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The Surprising Thing About the New NFL Alternate Helmets

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When news broke that the NFL was lifting the one-shell rule, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was glad that retro favorites like Pat Patriot and Bucco Bruce would be returning to the field. On the other hand, I felt like the one-shell rule had inadvertently been a valuable bulwark against the likely worst instincts of Nike, the league, and the teams, preventing them from flooding the scene with ridiculous alternate designs. So as I said several times as people celebrated the rule’s repeal, “Be careful what you wish for — we may find ourselves longing for the return of the one-shell days.”

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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.


Practically Giving Them Away

Five more pin designs sold out yesterday. In case you missed it, the pricing is now at a rock-bottom $1 apiece, plus you get one free pin for every three you order. So that’s four pins for $3, eight for $6, and so on. Full details here.

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Today’s Ticker is available here, and “Collector’s Corner” will be published this afternoon. — Paul

Comments (52)

    Not confirmed, but it does appear to be the case link. Looks like they will have both the throwback helmet for Turkey Day, (blue star with no outline) AND also a helmet they may pair with their CR (blue star with blue/white outline).

    Teams are allowed to alter decals/facemasks at will, but still be in line with the now 2 shell rule. Previously this was also allowed with the 1 shell rule. Some teams (Green Bay, Washington) would remove decals completely, meanwhile others (NYJ, Buffalo) would replace decals and facemasks

    Be prepared for more teams to use alternate decal schemes now that helmets will be completely inactive for certain weeks. The Jets have a version of their new black helmet with the same white text decal they use on their green lids. Don’t be surprised if that makes an on-field appearance. Same thing with the Falcon’s new red throwback helmets. Don’t be surprised to see that lid with their contemporary Falcon logo paired with their red/black gradient jersey either.

    Teams are allowed to alter decals/facemasks at will, but still be in line with the now 2 shell rule. Previously this was also allowed with the 1 shell rule. Some teams (Green Bay, Washington) would remove decals completely, meanwhile others (NYJ, Buffalo) would replace decals and facemasks.

    Yes, I’m well aware of the rules concerning decals/facemasks. But the Cowboys appear to be the first team to do this with an alternate shell color. And yes, I would expect others to possibly go down this road — teams can wear the second-color shell up to three times per season (as it stands now), and it must be paired with an throwback, existing alternate, or CR. I haven’t seen anything preventing them from altering the logo/facemask on the second shell, so it’s entirely possible teams will change up their second shell for use with an alternate/CR/throwback. All they’re limited to, I’m 99.9% sure, is they can’t wear the new shell color more than 3 times/season.

    It could be 4 total helmets if they bring back the red stripe on the traditional silver shell. Here´s hoping.

    Does that mean the black helmet is a one-year phenomenon or the Eagles will have three helmets in 2023-4?

    Thank God, as it’s a helmet that doesn’t actually need to exist. The midnight green they use looks black during night games anyway. I would have been happy waiting another year for the Kelly greens.

    It seems strange to me a team would wear a helmet shell for one year only.
    I think its possible that the Eagles either a) get rid of midnight green or more likely b) wear three different shells next year. They just throw away 100 black helmets after wearing them for 2 or 3 games?

    Who knows.


    If the Eagles don’t want to use the black helmet in 2023, they don’t necessarily have to throw them away. They can repainted. The painting process of a helmet last a few weeks (I think I read it somewhere), so they can surely be repainted during the offseason.

    Actually… One of the reasons the one-shell rule was put in place was because the difficulty of painting the helmets and get them (I don’t remember if the term was curated or break-in) in a week. Before the rule, teams had to use a different helmet if they want to have a different helmet color for a game, and because some of the older models were discontinued, some players would have been forced to use a different helmet model for that particular game. That’s why the NFL put the rule in place, to avoid players to have a different helmet model, which could be use on a lawsuit (remember the NFL reach a settlement in the concussion lawasuit in 2013, the same year the one-shell was put in place). Now, I believe no-one uses it the discountinued helmet models, that’s why the can lift the rule. It was never about safety, it was about potential lawsuits. (Sorry if I went off-rails with this, I wanted to comment that since these new helmets were presented).

    Hopefully Washington ditches that black lid after this season. Oooof. If they wanted an alternate, a yellow helmet with the maroon Waste Management “W” would have looked MUCH better.

    I think it is safe to assume the entire set will get replaced in 5 years anyway. What a mess. As with a lot of new designs, we see so many fan created ones that are better, but in the case of the Commies, not only are good fan designs better, there were lots of awful fan designs that were still superior to what they went with.

    Every single thing about the rebrand was a wasted opportunity. The name, the lack of any kind of mascot/logo, the uninspired uniforms. It seems like it was Snyder’s way of saying, “You want a new name? Well here’s you f*@king new name.”

    I still think that they will re-brand again once they leave Maryland, and will hopefully restore many of the less controversial uniform elements (i.e.: yellow pants).

    “… or as bad as things could get as we move forward.”
    Would you assume this is the likely scenario? Given the existing uni rules and supply chain issues limiting the availability of retail merch, I think it is just more likely the teams aren’t able to roll out new (retail) jerseys this year, so that is being held back a year. I could see a lot of new alternates showing up in 2023.
    As far as alternate logos on the helmets go, I do tend to think that is going to be an exception to the excess of new designs. Teams are pretty steadfast with logos, I can really only think of 7 teams that have more than one regularly used (non throwback) logo, and of those 7 that includes the Rams and Bengals, who have a specific helmet design rather than just the logo on the helmet. I guess teams could come up with new logos, but I have a feeling you’ll just see different color shells for most teams, and only different logos if it is going to be a throwback design.

    Yes, I assume that’s the likely scenario. But I also thought it would be the *current* scenario, and that hasn’t happened, so we’ll see.

    If there are any left is there any more you want to see? Vikings in plum, Bills back in Red, or one of the LA teams adding an alternate?

    15 teams applied for another helmet right? 12 released, Seahawks and Bucs next year. Are we still waiting for 1 more? (the Giants one isn’t in the graphic that might be the last one)

    When NFL lifted the one-shell rule back in 2021, the deadline for submitting new uniforms for 2022 season already had expired. That’s why we won’t see any new uniform combos this year. But we should expect a load of them in 2023.


    “The only regulations on the permitted designs are that the helmets must include a logo from some point in the club’s history instead of creating a new one, and that if the helmet is a throwback, it must be historically accurate in colors and design to match the corresponding throwback uniform.” – graf 8

    I read this last night.

    The only helmets that really bug me are the Saints and Commies. Awkward templates like that annoy me way more than color choices.

    I’m a bit of a pessimist, but working in the manufacturing industry & experiencing the struggles of the supply chain everyday, I would imagine that teams are already working on new alternate uniforms to pair with new shells already & that they are just in no hurry at the moment knowing how hard it may be to get them manufactured, especially before the upcoming season. Nike is certainly chomping at the bit right now…

    It seems to me that all the fanfare for lifting the one-shell rule was just for pat patriot, bucco Bruce, and maybe the Seahawks.

    The rule was lifted and a bunch of teams that don’t have “good” throwbacks (I hate pat patriot) just said, “hey why not, let’s try one!” And now everyone is wishing it never happened.

    This is perhaps the biggest source of “old man yells at cloud” behavior I’ve seen in the uni-verse in some time.

    I mean I’m not crazy about most of these for a few different reasons, but people really seem to be standing on principle here. Like certain teams aren’t allowed to have an alternate, or if it’s not different enough then it can’t be a good helmet but if it’s too different it can’t be a good helmet either, or only throwbacks are allowed, or going with a black shell isn’t allowed. How many baseball teams have hats that are just color swaps with the same logo? A LOT of them.

    Remember folks, we’re rooting for laundry.

    1) Actually, the post on which you’re commenting specifically says that I like the Bengals’ and Panthers’ new alternate helmets.

    2) You appear to be complaining that people who care about uniforms, um, care about uniforms.

    I think a rational person can understand the difference between an alternate helmet that is part of a very specific design (and presumably looks good) and an alternate helmet of the sake of having an alternate helmet (or just to have mono BFBS).

    1. Red Falcons
    2. Kelly green Eagles
    3. Blue Broncos (not navy)
    4. What exactly is your argument?

    Name a team that you can’t imagine having an alternate, then suggest what they might us as an alternate.

    I’ll get us started:

    49ers – go to the infamous one-day logo on gold chrome.

    The Bengals white is nice change, however it would be best served playing the Browns to break up that orange/orange look. Even vs Bears and Broncos. Similar to what the STL Cardinals do with the blue caps.

    Yes, I’d be on board with Bengals / Browns standardizing their match ups so one of the teams is wearing the white helmet, Bengals with the white tiger and Browns the plain white inaugural year throwback.

    The Dolphins. White helmet is just the standard for them, and I don’t think the logo would look good on either aqua or orange.

    It’s hard to picture the Dolphins in anything BUT a white helmet. Possibly owing to their eccentric colors.

    1 I’d like to see…
    Chiefs: red helmet, yellow facemask, white logo in the shape of Missouri with a yellow star indicating the location of Kansas City.
    1 which should never be seen…
    Rams: bone helmet, blue facemask and horns.

    Literally none of them look good. I hate the Bengals more than any because it completely changes their color scheme. The only two that are decent are Chicago and Houston and even those are miles beneath their usual helmets.

    And here I was hoping the Seahawks would go with an Action Green helmet to match their Color Rush jerseys.

    And here I was hoping the Seahawks would go with an Action Green helmet to match their Color Rush jerseys.

    The ultimate “be careful what you wish for” right there.

    I’m on record since before the one shell rule was lifted as being against alternate helmets (no real problem with throwbacks). I, in fact, do miss the one shell rule.

    As much as I want to say it hasn’t been as bad as I feared, I also find it hilarious/sad that the level of creativity we get from the NFL results in 78 black helmets. I don’t know how teams choose when they will announce their alternate helmets but at some point the Cardinals had to be thinking “awww jeez” as yet another black helmet was introduced.


    The orange helmet with a really dark navy (almost black) wishbone C looks more like some Reds/Bengals hybrid than a Bears helmet.

    Can’t believe the Olympics pin hasn’t sold out. By far my favorite, with Uni Watch details (socks/stirrups on the gold medalist, the medals in the shape of the logo), and only one I ordered in real time at full price.

    I was actually hoping the bears would use the alternate bear logo instead of the wishbone C for the orange helmet. If you’re going to have an alternate, at least have it worthwhile. The orange with blue looks worse than blue with orange IMO, so I don’t really see the point of having this current alt. I also prefer their old stripey throwback jerseys over the orange ones, but maybe it’ll grow on me. Orange is my favorite color and the all-orange Florida Gators uniforms are my favorite.. maybe these will be some day too.

    Paul, while I intellectually agree with everything you wrote about the helmets, my Bears fan heart remains cold against the alternate helmets. #ClownHelmet #TheyDontGetIt

    As a lifelong Colts fan, I would like to see them do a Futuristic alternate helmet.
    How bout a chrome or metallic blue shell to reflect the racing history of Indianapolis?

    Its as bad as I suspected it would be…too many black alternates
    Its boring, it’s lame, it’s hack. It ceased being cool when Falcons changed to black all those years ago.
    Weird too considering how guarded the NFL is about the aesthetic of the league; they are allowing it to be butchered wholesale all at once.
    Cant wait for the cardinals vs eagles where both teams are in black helmets. Put a fork in it at that point; the morons will have won.

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