To a certain extent, my fears have been borne out. While some of the new alternate helmets are commendable (I like the Bengals in white and the Panthers in black), many of them fall far short of that mark (Eagles, Jets, Saints, Bears). For a lot of them, you can almost hear the marketing meeting where someone said, “Well, we’re allowed to do this now, so we may as well do something.”
But I’m not writing this piece to say I told you so. On the contrary, there are two things about these new helmets that I find very surprising and definitely didn’t anticipate:
- Aside from the throwbacks, the new helmets use their respective teams’ existing helmet logos that we’re used to seeing. (The only vague exception is the Commanders’ black alternate, but of course they’re starting from scratch, unlike the other teams.)
- The new helmets are all being paired with pre-existing throwback and alternate uniforms.
That’s not how I thought this would play out. When I said, “Be careful what you wish for,” I was envisioning a situation closer to what we see in the NCAA, where teams trot out helmets with alternate logos and pair them with new costume-like uniforms. For example, I’m very surprised that the Bears’ new orange helmet has their standard wishbone-“C” logo instead of, say, their alternate bear’s head logo. Similarly, I’m a little surprised the Texans or Saints or someone didn’t come up with a new alternate uni to go with the helmet design. Or to put it another way, while many of these new helmets are unnecessary, the overall approach is still much more conservative than than the full-on Nike-fication I expected.
There are several possible reasons for this:
- First, the NFL is famously cautious about its uniforms and branding, so maybe these baby steps are in keeping with the league’s usual ethos.
- Second, maybe some teams wanted to introduce costume-like alternate uniforms but aren’t yet able to do that due to the five-year rule (although it seems to me that we see exceptions to that rule all the time).
- Third, we know that Bucs’ and Seahawks’ throwbacks were pushed back to 2023 by supply-chain issues, so maybe that’s coming into play here as well, at least in terms of alternate uni designs. (It wouldn’t explain the lack of alternate logos on the new helmets, though.)
Anyway: The point I’m trying to make here is that while this new wave of helmets isn’t great, it’s not as bad as I feared it would be — or as bad as things could get as we move forward.