. It must be those burnished gold helmets that bring it all together.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Black & Yellow

A Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker celebrates during a game.
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Years Worn: (1969-Present)

This is one of the longest-running uniforms in the NFL and for a good reason. Though they’ve always had some variation of this color combo, the team started winning Super Bowls shortly after switching it up to this design in 1969.

And why change? No reason to mess with perfection. One caveat: Steelers fans can claim these are “black-and-gold” all they want; this isn’t gold. The Saints wear gold. The Steelers wear yellow. Come on, now.

14. Minnesota Vikings: All Purple

A Minnesota Vikings quarterback looks to pass during a game.
Tom Dahlin/Getty Images

Years Worn: (2010, 2013, 2016, 2019-Present)

Purple makes for good jerseys. It just does! There are a couple of teams in the NFL that go with purple. Still, it probably has never looked better than this alternate the Vikings have kept intermittently tinkering with since 2010.

Honestly, get rid of the white pants and make these the primary uniforms. They could only improve them if they went with a bright yellow facemask.

Advertisement

13. Carolina Panthers: All Whites

Carolina Panthers QB Sam Darnold hands the ball off.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Years Worn: (1995-Present)

White on white is usually a look you only see in alternate uniforms. Still, Carolina has always made them a core part of their design.

The Panthers have experimented a lot with light neon blue uniforms, and those are pretty cool, but their very best fit is these classics. There’s a reason they’ve had these uniforms since their inception.

12. Seattle Seahawks: Color Rush

Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson hands the ball off.
Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Years Worn: (2016-Present)

OK, look, I know this one is going to be divisive. These electric lime green uniforms are a lot. But as far as I’m concerned, they’re a lot in a good way.

The other big success of the Color Rush promotion, there’s a reason the Seahawks and Chargers have kept their uniforms in their repertoire even though the era technically ended in 2018.

11. Miami Dolphins: Teal

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill slides during a game.
Marc Serota/Getty Images

Years Worn: (2002-2004, 2014-Present)

The Dolphins never have and will never change their teal-white-orange color combo, and frankly, they shouldn’t. Miami’s current uniforms are pretty cool.

But none are as cool as the teal-on-teal combo that first appeared in 2002. It disappeared for a decade from 2004-2014, but it’s been a regular staple for the team ever since.

Advertisement

10. Dallas Cowboys: White Alternates

A Dallas Cowboys quarterback drops back to pass during a game.
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Years Worn: (1994, 2015-Present)

I think the Dallas Cowboys have the worst uniforms in the league aside from the Patriots. It’s usually just some boring navy-and-white that falls flat.

White jerseys are rarely any fun. That being said, occasionally, they get it right with slick design — and these recurring alternates are probably the best they’ve ever managed. Even I have to hand it to them.

9. Houston Oilers: Powder Blue

A Houston Oilers player runs with the ball during a game.
Walter Iooss Jr. /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

Years Worn: (1960-1996)

I’m in the minority in that I like the Tennessee Titans unis — you can’t fail with powder blue. But even I’ll admit that they were way more relaxed when Earl Campbell wore the Houston blue while running guys over like an L train with an attitude problem.

The Titans are fine, but the team should play at least one throwback game in these jerseys every year.

8. Cincinnati Bengals: Black on Black

Cincinnati Bengals
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Years Worn: (2003-Present)

Usually, I wouldn’t say I like black uniforms in sports. Still, they work far better in football than other sports for some reason.

These have to be the best all-blacks in any sport, too. That orange trim makes the whole thing pop. Maybe the Bengals have never won anything, but for nearly 20 years, they’ve had one of the NFL’s slickest fits.

Advertisement

7. Baltimore Ravens: Purple & Black

Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson hands the ball off.
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Years Worn: (1996-Present)

Look, why mess with perfection? The Ravens landed on an iconic color combo (black and purple, the best color scheme in sports) when they landed in Baltimore, and they’ve never looked back since.

The Ravens have experimented around the edges with alternates, and everything has worked (their seldom-seen purple-on-purple look is also very cool). Still, it’s tough to top a combo this iconic. Honestly, I would say this is one of the least likely NFL uniforms ever to change.

6. New York Jets: All Greens

New York Jets
Tom Berg/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Years Worn: (2002-2018)

With their anemic color palette, the Jets uniforms shouldn’t be good. But from 2002-2018, the team had one significant trick up — or rather, on — their sleeves: those white shoulders.

So it figures they got rid of those sleeves in the last couple of years. True, that era wasn’t exactly the height of Jets excellence, but the uniforms were the best thing they had going for them. Figures.

5. Denver Broncos: “Orange Crush”

Denver Broncos QB John Elway looks to pass during his playing days.
George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Years Worn: (1968-1996)

These are the uniforms that Elway made famous. Sure, the Broncos kept losing in the Super Bowl in these bad boys, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t cool.

Their new uniforms in 1997 immediately led to the franchise’s first two Super Bowl wins. So I guess it makes sense that this indelible part of NFL history got left behind. But still.

4. Los Angeles Rams: Blue & Yellow

Los Angeles Rams RB Eric Dickerson sprints with the ball during a game.
Owen C. Shaw/Getty Images

Years Worn: (1973-1999, 2016-Present)

What on Earth were the Rams thinking in 1999 when they went from royal blue and yellow to navy and burnished gold? It sounds like it should be similar, but there’s a world of difference between the color combo Eric Dickerson wore when he set the single-season record for rushing yards and whatever drab mess the Greatest Show on Turf teams were dressed in.

In 2020, the team took it a step further, going with an even brighter blue, and honestly, good on them for it.

3. New England Patriots: “Patriot Red”

New England Patriots
George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Years Worn: (1961-1992)

I can’t tell you how much it upsets me that I’m about to say something nice about the Patriots, but these uniforms were pretty cool. Red is a more challenging color to make work than you’d think. These are probably the best red uniforms the league has ever had, especially considering the white helmets and the Pat Patriot logo.

Thankfully, they changed these cool uniforms in 1992, long before Tom Brady. Now everyone in America who isn’t from New England can fervently hate their terrible unis as much as we hate everything else about them.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Creamsicle

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Years Worn: (1976-1996)

Look, I know the Bucs were “The Team That Invented Losing.” I know that losing was inextricably linked to these uniforms.

But there’s never been a worse rebrand than Tampa moving from this excellent light orange color (unique, as far as I can tell, in ANY sport) to the red-and-bronze they’ve worn ever since. The greatest casualty of the Bucs sustained failure was future generations losing out on these fits.

1. San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers: Powder Blue

San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers looks to the sideline while holding the ball during a game.
John W. McDonough/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

Years Worn: (1960-1984, 2002-Present)

The Chargers are the only team to show up twice on this list, which is impressive since their uniforms were awful for nearly 20 years of their history. Navy is the worst unicolor (for NFL uniforms or any other sport). For a solid 1/3 of their history, the Chargers went with it.

Thankfully, they FINALLY brought back the powder blues in 2002. However, it’s only much more recently (coinciding with their move to L.A.) that they’ve essentially become the team’s primary rather than just a throwback uniform. It was about time because these have to be the best uniforms in NFL history.

MORE: The 10 Worst College Football Uniforms Since 2000 are Vomit-Inducing

Related Videos

Author placeholder image About the author:
C.A. Pinkham is a Pittsburgh-based writer and Washington sports fan who has written about food, video games, history, sports and politics for a variety of outlets. He suspects Alex Ovechkin may be unkillable by conventional means.
View More Articles

Stories You Might Like