Dolphins, 49ers lead the rankings for the NFL’s best throwback jerseys

July 5, 2022

Throwback jerseys were all the rage in the NFL at the start of the century, thanks to teams bringing back uniforms that went by the wayside in the 1990s in favor of darker colors (49ers going to cardinal red, Eagles to midnight green). Turns out, fans and teams liked the old colors and uniform designs — even if they were only used as a one-off during the year.

The NFL brought up the “one-shell rule” in 2013 to improve player safety, requiring teams to have only one helmet color so players would practice and play in the same helmet. Throwback jerseys went by the wayside, as teams that didn’t use stickers on their helmets or had different helmet colors couldn’t don a throwback jersey (didn’t match the helmet associated with it).

Thankfully, the league eliminated the “one-shell rule” in 2021, meaning teams could wear an alternate helmet in addition to their current one. The alternate helmet allows teams to bring back their proper throwback uniforms for the 2022 season and beyond, which the New England Patriots are already doing with the “Pat Patriot” design — as their throwbacks haven’t been worn since 2012.

A few weeks ago, we ranked the league’s alternate jerseys. This time, the throwbacks are in the spotlight. These are the current throwback jerseys that are in the rotation for 2022, whether a team uses an alternate helmet or not. (The Philadelphia Eagles, for example, will not count in this since their “Kelly Green” throwbacks aren’t coming back until 2023.)

There are currently 14 throwback jerseys in the NFL. Teams that use home and road throwback jerseys will be counted together (the Miami Dolphins are an example). This ranking is certainly debatable, especially the one that claimed the top spot.

14. Indianapolis Colts — 1956 home jersey

Just because this jersey is ranked the worst of the throwbacks doesn’t mean it’s bad. The Colts really haven’t changed their look much in their 70-year history. So what’s different about these jerseys?

The Colts use three stripes on the sleeve instead of two, the numbers are block numbers from that era, and the numbers are higher on the shoulder panel. The horseshoe logo resides on the back of the helmet and the pants have a single stripe instead of two.

These uniforms would be great if the Colts were still in Baltimore, but it’s a great nod to the championship era with Johnny Unitas in the late 1950s.

13. Chicago Bears — 1936 jersey

Unveiled during the league’s 100th anniversary season, the Bears only wore this for one year (1936), but they were immensely popular at the time. This look is a good one thanks to the three orange stripes on the helmet — a much different twist than what the Bears normally wear.

Chicago didn’t have many uniform changes in the team’s 103-year history, making this throwback stand out. The uniform has navy and orange stripes on the shoulders and sleeves, navy numbers and letters, navy pants and navy and orange striped socks.

The Bears just don’t have much to work with regarding throwbacks, and not many were alive when these were popular in 1936, so it’s hard to make them memorable. Chicago should still keep them around.

12. Las Vegas Raiders — 1970 away jersey

The “Color Rush” aspect hurts these jerseys a bit, but it’s hard to argue with the silver numbers on any Raiders road jersey. Again, the Raiders don’t have much to work with in regards to a throwback.

Vegas went with an all-white uniform combination with a silver number and black outline on the number. These uniforms do resemble the AFL throwback uniforms the Raiders wore in 2009, a nice tribute to the original Raiders in Oakland.

11. Cleveland Browns — 1946 jersey

The Browns debuted these 1946 threads in tribute to their 75th anniversary season, and it’s a fresh look to the uniform that hasn’t changed much in Cleveland’s history. The uniform has a white jersey with brown numbers with an orange shadow box outline. The pants and socks are the current white ones the team wears.

Thanks to the “one-shell rule,” the Browns placed uniform numbers on each side of the helmet — similar to the ones Jim Brown donned in the late 1950s. Cleveland should certainly keep these in the rotation for 2022 and beyond.

10. Green Bay Packers — 1950-1953 home jersey

Green Bay debuted these special throwbacks last season and only wore them for one game. The look is different and doesn’t throw back to a winning era in Green Bay, but it’s a welcome change to the Packers’ throwbacks of the past.

These uniforms replaced the team’s gold pants with dark green and had a gold stripe running down the side. The jersey is green with a gold two-stripe pattern on the sleeve and a matching gold number. These uniforms were the precursor to the stock sale that kept the team in Green Bay and led to the building of Lambeau Field — historical significance for one of the league’s oldest franchises.

The Packers need to don these uniforms more. At least we get them once a year.

9. New Orleans Saints — 1975 away jersey

Another throwback jersey inspired by the “Color Rush” initiative, these uniforms are a clean look for a franchise that doesn’t have much to work with in the throwback department. The white jersey that features gold numbers worn by the franchise in its first three years — along with stripes and black accents with no colored collar. The white pants have a gold stripe in the middle surrounded by two black stripes to keep the look clean.

These throwbacks aren’t the best the Saints ever had, but they’re clean and certainly should stick around.

8. Atlanta Falcons — 1966 home jersey

The Falcons will get to do these uniforms justice by bringing back the red helmet the team wore in 1966, a perfect fit for this uniform combination. The new red helmet features a grey face mask and three different colored stripes going down the middle: White, black and gold. The Falcons wore their red helmet for 23 years, so this will be a popular look.

The Falcons originally wore black helmets with the 1966 jerseys prior to the “one-shell rule” being lifted. They previously used a throwback decal that kept their iconic red and black stripe pattern intact.

These uniforms will debut with the red helmets this year. They’ll have an excellent chance to move up this list.

7. New York Giants — 1980-90s away jersey

A perfect “Color Rush” uniform? The Giants certainly came up with one back in 2016 when they revealed their “Color Rush” was going to resemble their uniforms in an era that produced two Super Bowl titles under Bill Parcells.

The Giants brought back their “GIANTS” helmet decal or the first time since the 1999 season, also bringing back the blue numbers with the red outline on the jerseys with the “NY” logo on the collar. The white pants are also worn with the red stripe surrounded by two blue stripes.

This uniform should stay in the Giants’ rotation. Now, New York just has to bring the home jerseys from the same era back.

6. Detroit Lions — 1934 home jersey

The biggest travesty with these uniforms is that the Lions didn’t wear them on Thanksgiving last season. These throwback uniforms are perfect for a franchise that has been around for 93 years. The team’s first jersey in Detroit was a blue jersey with gleaming silver numbers, silver pants, and a silver helmet with no logo.

The Lions perfected these throwbacks and they should never change. All Detroit has to do is wear them on Thanksgiving.

5. New England Patriots — 1984-92 home jersey

Welcome back “Pat Patriot!” With the “one-shell rule” being lifted, the Patriots brought back their popular red jerseys they wore for nearly three decades along with the white helmet they wore with them.

These jerseys are a simple red with blue and white stripes across the red sleeves. The white numbers are bold with a blue outline and a crisp white pants to bring back the nostalgic feel. The Patriots have wanted to bring these back for years — and they’ll make their return in 2022.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers — 1970s home jersey

The Steelers have donned some interesting throwbacks in the past, but the “Steel Curtain” era throwbacks are right for a franchise with a storied history. These commemorated the 40th anniversary of the team’s Super Bowl XIII victory, with vintage block letters and numbers and the removal of the Steelers logo on the chest.

Pittsburgh retired the “bumblebee” uniforms in favor of these. A massive upgrade that shouldn’t be changed, especially for a team that has excellent uniforms that withstood the test of time.

3. Dallas Cowboys — 1994 home jersey

Another franchise that doesn’t have much to work with in regards to throwbacks, but the Cowboys nailed their current throwback uniform that resurfaced in 2015. The double-star uniform that rose to prominence during the league’s 75th anniversary season in 1994 returned with the blue sleeves and blue chest numbers.

Not only did the Cowboys bring back the popular jersey, but the white pants with the navy blue stripe also returned. These go excellent with the popular silver helmet with the star that defines the franchise.

The white helmets are a popular choice to return in Dallas, but these shouldn’t be touched. All the Cowboys need is the inverse road jersey to complete the set.

2. San Francisco 49ers — 1994 home and road jersey

Perfection. Perfection. Perfection. The 49ers originally brought these uniforms out during the league’s 75th anniversary season in 1994 — and won the Super Bowl donning the red home jerseys.

San Francisco unveiled the white throwback jerseys in 2018, which were amongst the best in the league. They had the three-dimensional block lettering and white pants with the black and red stripe that separated them from the pack. In addition to the block-shadow number — the 49ers brought back the signature three-stripe look and changed the sticker on their helmet to their logo from 1994.

The 49ers decided to one-up the popular road jerseys by bringing back the 1994 home jerseys in honor of their 75th anniversary season. The home, red uniforms had the same features (drop-shadow numbers, three-stripe sleeves, black and red pant stripes), and will stay in the rotation as the alternate uniform (along with the white).

San Francisco wore its alternates six times in 2021. The 49ers should wear these as many times as they can.

1. Miami Dolphins — 1972 home and road jersey

There isn’t a throwback uniform in the NFL that can top the Dolphins, who don the uniforms of the only perfect season in NFL history. Miami brought back the aqua throwbacks in 2015 and the white throwbacks in 2019, never wearing them together until 2021 — which catapulted them to No. 1 on this impressive list.

These uniforms are actually a “modern-day homage to the original uniform” with the bold stripes on the sleeves and original logo. The Dolphins wore their throwback aqua and white uniforms from the franchise’s inaugural season in 1966 until 1973, before making a few tweaks to the helmet and the uniform in the late-1970s and 1980s.

If any uniform combination defines a franchise, it’s the Dolphins’ uniforms they wore during their glory years. Miami needs to make these throwbacks permanent.


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