Today, we’re talking about some of the worst NFL uniforms of all time that actually looked good when they took the field. These uniforms were either hated or lauded by their fan bases, but in the eyes of the NFL community were looked down upon, laughed at, and ridiculed.
Nonetheless, these uniforms may have been part of some of the worst sets in NFL history. Either the color scheme, unneeded accents or piping, or just strange coloring, these so bad they were good uniforms won’t soon be forgotten in the eyes of their fans.
Here are my five uniforms that were so bad they were good.
Carolina Panthers Carolina Blue on Black
It’s official – the Panthers have become the Oregon Ducks of the NFL, wearing a different uniform virtually every time they take the field. Since 2012, this has augmented since the team introduced black pants. The only combo the team hasn’t worn in recent years (as of March 2020) has been white on silver, which occurred once over twenty seasons ago.
However, in 2018 the Panthers unleashed a look that involved their Carolina blue jerseys on black pants – a look that was aesthetically painful to the eyes of many. Except there’s a significant historical reference in regard to these uniforms – they strongly resembled the team’s 1995 prototypes.
The Panthers were literally wearing a modified throwback uniform – a throwback that never took the field. You can see a photo of the 1995 prototype here and the uniform combination in action here.
2002-2011 Seattle Seahawks White on Blue
The Seahawks made the change in uniform upon moving into Century-Link Field (then known as Seahawks Stadium) as well as moving to the NFC. Their home uniform at the time arguably the worst in NFL history with that strange shade of gunmetal blue nicknamed Seahawks blue.
But the color itself wasn’t horrific – too much of it was and it’s exactly what the home uniform possessed – overkill! However, when the Seahawks busted out in their white jerseys along with the Seahawks blue pants, the look became aesthetically pleasing. Again, the color itself wasn’t bad – it actually looked good – but the excess use of it on the home uniform was enough to drive any uniform critic up a wall.
The Seahawks blue had more of a Northwestern feel than anything else – if the team stuck with emerald as a tertiary color rather than neon green, this uniform could’ve been great.
Baltimore Ravens 1996 Uniform
This uniform was uglier than sin in the eyes of most – oversized numbering, black pants with an annoying white stripe amidst a horde of purple and black (making the stripe look totally out of place), and white socks with simple striping would’ve given anyone outside the City of Baltimore a migraine. Meanwhile, Baltimore fans were just happy to have football back, even if it meant illegally hijacking another city’s franchise (the Cleveland Browns).
But the uniform was unique in so many ways – it was the first to feature dark jerseys and pants on a home uniform to be worn on a regular basis. It was the first uniform to feature pants darker than its jersey. While the team ditched the black pants in 1997, they made a return in 2004 and at times, the Ravens have worn the purple on black combo as an alternate look – which strongly resembles those first uniforms with a more aesthetically-pleasing touch.
Cleveland Browns Color Rush
In 2015, the Browns made arguably the worst uniform change in NFL history. Gone were the traditional jerseys and pants in favor of something that looked like a poorly made high school uniform. The uniform was hated so much by fans that when the Browns became the last team in the NFL to debut its Color Rush look, it was instantly lauded.
Now, brown on brown with orange numbering and striping that’s impossible to see on the jerseys due to lack of color contrast is a laughingstock in the eyes of the other thirty-one fan bases. However, the fan base (myself included) fully embraced this look over the primary, so much that in 2019 it was promoted to be the team’s primary look while the 2015-2019 uniform was relegated to alternate status.
While the Browns are moving back to their traditional look in 2020, these Color Rush uniforms were a pleasing stopgap that looked better on the field than any Browns fan could’ve imagined – even if the rest of the NFL thought differently.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1976-1996 Uniform
I say 1976-1996 because while there were minor changes in the look, the base of this uniform remained practically the same. These uniforms were put together in haste (Hugh Culverhouse initially chose green to be part of the Bucs’ color scheme, but it was too close in shade to the Miami Dolphins, so he replaced it with the infamous ‘creamsicle’) and were the butt of all NFL uniform jokes – despised by the fan base and the league alike.
It took the Bucs twenty seasons to adopt a new look – one they’re actually going back to since they unveiled another laughingstock look from 2014-2019. The creamsicles were practically erased from the team’s history, with no mention – not even sales of merchandise bore the old creamsicle color and the Bucco Bruce helmet logo.
But it all changed in 2009 when the fan base clamored to see the look return to the field. The Bucs answered the call and from 2009 to 2012 reintroduced the look as alternates before the NFL’s one-helmet rule of 2013 axed the look as well as several other iconic throwbacks, including the Eagles’ 1960s look, the Pat Patriot uniforms, and the Dallas Cowboys’ 1960 throwbacks.
There was talk earlier this year of the Bucs introducing a white helmet so the team could wear the Bucco Bruce throwbacks once more, but sources state the pewter helmet will remain with an updated version of the team’s 1997-2013 threads.