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Grading The NFL’s New Alternate Helmets

A good Sunday morning to all Uni Watch readers. I hope you’re all enjoying the upgraded site. If you didn’t happen to see, I mentioned in yesterday’s post (done in the “old” style as one long post, rather than broken up into multiple posts throughout the day), today I’m going to release this post in multiple sections, spread out through the morning. I asked for (and received) some good feedback as to which style weekend posts should be, so I’d ask for the same again today — please let me know in the comments below if you prefer the long, single-post with multiple entries, or the new weekday style of multiple articles in a day. Thanks!

As you’re all probably aware, the NFL and its member teams have been introducing alternate helmets (five in the past week, with three alone released on Friday), plus a sixth and seventh in the past 10 days. Under the “old” system, I would have covered the three helmets released Friday for Saturday’s lede, but with the new rapid-response protocol, Paul covered all three of those a couple days ago.

Almost all (or all) of the unveilings have come while Paul has been at the helm, and I’ve withheld comment…until now.

Obviously the lifting of the “one-shell” rule has been good in some respects (throwbacks which couldn’t be worn previously are now possible), but may have opened a Pandora’s box where teams are seemingly introducing alternate helmets because they can, and not necessarily because it’s a good fit. And of course, teams who go BFBS can now have matching black hats. So there’s good and there’s bad.

Since the alternate helmets fall into three categories (I’ll call them “Throwback,” “Pure Alternate,” and “BFBS”). In order to properly grade the helmets, we do need to consider which uniform they’ll be pairing them with, but that will be only a minor consideration in the rating. Mostly, I’ll be grading them as a helmet, with the exception of the throwbacks, as those are the raison d’être for the helmets. Those will NOT take into account the helmet (as it’s not a “new” helmet, but rather a previously-unwearable component of the throwback uniform). Those will be judged as a whole.

Let’s get started:

The Throwbacks:

Atlanta Falcons:

Atlanta Falcons throwback helmet

The Falcons are throwing back to their original 1966 helmet and wearing a combination they’d previously worn. They were prohibited by the one-shell rule from wearing it, but actually wore it as a fauxback with the black helmet for several seasons. Now the red hat returns, and not a minute too soon. I actually don’t love the gold helmet striping (yes, I understand why they did it back in the day), but both as a throwback and an actual NFL uniform, this one is gorgeous.

Grade: A

Here’s what Paul had to say.


New England Patriots:

New England Patriots Throwback Helmet

Like the Falcons, the Patriots have worn this uniform before, and were prohibited from doing so by the one-shell rule. Unlike the Falcons, the Pats did not create a fauxback using their silver helmet shell (thankfully). Of all the throwbacks, with the possible exception of the Tampa Bay creamsicles, this was the most-awaited throwback to return to circulation. Clearly, these are much better uniforms than anything the team has worn since they switched to the Flying Elvis helmet. But while it’s a really good uniform (and helmet), it’s not a great uni and helmet. But it’s still really, really good.

Grade: B+

Here’s what Paul had to say.


New York Giants:

New York Giants Throwback Helmet

As a New York Football Giants fan and with fond memories of Super Bowls XXI and XXV, in which the team basically wore these uniforms, you’d think I’d be ecstatic about their return. The team even went the extra yard to create a special helmet just for the throwback uniform. And, in a way, I am. But I never loved any of the styles the Giants wore from the mid-1970s through 1999, when they had “GIANTS” on their helmets. And honestly, I never really loved that particular helmet. Still, it’s a really faithful reproduction (note the tremendous attention to detail, as noted by Paul). If this were their “regular” helmet, I’d absolutely hate that the blue on the lid and jersey don’t match. But this throwback is pretty true to the original.

Grade: B+


Dallas Cowboys:

Dallas Cowboys Throwback Helmet

As with the Falcons and Patriots, the Cowboys have worn these helmets as throwbacks before, but as with the others, the one-shell rule prevented them from being worn. And they’ll be wearing it on Thanksgiving (as they had also done previously), which is an added treat. I’m a fan of white helmets and gray facemasks, so I am pretty enamored with this one. The unis? I’m so used to seeing them in basically the same uniform since 1964 (multiple shades of blue and seafoam green excluded), this one “almost” doesn’t look like the Cowboys — except for the star on the helmet. Yeah, that’s the ‘boys.

Grade: A-

Here’s what Paul had to say.


The Pure Alternates:

New Orleans Saints:


New Orleans Saints Alternate Helmet

You probably all know the story of the original Saints black helmet, and it makes sense for a team whose two primary colors are black and gold to have a black alternate. Instead of creating a helmet based on the original 1969 alternate, the Saints went with a modernized version. And, because the alternate helmet is not (yet) permitted to be worn with a teams primary uniform, they’ll be pairing this with their “color rush” uniform, albeit with black socks instead of white. While I’m all in favor of the Saints having a black helmet, that is not the uni with which to wear it. Perhaps in a season or three the NFL will allow the alt hat to be worn with the team’s mono-black set, and over which the current gold helmet looks out of place. As a pure helmet? I don’t love the fleur-de-lis “striping,” but it’s not a deal breaker.

Grade: B

Here’s what Paul had to say.


Houston Texans:

Houston Texans Alternate Helmet

This one falls squarely into “because they can” category. The new Texans alternate is simply a red version of their current blue helmet. And why do they need a red alternate? Why, to wear with their ridiculously named Battle Red uniform. While I didn’t love it, that blue helmet/red jersey combo was unique (yeah, I know the Bills did it) to the NFL and probably the team’s best look. If the team absolutely had to have an alternate, why didn’t they pick the white one they had originally proposed, but which never saw the field? It’s not a terrible helmet, per se, but it’s completely unnecessary.

Grade: C

Here’s what Paul had to say.


Carolina Panthers:


Carolina Panthers Alternate Helmet

Like the Saints, I don’t have a problem with the cats wearing a black helmet, since their colors are black and “Carolina” blue. And frankly, I’ve never been a fan of silver helmets (unless worn by Da Raidahs), so I’m ok with the concept. The execution (that logo is going to be almost impossible to see at distance) not so much. And the team is going to wear it with their mono-black uniform, which is even better. Like the Saints, the team looked unfinished when going all black, but with a silver helmet. So this is an improvement when worn with that uniform. If only that logo were more legible (but maybe that’s the idea).

Grade: B

Here’s what Paul had to say.

Cincinnati Bengals:

Cincinnati Bengals Alternate Helmet

Finally! They’ve been teasing/promising this one almost since the team got its new uni set last year (even before the one-shell rule was rescinded). So far, the team has been coy as to whether the hat will be worn with the current all-white set (which includes orange outlining) or the “color rush” set unveiled a couple years back. In fact, it’s possible the team may even tweak their existing jersey to remove the orange. We’ll find out later this week when the team announces when, and with what jersey, the new helmets will be worn. I’ve loved the Bengals helmet since they first introduced the orange version in 1981. I love this one even more. Chef’s kiss!

Grade: A+

Here’s what Paul had to say.


Black for Black’s Sake Helmets:

Philadelphia Eagles:

Philadelphia Eagles Alternate Helmet

I’m not sure which is worse: the Eagles BFBS uniforms, or the new all black helmet with which they will be worn. Now, I suppose you could argue black is a “team color,” but c’mon, we all know it’s not. And as many have pointed out, their current midnight green helmet looks almost black anyway, especially during night games. So is this really even necessary? Couple this with the fact that the team has already announced they’ll be wearing a kelly green throwback (and helmet) next season, and you get a completely unnecessary, one-year, one-off BFBS helmet.

Grade: D-

Here’s what Paul had to say.

New York Jets:

New York Jets Alternate Helmet

Quick, which team that wears green and white and also goes BFBS will wear a new BFBS helmet this season. If you said “The Eagles” (duh), well, you’d be right, but they aren’t the only ones. The Jets mono-black alternate looked terrible with a green helmet, have attempted to make the look “better” by introducing the BFBS helmet to pair with the BFBS uni. In the immortal words of Butthead, “Beavis, you can’t polish a turd.” I suppose the helmet doesn’t make the BFBS uni look any worse, but that’s not saying much.

Grade: F

Here’s what Paul had to say.



Washington Commanders:

Washington Commanders Alternate Helmet

I had to create a hybrid category for the newly rebranded Washington franchise. Is the helmet BFBS? Or, is black a legitimate new color for the Commanders, so the helmet is just an alternate? It’s both. What a disaster. Really? Almost 90 years of basically being burgundy and gold (a fantastic combination) and when you rebrand, you go BFBS? Ugh.

Grade: F

Here’s what Paul had to say.

• • • • •
And there you have it — every new alternate (so far) released. It’s clearly a mixed bag. And it proves the axiom, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Your thoughts?


Li’l Help?

August is only a couple weeks away, the time when Paul takes his annual sabbatical from the blog, and hands the weekday duties over to me. As in the past, I hoping to enlist a few of you readers in working with me to craft some articles during the month. I’ve done this for the past dozen Augusts, and reader contributions are always a great way to show off the diverse uni-interests of the readership. Over the years, we’ve had some excellent reader-generated pieces, and I’d expect (and hope) that August 2022 will provide more of the same.

So, dear readers — if you’d like to work on a future featured post with me, I’m all ears! Whatever your uniform interest, it’d most likely be an excellent addition to the blog. And with our newly redesigned website reaching more eyeballs, this is a great chance for readers to have their uni-thoughts spread far and wide!

Please give me a shout at with a a subject and brief pitch for your proposed piece. This can be either an article or uniform concepts — so concepters…you know what to do as well.

OK? OK! Looking forward to bringing some fresh (and returning) voices to the blog in August.


Uni Tweet of the Day

If you want to do a throwback (and you don’t even need an alternate helmet), how bout this one, Jaguars?


And Finally…

…that’s not quite all for me for today, as there will be some additional articles released later on this morning. Please let me know if you prefer the “old” format (one long post) for the weekends, or if you like everything to follow the new multiple-post-per-day protocol!

Everyone have a great Sunday and a better week. I’m off next weekend, getting ready to take over for Paul during his August sabbatical the following Monday. I’ll catch you all then, and I’ll be back on weekends in September, when we will once again kick off with a mega-SMUW posting the weekend after Labor Day.

Until then…



Comments (53)

    Pat Patriot is an A+ guys, c’mon. It’s a great uniform-would love to see the white road throwbacks make an appearance & the original tri corner helmet logo with the numbers return as well.

    I think I’m with those in yesterday’s comments who wanted one long post.

    Love the red Texans helmet. The league needs more red lids and doesn’t need another white one. In fact, as much as I like the blue helmet, I’d rather see the Texans make the red the primary…and wear it with the blue jersey.

    I was emailing with Ricko last night and told him I fear the Vikings may follow in the footsteps of Philly and the Jets. They already have BFBS facemasks…what’s to stop them from spreading it to the whole helmet?

    The Pat Patriot helmet is fantastic, and I wouldn’t have minded him on the silver helmet at all. Only problem was, why did they wear red jerseys while Pat wore a blue coat? Great uniforms but it didn’t make sense.

    As for the Cowboys…love the helmet, love that they wear blue jerseys (at home!) with it…but why on Thanksgiving?
    The Cowboys didn’t start playing Thanksgiving games until 1966, when they had switched to the current silver/white/”silver” look. I could see these being worn on opening day or another nationally televised game.

    “why did they wear red jerseys while Pat wore a blue coat?”

    The other three AFL East teams wore blue (as well as the Chargers in the West), so it was a chance to look different.

    Also, the original Continental Army wore blue, as the British were the “Lobsterbacks”. Why we here in New England ever thought that red was a great choice is baffling, but then the Sullivan family themselves were baffling. The new blues aren’t terrible, but I grew up loving the historically inaccurate jerseys.

    I’ll make it one more commenter giving Pat Patriot an A+.

    And while, yes, blue jerseys would have made more a lot more sense for the team in those earlier decades, a couple notes: 1.) Of the other seven teams in the original AFL, the Chargers, Bills, Titans and Oilers all had various shades of blue and the Raiders were black, so a second red team created a little more variety in the league. Also, the U.S. colors are generally stated as “red, white and blue” which is exactly how one would describe the Pat Patriot-era color scheme.

    Good summary of the releases. Did I miss a part of the rule that states the helmets can only be paired with alternate uniforms? That seems like a rule just to be a rule?

    I forgot how bad that Commanders alternate uniform is. What a disaster that entire uniform set is.

    I thought I read (on this site likely) that the alternate helmet usage would count toward the total number of alternate uniforms allowances per team, per season (3). So, *if* teams mixed and matched, any alternate uniform element would count as one of those 3 times even if it’s just the jersey or just the helmet.

    A technical issue: on an iPhone in portrait orientation, the left side of the page is getting truncated, and I can’t zoom out to make it visible. I can turn to landscape but that has its own problems. This is an iPhone 13 Pro with the current versions of iOS and Safari.

    I’m also having the same issue on an iPhone 13. No other posts this week had this issue.

    The Black Helmet or the black helmet/uniform has worn out it’s welcome.
    To me it screams lazy!

    I prefer one long post both during the week and on the weekends. This is part of my routine in the morning and I don’t find my way back throughout the day.

    Thanks for the feedback. I don’t think the new weekday style is going to change (I know…new routines), but I’ll likely adopt the old style on the weekends (beginning in September). The SMUW may be the exception. We’ll see.

    I find that I mind the White for White’s Sake helmets even more than the BFBS. White helmets shouldn’t be a thing except for teams with white as a primary color like the Colts. To paraphrase Walter Sobchack, Say what you will about black, at least it’s a color. I could excuse the addition of white helmets if the logo or design was particularly excellent, but none of the new second-shell whiteys are. Pat Patriot? Fun logo! A childhood favorite of mine! Also simply and objectively a mediocre helmet logo at best. It’s the Brewers ball-in-glove logo of the NFL: Fun and beloved but not actually good. Bengals would be OK if the striping pattern was significantly different from their regular helmets and if the team dropped orange to become a black-and-white “white tiger” team. But as neither condition is met, it’s another fumble for me.

    As for the Texans, I can’t for the life of me imagine a decisionmaking process by the team’s suits that would produce this instead of a two-color red and blue helmet split down the middle in the pattern of the team logo without assuming that none of the suits involved actually enjoys watching the game of gridiron football. What a missed opportunity.

    As for format, now that I have a bit of experience with the new method, I’m very much on team old-style. For example, I was happy to read the extra stuff yesterday, but today I’ve already skipped the tweaks & concepts entry. This is content I’m happy to encounter but won’t actively seek out.

    I almost said I dislike WFWS as much as BFBS, but at least on a cloudy day or indoors, WFWS looks tolerable. BFBS (especially mono) looks bad regardless, unless you have *highly* contrasting accents.
    I just hope the NFL doesn’t turn into the NCAA, where everyone has to have a blackout vs whiteout matchup and everyone (at least on social media) thinks it’s just so cool.
    I have a color TV… I want to see multiple colors during a game.

    Yeah I’m having the same issues viewing this on my iPhone 13. The old longer site was definitely better imo. Can’t wait to see the Seahawks come back with the silver-blue-silver look.

    I also prefer the one long post, but can learn to adapt (and it sounds like I probably will have to M-F). The one thing that bothers me the most about the change is the Ticker. I like the new in-post bullet style formatting a lot, but the fact that it comes later in the day, the fact that it is completely separate, and the fact that the Ticker “feed” is so far down the home page when you scroll for it really bums me out. I love the Ticker and it feels like it has been made a chore to access as opposed to an integral part of Uni Watch.

    Has anyone noticed that all the new helmets are either White, Black, or Red? I’m wondering when the Bills will (inevitably) announce their red throwback helmets.

    I’m also a fan of the single longer post. I like scrolling through everything while I eat breakfast. I hate to admit it, but in the new format, most of the days last week I just looked at the articles available, didn’t open any, and moved on to the next site. If I can still have my long weekend posts, that would be fantastic!

    For what it’s worth…I don’t hate splitting up the post into its sections, but I don’t think you should hold back bits for the sake of holding back. If you are ready to roll, post all the bits and bobbles, and be done from your end. I can choose to look at it section by section, or skip sections, whatever.

    I am wholly opposed to the idea of BFBS in all aspects of the uni-verse. However, since they aren’t going away anytime soon, I think it makes sense to evaluate the addition of a black helmet based on how it pairs with the rest of the look. If they make an already ugly uniform look a little less ugly, they aren’t all bad. That said, BFBS just shouldn’t exist in the first place.

    I’m good with the new format, but don’t understand why the Ticker isn’t its own post. If the GTGFTS can be its own post, would think the Ticker could be as well….

    I like one long post and I have been checking the site daily for years. It may be coming to and end. The old site got clunky with the ads on the side but this new site is ads everywhere! On the top, bottom, and in the middle. It’s unreadable. The site became victim of its own criticism. The ads on jerseys lessen the product and ruin the experience/ loyalty to your team. I root for the Bulls and the memories and nostalgia of the 90’s not some stupid glasses company. The ads and pay wall for content are the equivalent of the Bears jerseys looking like a NASCAR. I wish the site good luck and that all that ad revenue pays for that fancy NY stuff you like to do. Also, green and yellow are ugly. Keep it behind the cheddar curtain where it belongs. And one last note I don’t blame your site per say for the ads, it’s not your fault , but I don’t think it’s fair to criticize these corporations for selling ads when you’ve just made your site an ad machine. For those of us that get it $. I’m not mad, just disappointed.

    Would love to hear all the BFBS folks justify WFWS or GFGS or even PBFPBS. Probably they would spit out some bs about tradition and ignore all their corny rules for how uniforms should be.

    I REALLY hope PBFPBS stands for Peanut butter for peanut butter’s sake!

    The Bears just released an orange alt helmet and I give it a D- I know orange is a team color of theirs but the helmet is just not needed, is it the first case of OFOS?

    I don’t mind that they wear the orange alternates twice a year. They stick to the navy or white the rest of the time, so they have a defined classic look. But I’m cool with breaking out an occasional alternate. It is still a team color. The design of the jersey and the helmet are both in the same style as their standard uniforms, so it still looks like the Bears. I prefer when the helmet color matches either the jersey or the pants, so I like that they now have an orange helmet to go with the orange jersey. It feels more like a unified look than when they wore navy helmet, orange jersey, and white pants. I like that they are wearing the orange on the day before Halloween, too.

    Maybe the first case of OFOS…but just another in a long line of OFFS this week!

    Can you please explain to me in the article why it says the Saints can’t wear the black helmet with their all black uniforms because of an NFL rule, yet the Panthers can. It makes no sense because it’s the primary home jersey for both teams. Either they both can wear it with black or they both can’t.

    That’s a good question. The new rule stipulates that the alternate helmet may be worn with “their Alternate, Classic and/or Color Rush uniforms.” I’m pretty certain “Classic” in this instance is what we refer to as “throwback,” not their normal home/road jersey. Perhaps the Panthers have designated the black jersey as their alternate for this season? If that’s not the case, then I’m not sure how they can wear the alt helmet with their designated primary jersey. Once the jersey schedule comes out, we’ll need to see how many times they’re scheduled to wear the black jersey (and it’s ALSO possible they’re only going to pair the alternate black helmet with the black jersey three times, and wear the silver for the others). I believe any team can wear the alt helmet up to three times per season.

    You know what I think you’re right. All of the Panthers recent posts on social media show the players in the Blue jerseys, so if I had to guess I would say those are now the primary and the black is an alternate. I want to see the Saints in all black so bad but I guess that won’t happen this year.

    I guess this means that the Bengals can’t wear their white helmets with the current road set. Hopefully they bring back the old color rush, I think it’s a better match for the helmet anyway.

    The Panthers black helmet is awful.
    The Texans red helmet is slick.
    These are my opinions. Don’t need any hate for them.
    Also, my Lions should do a Honolulu blue helmet and wear it with the blue pants, white socks and white jerseys.

    don’t bury the ticker

    Not sure what you mean by that. It won’t be included if I do one “big single” weekend post (those will now always be separate entries). However, I could arrange it so that the ticker is published shortly (a matter of minutes) after the main article is posted, so you’d likely still be reading (or won’t even have started) and the ticker will be there.

    I vote for one long post, but it’s not for the reason you think. Separate posts during the week increased the number of total comments to an unmanageable number. As someone who reads every post and ALL the comments, it became too much!

    One more helmet was released over the weekend: a black (with red flecks) Cardinals helmet.

    It’s called the Galactic Black Fire Sky shell.

    And it ain’t half-bad. For a high-school team.

    Quick question and maybe I’m just not reading it correctly, but when you wrote about the Falcons, Pats, and Cowboys you mentioned, “the Cowboys have worn these helmets as throwbacks before, but as with the others, the one-shell rule prevented them from being worn.” I’m confused; they’ve worn them before, but the one-shell prevented them from doing so? Did you mean they’ve worn them pre-2013? I’m thinking that’s what you meant. Also it’s funny because checking the images we have Matt Ryan and Tom Brady wearing the throwbacks, the Dallas link is dead, so I can’t tell what year those were from lol.

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