The general consensus among sports fashion gurus is that the Nike era in the NFL has not been a good one. Since taking over from Reebok in 2012, Nike has implemented several team uniform designs that have mostly ranged from bad to outright disastrous.
Among the lowlights are the Miami Dolphins getting away from their classic and beloved helmeted-dolphin logo. There were the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ditching their pewter-pirate look for something that vaguely resembles the lovechild of those threads with their throwback “dreamcicle” jerseys. Then, perhaps worst of all, there’s the now infamous Jacksonville Jaguars re-design featuring an atrocious two-toned helmet, which is mercifully supposed to go away this offseason.
This is before you factor in that all of these new looks came with the bizarre-looking fly-wire collar which Nike finally did away with after five long years. There have been a few improvements here and there (Lions and Vikings), but they are minor as well as few and far between in contrast to the vast number of blunders the past six years.
So with that, we now arrive at the 2018 offseason where just last week the Tennessee Titans unveiled the uniforms that they will don for the foreseeable future. As far as Nike re-designs go, it’s one of the better ones. They aren’t among the best in the league nor are they among the worst. They are smack in the middle of the pack, and at the very least, nobody can accuse them of being boring. There is a lot going on here, some of it good, some of it bad, so let’s give it a look-over from top to bottom.
Here is the area of the uniform where we have the most improvement. There are too many white helmets in the league, especially in the AFC where six different teams sported one last year (three in the AFC East alone). The Titans are doing themselves and the conference a favor by switching to navy as the helmet tone. It simply looks much more intimidating when paired with the new silver facemask. The “flaming thumbtack,” which is still one of the stranger logos in the NFL, remains on the sides. The detail that really makes it all shine. The two tones of silver are implemented perfectly to resemble a Titan sword. Original, slick-looking, awesome. The helmet is a hit.
This is where things begin to get a little more hit-and-miss. The two shades of blue are back, and the Titans have opted to stick with the darker one as their primary. It’s a smart move since it will complement the helmet much more cleanly. The Columbia blue ones have been relegated to the role of alternate.
The primary navy blue jersey is the best looking of the three. It would look particularly strong when paired with white pants, so let’s hope that’s a combination that will be frequent in Tennessee’s rotation. There are some quirks that are a little eyebrow-raising most noticeably the shoulders. The sword design that inspired the helmet stripe has made its way onto the shoulders of all three jerseys. In a vacuum, it’s not a bad look, albeit a little cartoon-ish. When paired with the sword-themed helmet, the top of the uniform starts to look a little crowded.
The other quirks don’t work so well. The numbers are a funky, thin font which is drawing concerns of being difficult to read when the jerseys start wrinkling during the game. Apparently, the numbers are supposed to resemble the northeastern-most edge of the state of Tennessee, which is a creative idea in theory, but not so much in practice.
Lastly, there’s a strange diagonal stripe that runs from under the armpit to just above the waist. It doesn’t resemble anything on its own. Nor does it complement or draw attention to anything else on the jersey. Several teams in the league have similar stripes that run from the arms all the way down the sides (Patriots and Broncos). This one, in particular, seems especially unnecessary.
The white away jersey is serviceable as well. It pairs well with the helmet, and would potentially also pair well with the navy pants. The aforementioned jersey quirks, while still present on this jersey, are significantly toned down on a white background. Even the diagonal side stripe, while still out of place, is less noticeable.
The Columbia blue alternate is the one we will see the least of. The Navy helmet appears somewhat out of place while sitting atop those glowing blue threads. The shoulders and side stripe stick out like a sore thumb on the light background wacky numbers will be that much harder to read with powder blue streaking all over the field. It’s not an awful jersey just not as crisp as the other two.
The pants on this uniform are pretty uneventful, except for a two-toned diagonal stripe on the side which is supposed to look like a sheathed sword. Okay, once on the helmet was cool. Doing it again on the shoulders was “meh.” Now, we are doing sword things on the pants too? This might be one time too many. We are getting into Arena League territory now.
Outside of that, how much potential the pants have is going to largely depend on how Tennessee decides to pair them with the jerseys. Hopefully they are smart enough to use contrasting colors to avoid the less-than-flattering “onesie” look. That decision alone may decide if these uniforms rank either just below or just above average.
Overall, it’s a decent look, especially as far as Nike re-designs go. The helmet is a major upgrade from what they had previously. The sword motif, while overdone, is creative, and in typical Nike fashion, there are a number of weird stripes in weird places. It’s a solid foundation that can be made even better with a few tweaks during the next uni reform.