Having been with NFL Films for ten seasons, I’ve seen countless images from around the league, and I’m constantly taking stock of how our game looks. Well that look is about to change. Starting in 2012, Reebok will relinquish its reign as the official uniform provider of the NFL. Next year, Nike will own the uniform design license for all 32 NFL teams. I view this transition as a great opportunity to bring back uniforms and color schemes that pop on-screen.
Around the mid-1990s, darker colors began to dominate the NFL’s color palette. Primary colors became passé, and black was blended heavily into several NFL color schemes. New England was among the first to make a major change. In 1993, they had new ownership, a new coach (Bill Parcells) and wanted a whole new image. The Patriots makeover began when they buried their original “Pat the Patriot” logo. They soon changed their colors from primary shades of red white and blue, to a more “modern” color scheme: the blue turned navy, the red darkened, and white became silver. The Bucs soon traded their “creamsicle” orange for dark red and pewter, the Eagles darkened their green, the Seahawks later did the same. So went the Bills, Rams, etc.
One of the most dramatic color changes took place when the Broncos swapped out of their best uniform. No, I’m not referring to Denver’s original 1960 threads that featured vertically striped, mustard and dirt colored socks. I’m talking about the bright orange and true blue duds—the Orange Crush set. In 1997 they dumped those orange and blue beauties in favor of a trendy dark navy that looks more black than blue.
Ironically, these “modern” uniforms are visually incompatible with modern technology. And here’s why: High definition seems best suited for bright, colorful images. The current dark colors are eye-numbing on HD screens. They blend into the background of broadcasts, often making the games appear flat — especially in domes or night games.
I think one reason fans love the NFL throwback uniforms is because most of them pop so well on TV. Consider the Rams bright blue and yellow, the Eagles “Kelly” green, or the Chargers “powder blue”. All of them jump off the screen. A few teams have smartly moved back to primary colors. I love the “new” uniform the Bills unveiled this year. The blue is bright, the red is radiant, and most notably they reverted to retro white helmets. As a result, footage from the first few Bills games revealed some of the best looking images we’ve ever captured in Buffalo.
I’m hoping more teams will follow Buffalo, or that Nike realizes how much better the primary colors look in high-definition, and nudges teams in that direction. It’s time to wake up NFL stadiums and the broadcasts with brighter, more basic, more high-definition uniforms.