The 2020 NFL season had a lot of uniform changes, some for the absolute best, and some for the worst. The 2021 season doesn’t have as many changes, but ones that have been made are huge for the future of NFL uniforms and how we’ll get to see them every Sunday. Watch the video above for a full breakdown of all the reviews or continue reading for the short version.
Last year I did a full uniform breakdown of every team and put them into my own tier lists. I’m going to update that list based on what I saw last year and on the changes teams have made in the offseason.
The Cincinnati Bengals got a brand new set. The Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers (August 19th release date), and San Francisco 49ers got new throwbacks. The Los Angeles Rams added what they call an alternate. The Washington Football team changed their uniforms since my last video release. The NFL changed their numbering rules to almost college number rules, and most importantly the NFL updated their helmet rules.
So let’s get to the updates.
The only team to get new uniforms this year, the Bengals took a look at what they had before and realized how much of a mess the whole thing was. Instead of completely redoing the whole thing they just decided to clean it up a bit.
I like all the choices they made. Keeping the helmet was a great choice because it’s a great looking helmet. Changing the stripes on the sleeves to give it a cleaner look which is always much appreciated. I do kinda wish they did more with it because from the front it just looks like normal shoulder stripes like the Texans, but maybe I’m asking too much.
Overall this is an upgrade. With these all white uniforms I would love to see orange socks with bengal stripes or when teams are allowed to change their helmet colors I would love a white helmet with black stripes for this.
This change has moved the Bengals from BAD to the GOOD category. I’m not sure if they’re great yet. I have to see how they look in action and see how the design holds up over the year, but if I was a Bengals fan I would be very, very happy with this upgrade. Possible greatness here.
Los Angeles Rams
I didn’t like the Rams uniforms when they announced them and I didn’t like them even more after seeing them in action. I’m really surprised at how bad the shininess looks on the numbers, but even worse on the sleeves. It seems to reflect the grass so it gives it a slightly green tint. It also just looks really gross on the numbers and that gradient will never not look like pee.
My biggest issue with these is the dumb bone uniforms they have. These looked so dirty and drab on the field.
Then this year they introduced an “alternate” look that is just what their away uniform should be. It’s actually kinda their best look and that’s because it makes them look like their much better dressed siblings. What makes them significantly worse is these are alternates that they’ll be wearing at home for two games and on the road just once this year.
Never has a team screwed up something so simple like the Rams have with their uniforms. It’s weird that the Bengals uniform release was sponsored by Tide because the Rams ‘bone’ uniforms look like before and after shots in a laundry detergent commercial.
The Colts got new throwbacks this year and it’s a pretty cool look and a nice change of pace. I actually like these three stripes more than their regular over the shoulder stripe look. Especially with these striped socks. The helmet logos on the back is interesting and different. I love the unique use of space on the helmet. From some of these photos it’s almost a royal blue penn state look, but when we see them in action I think you’ll be able to see those logos on the back more.
I don’t have a lot to say about it. It’s pretty cool. Not as good as their standard home or away, but good. Bonus points to the colts for having a great throwback look.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers will be sporting a 75th anniversary logo this year. I think it’s a great logo and it’s very similar to what the NFL did for its 75th anniversary. Probably because the 75th anniversary is called the diamond anniversary. So I get it. (clip of someone saying diamonds) I like it. Great design. Even if they did just do a patch 5 years ago. Are these guys going to celebrate every 5 years from now on? Hope not.
They also released a 1994 style home throwback that is super cool. They’re adding this look to the 1994 white throwbacks that they wore last year. It’s pretty cool to see a home and away throwback the same year. I know the 49ers are always trying to go to a red and black look and ditch their gold (even though that’s what they’re named after), but for a throwback I love this look. This is what I grew up watching the 49ers in so maybe I’m bias, but come on Deon made these look sweet.
Great job 9ers. Please never bring back the black uniforms.
The Browns got a really awesome throwback with drop shadow numbers and numbers on the helmet. It has a patch on it to tell you the year it’s from. I don’t think that’s really necessary, but it’s there. It’s a really nice look for them and it would look even better if they decide to keep it and then take advantage of the new helmet rules coming up because then they could wear the original white helmet they used to with these and make it a true throwback.
I really like the direction the Browns uniforms have gone. Back to the basics and embracing their colors with clean lines and simple looks. The orange pants, white jersey, orange helmet, looks so awesome. I hate they ever got rid of this look.
Green Bay Packers
So they still haven’t released any info on their new alternate uniforms. They’ll be released on the 19th of August so I’ll update this article then.
Washington Football Team
Last year the Washington Football Team dropped their dumb name and updated their uniforms after I created my list last year.
I love the choices they made and think they did the best they could in a limited amount of time they had. BUT the whole look still has the stink of the old Redskins name on it so it’s difficult to look past that, but putting block numbers on the helmet and removing any native american imagery was a huge upgrade in of itself.
The problem is this is clearly just a stop gap look and it looks like one. This is better than what they had, but I’m more excited to see where they go after this. I’ll put this into the “close” category for now and keep my fingers crossed, but with an organization as slimy and gross as this one I’m not holding my breath.
NFL Helmet Rule Update
Back in 2013 the NFL implemented what was called the “one shell rule”. You see football helmets are painted a color and then they slap a decal on them. When a team wants to change the helmet colors for something like a throwback jersey then players would have to get a whole other helmet that was a different color.
The NFL thought that this might be leading to more concussions because it doesn’t allow the new helmet enough time to conform to the players head. Apparently this isn’t something they’re worried about anymore because starting in 2022 teams are allowed to have “two helmet shells”.
That means teams like the Buccaneers can wear their awesome creamsicle uniforms with their white helmets. Can’t wait to see those changes implemented next year.
There was also a change in which players can wear what numbers. Here is the breakdown.
- Quarterbacks, Punters, and Kickers: 1–19
- Running backs: 1–49, 80–89
- Defensive backs: 1–49
- Linebackers: 1–59, 90–99
- Offensive lineman: 50–79
- Defensive lineman: 50–79, 90–99
Some people, Tom Brady, don’t like the number change, but from an aesthetic standpoint I love it. I love more players getting to use single digit numbers and if the new number system makes it more difficult to read defenses pre-snap, then awesome, finally the defense gets a rule that helps them even if it’s just a tiny tiniiiiiy fraction. But in reality these guys are pros. They should be able to handle this just fine. It’s not like you need anymore super bowls anyway Tom.
I’m excited to see big linebackers with single digit numbers and I’ve always been a big fan of Safeties with single numbers too. It also opens things up for some teams, like the Bears, who have retired so many numbers they were running out of ones some position groups could have.
So that’s it for the 2021 NFL uniform updates. What are some of your favorite changes this year? Would you like to see the NFL do something different with the uniform rules? Let me know in the comments and also let me know what NFL team you would like me to do a uniform history review on.