It is probably not a surprise to hear me say that I like the Green Bay Packers’ uniform. Classic logo, classic striping, and of course I love the color scheme. But there’s one thing that’s been bugging me for years, and the start of the football season has once again brought it to the front of my brainpan: The TV numbers are too freakin’ big.
Does it ruin the entire uniform? No. But does it inject a seriously discordant note into an otherwise pleasing visual symphony? Definitely. The numbers’ outsized proportions seem pretty obvious. Why can’t they make them just a smidge smaller?
That got me thinking about the current state of NFL TV numbers, which is what I’d like to talk about today. Let’s start with this: Twenty-three NFL teams currently wear TV numbers on the shoulders: the Bears, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Buccaneers, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Falcons, 49ers, Giants, Jaguars, Jets, Lions, Packers, Panthers, Ravens, Saints, Seahawks, Steelers, Titans, Vikings, and Kansas City. You can see examples of their TV numbers here (I’m just doing one jersey per team, but the shoulder style applies to all of their non-throwback and non-Color Rush jerseys):
Most of those look fine, except for the Packers (too big) and the Panthers (too small).
NFL sleeves have been getting shorter and shorter for years, so it’s no surprise that only three teams — the Colts, Raiders, and Texans — currently wear sleeve numbers (which means last Week 2’s Colts/Texans game was the rare matchup of sleeve-numbered teams):
The shoulder stripes plus the Nike maker’s mark result in the Colts’ and Texans’ numbers being too small. The Raiders look fine.
Four teams currently do not wear TV numbers on their jerseys: the Bengals, Chargers (although they do have numbers on their helmets), Commanders, and Patriots. Here are their jerseys:
The lack of numbers seems fine on the Bengals and Commies. I’d like the Chargers’ situation better if the shoulder bolts were moved inward a bit, closer to the shoulder seam. The Pats get the stripe positioning right, but their stripes are too wide, so the lack of TV numbers feels more like a bug than a feature.
Finally, there are two teams that take inconsistent approaches. One is the Rams, who wear sleeve numbers on their dishwater jersey but do not have TV numbers on their blue and white jerseys:
The Cardinals, similarly, have shoulder numbers on their red jersey but no TV numbers on their white and black jerseys.
I think it’s fair to say that both of these teams have bigger aesthetic issues to worry about than their TV number inconsistencies.
Having compiled all of this, I have a few thoughts:
- I knew there were more shoulder-numberers than sleeve numberers. But it’s kind of amazing that we’ve now hit the point where the sleeve-numberers are outnumbered by the no-numberers.
- I kinda miss sleeve numbers, but that’s probably because I just miss football sleeves.
- Speaking of which: Do you know which team was the first to move its TV numbers from the sleeves to the shoulders? I didn’t, so I looked it up. According to the Gridiron Uniform Database, the first such team was the 1964 Cowboys. That was the year they began wearing the design that they still have, more or less, today. The Cowboys then moved their TV numbers to the sleeves in 1970 (there were two other shoulder-numbered teams by then — the Saints and Oilers) and then moved them back to the shoulders in 1974 (by which time the Oilers had moved their numbers to the sleeves, but the Saints were still shoulder-numbered and the Eagles had also gone that route).
- You probably know this already, but just in case: The Bengals had no TV numbers for the first 12 years of their existence — 1968 through 1979. They then added them in 1980 and included them as part of their 1981 tiger-striped redesign.
- The big question: Are TV numbers still necessary? Spotters supposedly rely on them, but I don’t notice any of them complaining about the growing numbers of teams that don’t wear them. Personally, I like TV numbers, because they just feel like football, but maybe they’re more trouble than they’re worth, especially in an era of ever-shrinking sleeves and ever-shifting seam patterns.
What do you folks think?