Ranking every NFL uniform from best to worst

How do you rank uniforms? Test the strength of the belts and wash the socks?

I don’t know how you rank uniforms, but I know how I do it. I use my biased opinion. That’s how I ranked the 32 NFL uniforms for this list. I also created something called Dan’s Uniform Design System. Or DUDS.

I gave a rating to every NFL team based on five criteria: helmet logo; colors; uniform design; socks; tradition. Each team got a ranking from 1-20 on each category for a possible perfect score of 100. That’s DUDS.

Why do I assign a rating for socks? I like socks. So sue me. If you don’t like my rankings, make your own. These are my opinions, not anyone else’s. They don’t reflect the opinion of Detroit Athletic Co. either. This list is meant to be fun. It’s meant to start arguments and promote debate. You like to have fun, don’t you?

Let’s get this started.

#32. Cincinnati Bengals

How can you be the Bengals and not have striped socks? Too much orange, my eyes hurt! And get rid of the swirly stripes on the side of the pants and the accent colors on the collar of the jerseys. The helmets have always been bad, and it’s time they came up with something else.

Helmet: 2     Colors: 3     Uniform Design: 2     Socks: 0     Tradition: 3
DUDS Score: 10

#31. Jacksonville Jaguars

That helmet makes me want to throw up. The logo looks like it belongs on a Division-II football team. They need a complete make over, from color scheme to logo to design of the uniforms. Start all over.

Helmet: 1     Colors: 3     Uniform Design: 5     Socks: 3     Tradition: 0
DUDS Score: 12

#30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This franchise has never seemed to understand how to look good. That helmet logo is the worst in football: it’s too big, it’s gaudy, it’s ugly. Everything else is dreadful as well: the design of the jerseys, the pants, and even the mouth guards look bad.

Helmet: 1     Colors: 3     Uniform Design: 3     Socks: 3     Tradition: 3
DUDS Score: 13

#29. Seattle Seahawks

I’ll give the Seahawks credit for sticking to their guns: they’ve held onto these ugly uniforms for a while now. I gave them 8 points in tradition because they’ve been to two Super Bowls in these hideous outfits, but that doesn’t make me like them any better. You can’t put those two greens together and expect us not to notice how terrible it looks. The Seahawks also have way too many things going on with their uniforms. They’ve never met a design element, faded color treatment or stripe they didn’t want to add to their jerseys. Blech.

Helmet: 10     Colors: 0     Uniform Design: 3     Socks: 2     Tradition: 8
DUDS Score: 23

#28. Washington Redskins

The Redskins have a wonderful color scheme, but they constantly change their jerseys and interchange pants for a hideous effect. They get it right with the socks, but have obvious problems with their logo and team name. Change it already.

Helmet: 3     Colors: 14     Uniform Design: 6     Socks: 12     Tradition: 0
DUDS Score: 35

#27. Carolina Panthers

Basically the Jaguars but with a better cat logo. I don’t mind the “Carolina Blue” but I feel like they should add an accent color to go with it instead of black. Maybe yellow, or introduce more white rather than the silver.

Helmet: 6     Colors: 12     Uniform Design: 5     Socks: 8     Tradition: 5
DUDS Score: 36

#26. Los Angeles Rams

Yikes, what is wrong with the Rams? A few years ago they messed things up by changing their iconic helmet, changing the rams horns from yellow to white. With their move back to LA for the 2017 season you’d think they would return to the yellow horn helmet. But nope, they’ve actually used the new blue-and-white helmet and paired it with a different colored blue jersey. The blues don’t match! They’d be wise to return to the 1960s/1970s-era Rams uniforms.

Helmet: 7     Colors: 5     Uniform Design: 7     Socks: 10     Tradition: 8
DUDS Score: 37

#25. Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers have one of the least imaginative and least inspiring helmet logos in the NFL. They compound that problem by reusing the lightning bolt on their sleeves and pants. Someone should tell them that they moved to LA — it’s time for a wardrobe upgrade. I would like this more if their official team name was “Lighting Bolts.”

Helmet: 4     Colors: 8     Uniform Design: 9     Socks: 7     Tradition: 10
DUDS Score: 38

#24. New Orleans Saints

The gold and black is sharp, but that’s about all the good I can say about their uniforms. Helmet design is traditional, I get it, but it’s a fleur de lis, an homage to ancient French royalty. Yawn.

Helmet: 5     Colors: 12     Uniform Design: 9     Socks: 3     Tradition: 12
DUDS Score: 41

#23. Baltimore Ravens

The black-and-purple with gold accent is simply not working for me. When they wear purple pants with the purple jersey, they look like they should be in Wonkaland.

Helmet: 11     Colors: 9     Uniform Design: 7     Socks: 6     Tradition: 9
DUDS Score: 42

#22. New York Giants

Sort of a blah, ho hum uniform that doesn’t inspire much. The “NY” logo has always puzzled me: couldn’t they do better? They’re the GIANTS. How about something B-I-G?

Helmet: 6     Colors: 8     Uniform Design: 11     Socks: 10     Tradition: 14
DUDS Score: 49

#21. Denver Broncos

Since John Elway’s last few seasons on the field the Broncos have seemed to do everything they can to tarnish their image. They changed the orange (briefly) but have returned to the traditional color. They need to get back to the old helmet design with the “D”.

Helmet: 8     Colors: 17     Uniform Design: 8     Socks: 6    Tradition: 11
DUDS Score: 50

#20. Atlanta Falcons

If you’re going to use black as a primary color, let it stand alone. Don’t add tons of other colors on it. But the Falcons slap red and silver and white everywhere. Their uniform numbers are the second worst behind the Ravens.

Helmet: 8     Colors: 16     Uniform Design: 11     Socks: 7     Tradition: 9
DUDS Score: 51

#19. Tennessee Titans

I expected them to rank higher, but if you look at all the stuff they’re trying to do it’s distracting. I like the blue stripes running from the collar to the shoulders, not many teams are doing that. The logo would be more attractive if they scrapped the flames. The iron sword “T” is clever.

Helmet: 15     Colors: 10     Uniform Design: 13     Socks: 6     Tradition: 12
DUDS Score: 56

#18. Miami Dolphins

Now that they’ve reverted back to the classic “helmet dolphin” helmet logo, they deserve to rate higher. Their uniforms are essentially unchanged since the perfect season back in the early 1970s.

Helmet: 5     Colors: 16     Uniform Design: 12     Socks: 8     Tradition: 16
DUDS Score: 57

#17. Arizona Cardinals

Not terrible, and I like their adoption of more black in recent seasons. A slight quibble: a cardinal beak is red, not yellow. The helmet (no stripe, solid white, angry bird) rates as one of the best.

Helmet: 18     Colors: 14     Uniform Design: 12     Socks: 7     Tradition: 10
DUDS Score: 61

#16. Philadelphia Eagles

I thought they’d rank higher. They seem like an old-school football team with lots of uniform tradition. But nope, the Eagles have tinkered with almost everything over the years, adding noise all over their uniforms in the form of stripes, waves, and they’ve even altered the traditional green primary color. Their helmet logo is one of the best, that bird looks mean.

Helmet: 15     Colors: 14     Uniform Design: 12     Socks: 10     Tradition: 12
DUDS Score: 63

#15. New England Patriots

As much as I loved the old “Patriot football player logo,” I have to admit that the current helmet logo is pretty nice. They keep it pretty classy. And thanks for the small stripe in the socks.

Helmet: 14     Colors: 10     Uniform Design: 11     Socks: 15     Tradition: 14
DUDS Score: 64

#14. Kansas City Chiefs

A solid uniform that hasn’t changed much at all over the years, and like the Pats they also offer a striped sock.

Helmet: 10     Colors: 13     Uniform Design: 14     Socks: 13     Tradition: 17
DUDS Score: 67

#13. Indianapolis Colts

That blue and white just pops: no other colors or distractions. A classic, classy helmet. Scrap the helmet stripe and they’d move up a few spots.

Helmet: 16     Colors: 14     Uniform Design: 14     Socks: 9     Tradition: 15
DUDS Score: 68

#12. Houston Texans

Of all the new teams that have come into the NFL over the last twenty years, the Texans have the best branding. The logo is genius: split to represent both the state flag and the state map and formed to resemble a bull’s head.

Helmet: 16     Colors: 14     Uniform Design: 13     Socks: 11     Tradition: 12
DUDS Score: 69

#11. New York Jets

I prefer simple, and the Jets are that. The green and white work well and their helmet still looks like it did when Broadway Joe was leading them to their shocking win in Super Bowl III.

Helmet: 12     Colors: 14     Uniform Design: 15     Socks: 13     Tradition: 16
DUDS Score: 70

#10. Buffalo Bills

It’s hard to top that helmet — the Buffalo charging forward with ferocity. Almost makes you forget that they lost four consecutive Super Bowls.

Helmet: 17     Colors: 12     Uniform Design: 17     Socks: 11     Tradition: 15
DUDS Score: 71

#9. Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota helmet is fantastic: bonus points for actually looking like Viking headgear. Few teams are associated with their primary as much as the “Purple People Eaters.” The first of four NFC Central teams who make the top ten.

Helmet: 17     Colors: 13     Uniform Design: 15     Socks: 10     Tradition: 18
DUDS Score: 73

#8. Detroit Lions

Some folks don’t like the “Honolulu blue,” but it’s really just the same light blue the team has always wore. The current Lions helmet logo is closer to the one we saw in the 1980s, and that’s a good thing. Only the Patriots do better things with their socks. The Lions have silver and white stripes on the socks, you just can’t always see them because some players tuck them in.

Factoid: “Honolulu Blue” was coined by the Ford family when they bought the Lions on November 22, 1963, the same day JFK was assassinated.

Helmet: 15     Colors: 16     Uniform Design: 14     Socks: 14     Tradition: 15
DUDS Score: 74

#7. San Francisco 49ers

After getting away from their championship days and (misguidedly) changing their uniforms, the 49ers are back to their old look. They’d really set it off if they brought back the high striped socks from Jerry Rice’s early years.

Helmet: 15     Colors: 16     Uniform Design: 17     Socks: 11     Tradition: 18
DUDS Score: 77

#6. Cleveland Browns

The Browns have the most boring helmet in football, but that’s only if you’re into excess. Sometimes less is more. The Browns uniforms reflect the traditional history of this franchise, which has been through a lot. I love the brown and orange together. Not loving the “BROWNS” on the side of the pants, though.

Helmet: 16     Colors: 19     Uniform Design: 15     Socks: 12     Tradition: 19
DUDS Score: 81

#5. Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers looks like Bret Favre who looked like Lynn Dickey who looked like Bart Starr (though he didn’t play like him). The point is: once you put on a Packer uniform it means something and they don’t change it in Green Bay.

Helmet: 19     Colors: 15     Uniform Design: 18     Socks: 10     Tradition: 20
DUDS Score: 82

#4. Dallas Cowboys

The helmet would rate a perfect score if they would stop changing the stripe and the accent colors around the star. Otherwise, Jerry Jones has stuck with one of the most recognizable uniforms in sports.

Helmet: 18     Colors: 19     Uniform Design: 17     Socks: 10     Tradition: 19
DUDS Score: 83

#3. Chicago Bears

The helmets are awesome, made perfect by shunning a stripe. The “C” is iconic and historic. The Bears also go without underarm stripes, side-panel stripes and the like. Simple, basic, and tough: like Chicago.

Helmet: 19     Colors: 14     Uniform Design: 17     Socks: 15     Tradition: 19
DUDS Score: 84

#2. Pittsburgh Steelers

The colors are perfect and they haven’t touched that helmet design since before Kennedy was president. I’ve never been too thrilled with the logo (ripped off from a Steel industry group by Art Rooney) but it’s so recognizable you’re never going to touch it. Did you know those stars are called “hypocycloids”? Did you know black-and-gold are the official colors of the city of Pittsburgh? The Pirates and Penguins use them too.

Helmet: 18     Colors: 20     Uniform Design: 19     Socks: 9     Tradition: 20
DUDS Score: 86

#1. Oakland Raiders

The (soon-to-be Las Vegas) Raiders have the best logo in sports, hands down. It’s so iconic that when other teams want to look bad ass, they appropriate it for their own use. The only thing missing from a perfect score would be white socks with (wide) black and silver stripes. That would be amazing.

Helmet: 20     Colors: 20     Uniform Design: 20     Socks: 10     Tradition: 20
DUDS Score: 90

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About Dan Holmes

The editor of Detroit Athletic Co. blog, is the author of Ty Cobb: A Biography. He previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY, and worked for Major League Baseball as a web producer. He contributed to Sock it to 'Em Tigers: The Incredible Story of the 1968 Detroit Tigers, and Deadball Stars of the American League. Follow him on Twitter at @thedanholmes or visit his personal blog at danholmes.com.