Football is a game with roots that go beyond multi-million dollar contracts. It’s a sport which transcends the glitz and glamour of the modern sports world and is about pure grit and athleticism. In the owners box, however, everything is about money. If that owner can sell a few extra jerseys by introducing new logos on helmets or jerseys, that is exactly what they will do.
Many of the entries on this list are third jerseys which an NFL team decided to wear a few times in an attempt to sell additional merchandise. Sometimes NFL third jerseys outshine the team’s standard ones, but on other occasions, the jerseys are so ugly that they end up in articles like this.
Other than third jerseys, the most common type of jerseys to end up in this article are throwback shirts. Sometimes throwback jerseys come off as retro and “old school cool”. Other times, however, they just make it painfully clear why the team gave up on the older jerseys in the first place.
Out of all the ugly jerseys NFL teams have ever forced their players to wear, here are the top 20.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars – Mustard Yellow Jerseys
Some fans were upset when the Jaguars wouldn’t take a shot at signing Tim Tebow. Granted, Tebow probably wasn’t going to give the Jags much of a chance to win, but chances are that was going to be the case regardless, so why not sign the guy? They would at least get some new season ticket holders out of it.
Yet this franchise has consistently shown they know little about what their fans want. Case in point is the grotesque mustard yellow alternative jerseys they have forced their players to wear in the past. These jerseys were part of the Nike “Color Rush” program which promoted alternative jerseys for teams who have a Thursday night game with on their schedule. They first appeared in 2015, and are set to do so again this year.
19. San Francisco 49ers – All-Black Jerseys
Remember the glory days in 49ers history? No, we’re not talking about Kaepernick making it to the Super Bowl one year before losing to the Ravens, we’re talking about Jerry Rice and Joe Montana. The red and gold baby! These alternative all-black 49ers jerseys do little to remind fans of the once proud history of this franchise.
The all black look just doesn’t fit for the 49ers franchise. Black was never a color that really entered into the color scheme for this franchise, and perhaps there is a reason for it. San Francisco doesn’t exactly seem like a city with black as one of their colors either, especially considering they’re supposed to be the yin to the Raiders yang in the bay area rivalry. Them wearing black is the equivalent of the Raiders wearing red, it just doesn’t fit.
18. Green Bay Packers – Acme Packing Jerseys
The Green Bay Packers are arguably the greatest football franchise of all time, yet somehow they consistently allow their players onto the field wearing throwback jerseys from the 1920s. Granted, the Packers history is kind of interesting, Curly Lambeau founded the team and borrowed some money for jerseys from his employers, the Indian Packing Company. That company was purchased by the Acme Packing Company in 1920 who also chose to support the team. The team colors were navy blue and gold and their first NFL jerseys had “Acme Packing” emblazoned on the front. Eventually, the team would introduce the gold dot which a player’s number would be placed inside of.
In 2010, the Packers started paying homage to this period in their history by wearing various throwback jerseys which had been worn back then. There was a reason the Packers eventually switched to the green and gold jerseys, however.
17. Buffalo Bills – AFL Jerseys
This is a somewhat controversial choice because arguably the Bills’ AFL throwback jerseys are a lot nicer than their current ones. These older jerseys also don’t have the same logo as the Bills team which lost four Super Bowls in a row, so there is that as well.
There is just something so simplistic about these jerseys that in all likelihood nobody spent more than an afternoon’s worth of work designing them. They’re just plain red, white and blue jerseys, and then a generic white helmet with a picture of a buffalo on it.
The funny part is that buffalo’s, as in the animal which is on their helmet, have little to do with the team name. The Buffalo Bills are named after Buffalo Bill Cody, a traveling entertainer/frontiersman type from the late 1800s to early 1900s. Apparently, his face was too difficult to put on a helmet….
16. Miami Dolphins – All Aqua Jerseys
There are many colors with which one can use to create a matching ensemble. Grey and black tend to match with each other, and if you’re stylish enough, you can even pull-off an all-white outfit, though it helps if you’re working on a cruise line at the time. All Aqua? We’re sorry, but that just isn’t going to work.
In defense of the Dolphins franchise, they were just trying to make their team look more like the animal they’re named after. Actual dolphins tend to go with an all-aqua look as well, and they’re rarely made fun of for it. That is one of those intangible things, however, where somebody can pull off a certain look while others can’t.
The Dolphins had grown a reputation as the team which always wears white, even at home, and perhaps it’s best if they go back to that.
15. Miami Dolphins – All Orange Jerseys
Hey Miami, can you come pick up your football team? They’re drunk and somebody dressed them in all orange. Clearly, Nike’s Color Rush program has been allowed to run way too much here. The Dolphins and their emphasis on white is perhaps not a great match for this Nike program.
The orange jerseys were first worn by the Dolphins in 2003, and despite their poor fashion sense, the team kept winning in them. In fact, the Dolphins were undefeated in their orange jerseys all the way up to 2010, when they finally lost a game in them and haven’t worn them since.
Nowadays, the Dolphins are back to wearing white at home but will change that up for prime-time games on Sunday or Thursday nights. The aqua still gets broken out, but is rarely paired with aqua pants.
14. Denver Broncos – 1966 Jerseys
The Bronco which adorned Denver’s helmet in the 60s was not exactly the intimidating stallion it is today. Instead back then, Denver’s helmet seemed to feature a malnourished and easily frightened horse, one whose head was grotesquely mis-proportioned to its body. Could you picture John Elway or Peyton Manning dressed up in that uniform?
The malnourished and easily frightened horse wouldn’t be the worst uniform decision the team would make over the years, but it was still a pretty bad one. In the early 1960s, the Broncos drew attention from fans due to their highly unique jerseys as well, but more on that later. Nowadays, the Broncos are sticking with the orange and blue color scheme, but the bronco on their helmets looks well-fed, not easily startled, and with a head size proportionate to its body….
13. Philadelphia Eagles – 1934 Throwback Jerseys
The colors of yellow and light blue are more suitable for team’s from California than for a gritty football team from Philadelphia. They’re the colors of the city’s flag, however, and was also the color scheme worn in the team’s inaugural season.
It was also the colors worn by the Frankford Yellow Jackets, who played in the NFL from 1924-31. The Yellow Jackets went bankrupt leaving Pennsylvaniaia without a football team. After a year of searching for new ownership, Philadelphia ended up with the Eagles. The new Philly team would wear jerseys similar to those of the Frankford Yellow Jackets their first few seasons before switching to a green color scheme.
In 2007, the Eagles celebrated their 75th anniversary by dawning the blue and yellow jerseys once more.
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Throwback Jerseys
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers jerseys of old are often referred to as their “creamsicle” jerseys.
The team’s first jerseys were designed in 1976, but were given certain limitations. As there was already a pirate team in the league, the Bucs were told to make sure their logo and jerseys did not resemble to the silver and black Raiders. To that end, they did their job quite well. In terms of creating nice looking jerseys and helmets, they did not do good at all. Never before have pirates seemed so approachable, or as if they might be willing to sell you ice cream.
For 20 years, the ice cream pirates played football in Tampa Bay until they redesigned their jerseys to a more intimidating look. Red and gold replaced orange and white, and a pirate flag replaced the happy looking swashbuckler.
11. Green Bay Packers – 2012 Throwback Jerseys
Aaron Rodgers is seen here wearing a different variation of the throwback Packers jerseys from the times they were owned by the Acme Packing Company. The Packers broke out these throwbacks in 2012.
The Packers franchise has had an interesting history with uniform designs. The club takes their tradition quite seriously, and have refused uniform changes requested by Nike. The Packers said they wouldn’t make any changes to their uniforms outside of changing to the new league uniform logo and the adding the Nike logo. Nike wanted them to switch to a new collar design for the jerseys to which the Packers declined.
Nike also was hoping the Packers would accept various uniform changes as part of the company’s Elite 51 program, but again the Packers refused. As a community-owned team, sometimes tradition trumps business.
10. Chargers – Throwback 1973 Jerseys
The last season Johnny Unitas played in the NFL he was a member of the Chargers. He was 40 at the time and well past his prime. It looks as though the jersey he was wearing back then was also about 40 years old, and also well past its prime.
These were the Chargers jerseys for the 1973 season, and while slight improvements would eventually make the Chargers one of the most well-dressed teams in the league, these jerseys were about as ugly as they come. For starters, there seems to be an awkwardly sized gap in between the numbers. It almost looks as though Unitas is #1 and #9 as opposed to being #19. The gap between numerals is large enough that it seems as though a comma should be placed there to be grammatically correct.
9. Cincinnati Bengals – Throwback Jerseys
The above jerseys were part of an elaborate plan for the Bengals to make their opponents overconfident by making them think they were actually playing Cleveland that week.
Actually, there is a reason why the Bengals uniforms from 1968 bore such a strong resemblance to Cleveland’s. Paul Brown had been the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, and for some reason, he owned much of the team’s equipment. When Art Modell fired Brown, he took all the equipment with him to his new team in Cincy. The helmets were old Cleveland Browns helmets which had the word “Bengals” written on it.
In 1981, a full 15 years into the team’s existence, they finally decided to redesign their jerseys. They introduced their famous Bengal striped helmets that year as well as new uniform designs that incorporated tiger stripes. The team also designed a new logo in 1997.
8. Seattle Seahawks – Neon Green Jerseys
The Seattle Seahawks have some of the best jerseys in the game today. Why they decided to mess with that by throwing in an all-neon green version of them is anyone’s guess. The Seahawks hold the odd distinction of being the only NFL team to have never worn white for a home game. They have worn the above hideous jerseys, however, something they first did in 2009.
In an odd twist to the Seahawks jersey journey, former coach Jim Mora announced near the end of the 2009 season that the team would no longer wear the neon green jerseys because of their poor record in them. He also mentioned that he liked the team’s old jerseys better. When your head coach is complaining about how bad your jerseys look, they must look pretty bad, especially because for the most par, those guys have bigger things to worry about.
7. Denver Broncos – Yellow & Brown Jerseys
When a franchise decides to bring back old school jerseys, they should take extra care to ensure those uniforms aren’t unbearably ugly. Such caution was not taken when the Denver Broncos opted to bring back their old yellow and brown jerseys recently.
The Broncos wanted to pay homage to their history, however, and for the first two years of their existence, they did not wear the orange and blue we associate the Broncos with today. For the 1960 and 1961 seasons, the Broncos uniforms were as seen above, with vertically striped socks and a color scheme of mustard yellow and dog feces brown. The jerseys drew an awful lot of attention from the media and fans for those two seasons, enough that they introduced their orange and blue scheme the following year.
In 2009, to celebrate their 50th anniversary, the team wore these throwbacks for weeks five and six.
6. Chicago Bears – 1920 Throwback Jerseys
When picking throwback jerseys for your team to wear it’s important not to go back too far in team history. That was the mistake the Chicago Bears made when they opted to break out some interesting jerseys for the franchise’s 75th anniversary.
When the Bears first hit the field in 1920, their jerseys were brown and blue stripes. There were no logos on the helmets at the time, and basically, the purpose of a team’s jersey was nothing more than to allow players and fans to tell who is on what team. That being said, the Bears could have put a touch more effort into their inaugural jerseys.
The club would wear such things until they redesigned their uniforms in 1933. Over the years, the Bears have kept their uniform traditions strong. Their “C” logo is one of the longest standing in pro sports.
5. Cleveland Browns – Orange Jerseys
As discussed earlier in this article, there is a uniform rivalry that has been in existence since the 60s involving the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns. Somehow, nobody is ahead in the rivalry and both teams are considered to be losing it.
The Browns have kept things simple over the years, even fighting off pressure to design a helmet logo. The introduction of their current alternative orange jerseys is a bit of a misstep for a franchise which has excelled in uniform simplicity over the years. Orange is an accenting coloring for their uniforms, not one that is supposed to be front and center. Besides, there are two other teams in the league with orange as their main color. Normally, having orange as your team’s primary color guarantees you’ll have a unique color scheme, but not in the NFL.
4. St. Louis Rams – 1999 Throwback Jerseys
The St. Louis Rams won the Super Bowl in 1999, and as a result, have something of an affinity for the jerseys they wore when they won the biggest game in their existence. For some reason, however, when they decided to bring the jerseys back as throwbacks in 2013 to commemorate their Super Bowl winning team, something about the jerseys didn’t seem to come out right.
Perhaps we didn’t notice the off-putting blue and yellow combination originally because it was the 1990s, and Fresh Prince was making those kinds of color combinations cool.
The Rams decided to really stick their ’99 Super Bowl trophy in the faces of the franchises they defeated in the playoffs back then. The 2013 Rams wore their ’99 throwback jerseys twice during the season, once against the Titans, who they beat in the Super Bowl, and once against the Bucs, who they beat in the NFC championship game in 1999.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers – Bumblebee Jerseys
Pittsburgh is one of the few remaining cities which makes an effort to keep all sports teams the same colors. The Penguins, Steelers, and Pirates all have yellow and black as their main colors. Wrestling fans will note that Shane Douglas of ECW would rep his hometown of Pittsburgh in the same manner.
Unfortunately for fans of the Steelers “Bumblebee Jerseys”, the franchise has officially retired them as of the end of the 2016 season. The “so ugly they’re good” jerseys are a throwback of the 1934 Pittsburgh Pirates football team, which also adopted yellow and black as their colors. While the uniforms have been called among the ugliest in the history of sports, for some reason many find them appealing, perhaps for the same reason.
2. New England Patriots – Throwback Jerseys
There was something about those old New England Patriots jerseys which made it feel as though the designers started with a good idea, but wound up not caring about the project in the end. Perhaps it’s the poorly conceived drawing of a center about to hike the ball while looking as though he has just come back from the Boston tea party that throws some people off.
A team with a name like the Patriots is sort of a hard logo and jersey combo to mess up. Just run any combination of red, white and blue for the color scheme and any combination of eagles, stars or stripes for the logo. The New England franchise got greedy, however, and had to try and think outside the box. Their current jerseys don’t make the same mistake however.
1. Oakland Raiders – Black & Yellow Jerseys
Few fans are aware of this, but the Raiders franchise hasn’t always worn silver and black. In fact, they weren’t even supposed to be named the Raiders. There was a “name the team” contest held in Oakland and the winning name was Oakland Senors. This name was ridiculed by the public even though seemingly it was the public that chose it.
The owners opted not to go with the name and instead called the team the Oakland Raiders. The original colors were gold, black and white. This was the case for the first two years of the team’s existence until in 1963 a man named Al Davis was named head coach and General Manager. Davis changed the uniforms to silver and black and those have been the colors of Raiders Nation ever since. While the 1960-62 Raider jerseys may not have been hideous, any Raider’ team not wearing silver and black seems so wrong that it has to occupy the number one spot on this list.
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