Photo Essays  


Published: Aug. 13, 2013 at 01:41 p.m.
Updated: Aug. 13, 2013 at 10:52 p.m.

Best and worst jerseys for a fan

I spent most of the 2012 NFL season visiting stadiums on game day. I learned a few things: 1. Tailgating has jumped to heights unimaginable only a few years ago; 2. The sport of Cornhole now ranks somewhere between the NHL and MLB in popularity; 3. Fans who go to NFL games wear their teams' colors.

That last one was especially striking. I grew up going to games populated by rabid fans, but barely half were in team colors. It simply wasn't a consideration.

These days, though, almost everyone is adorned from head to toe in team gear. And while it enhances the communal feeling, it does present one issue for those fans who like to stand out. When thousands of people choose to wear a team jersey, they tend to choose from the same handful of star players.

So let's figure this out. What is the best jersey for a fan to own? And what's the worst? Which will stand the test of time?

I, the Uniform Monitor, now present the answers for fans of all 32 teams...

32 Photos Total

  • Dallas Cowboys 32

    Associated Press

    Dallas Cowboys

    Best: Drew Pearson #88
    Michael Irvin and Dez Bryant (and, to a much lesser degree, Antonio Bryant) have helped make the wearers of the Cowboys' No. 88 the NFL's most exclusive and esteemed fraternity for a wide receiver, but Pearson is the guy who started the tradition with iconic plays like the original Hail Mary catch in the '75 playoffs.

    Worst: Leon Lett #78
    Sure, he's got a few rings, but he also made two of the most memorably pathetic plays in NFL history.

    » Get your custom Dallas Cowboys gear here.

  • New York Giants 31

    Associated Press/NFL

    New York Giants

    Best: Frank Gifford #16
    You're not crazy if you opt for LT's No. 56 (or the other Parcells Era LBs, Carl Banks' No. 58 and Harry Carson No. 53), but that '80s jersey ain't my cup of tea. Instead, take advantage of the Jints' deep history with the jersey of the league's original 'slash'/hybrid player -- if only because fans of teams who've only been around since the mid-'90s can't. Then again, a David Tyree No. 85 would be nice, too.

    Worst: Joe Pisarcik #9
    Long before the Butt Fumble, Pisarcik made a play -- "The Miracle at the Meadowlands" -- that'll forever live in infamy for the fans of New York's other team.

    » Get your custom New York Giants gear here.

  • Philadelphia Eagles 30

    NFL/Associated Press

    Philadelphia Eagles

    Best: Harold Carmichael #17
    Randall Cunningham or Mike Quick (whose surname looks great on the back of the jersey) would've been choice here, but they happened to play in Philly while the team was wearing the worst variation of the Eagles' great uniforms. Instead, consider Carmichael's No. 17, an unusual number for the unusually tall four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver who caught 79 TDs in the 1970s and early '80s.

    Worst: Riley Cooper #14
    You know why.

  • Washington Redskins 29

    Associated Press

    Washington Redskins

    Best: Joe Washington #25
    His surname is the name of the town in which the team plays! It's like if Indiana Jones played for the Pacers. Yeah, Washington played for several other teams, but this is too good to pass up. (And by the way, he played for some of the best Redskins teams in the Super Bowl era.)

    Worst: Heath Shuler #5
    Imagine if Kirk Cousins was better than RGIII. That's basically what happened in 1994, when third-overall pick Shuler was outplayed by 7th-round choice Gus Frerotte. Not that I'm suggesting you get a Frerotte jersey.

    » Get your custom Washington Redskins gear here.

  • Chicago Bears 28

    Associated Press/NFL

    Chicago Bears

    Best: Gale Sayers #40
    Wearing the jersey of the electric Hall of Fame runner whose career was undone by a bum knee says you're with the Bears for better or worse, in sickness and in health. Along those lines, a No. 41 Brian Piccolo is a good choice, as is Sweetness' No. 34. Then again, if your pigskin tastes skew defensive, you've got lots of choices. From Butkus to Urlacher to any member of the 46 Defense, Chicago is full of dynamite options for the fashionable Bears fan.

    Worst: Curtis Enis #39
    The Bears have had more than their share of great running backs over the decades. Enis ... was not one of them. And that last name on the back of a jersey exposes you to any prankster with some ambition and a sewing needle.

    » Get your custom Chicago Bears gear here

  • Detroit Lions 27

    NFL/Associated Press

    Detroit Lions

    Best: Billy Sims #20
    Back in the 1980s, the Lions drafted a Heisman Trophy winner from the state of Oklahoma who'd prove to be a transcendent pro runner. He wore the No. 20. His initials were B.S. His talent was anything but. And a few years after that, Barry Sanders was drafted. Sanders could've broken every rushing record if he'd stuck around a little longer. Sims could've, too, if not for a terrible knee injury in his fifth season.

    Worst: Charles Rogers #80
    Just as history repeated itself with Sims and Sanders, then-Lions GM Matt Millen used three straight first-round picks in the early 2000s on wide receivers. Rogers was the worst of 'em -- both on and off the field.

    » Get your custom Detroit Lions gear here.p

  • Green Bay Packers 26

    NFL/Associated Press

    Green Bay Packers

    Best: Max McGee #85
    So many greats from which to choose, but what tailgating Cheesehead can’t admire a guy who torched the Chiefs for two touchdowns in the first Super Bowl after a night-long bender?

    Worst: Brett Favre #4
    Yeah, No. 4 gave Packers fans a lot of thrills over the years -- but then he put them through a three-year, tear-filled "I retire/I unretire" melodrama punctuated by him going to a hated division rival. Still don't agree, Cheeseheads? Just remember this: If it weren't for Thompson & McCarthy sticking to their guns, Aaron Rodgers likely would be starring for another team right now. Like the Vikings, for instance.

    » Get your custom Green Bay Packers gear here.

  • Minnesota Vikings 25

    NFL/Associated Press

    Minnesota Vikings

    Best: Buster Rhymes #88
    You're not wrong to go with one the Purple People Eaters' jerseys -- Chuck Foreman's No. 44, Ahmad Rashad's No. 28 or Tommy Kramer's No. 9 -- but if you really want to stand out, get the jersey of the mid-'80s Oklahoma wideout whose Vikings career ended Sooner than the legacy of his name, which inspired the persona of rapper Busta Rhymes.

    Worst: Brett Favre #4
    After years of watching him torment Minnesota, why would any Vikes fan have rooted for this guy? Just 'cause your team hasn't won a Super Bowl doesn't mean you should throw away your dignity by embracing your arch nemesis. You know, kinda how he threw away a chance at the Super Bowl against the Saints.

    » Get your custom Minnesota Vikings gear here.

  • Atlanta Falcons 24

    NFL/Associated Press

    Atlanta Falcons

    Best: William Andrews #31
    The black throwback jerseys are snappy, but the red ones the team wore from the early 1970s to the late '90s might be even better, and no player wore it better than Andrews, the Falcons' big, bad, bruising runner who'd probably be a Hall of Famer if not for a knee injury. Of course, no one's gonna get mad if you go with a Steve Bartkowski No. 10 instead.

    Worst: Michael Vick #7
    This isn't a judgment against Vick's morality -- rather, it's an indictment of how his off-the-field decisions left the Falcons in the lurch. Why support that by wearing his jersey?

  • Carolina Panthers 23

    Associated Press/NFL

    Carolina Panthers

    Best: Steve Smith #89
    I know I said choosing the jerseys of current stars isn't a great move if you want to stand out, but with all due respect to Sam Mills, Smith is the franchise's best player ever. He was there for the dark years with Weinke, then the Super Bowl run with Delhomme and now he's going strong with Cam Newton. That deserves a tip of the cap ... and a wearing of his jersey. (Just make sure it's not the blue one. Blech.)

    Worst: Rae Carruth #83
    You know why.

  • New Orleans Saints 22

    Associated Press/NFL

    New Orleans Saints

    Best: Archie Manning #8
    Yes, it's good to be distinctive in your jersey selection -- but sometimes, it's best to not overcomplicate things. Archie equals football in New Orleans. Period.

    Worst: Russell Erxleben #14
    Why were the Saints so bad for so long? Because they made decisions like drafting a punter/kicker in the first round. At least when the Raiders drafted Ray Guy and Sebastian Janikowski, they got good ones. The only good thing about Erxleben was that cool last name (and that blonde fu Manchu).

    » Get your custom New Orleans Saints gear here.

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21

    Associated Press

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Best: Doug Williams #12
    Before he won a Super Bowl MVP in D.C., Williams was Tampa's first round draft pick of 1978 -- and had some nice seasons before owner Hugh Culverhouse lowballed him out of town. Plus, he wore the now-popular Creamsicle jersey.

    Worst: Steve Young #8
    Before he won a Super Bowl MVP in San Fran, Young was the first overall pick in the '85 Supplemental Draft -- and stunk it up for two seasons before he was traded. Plus, he wore the still-putrid Creamsicle jersey.

    » Get your custom Tampa Bay Buccaneers gear here.

  • Arizona Cardinals 20

    Associated Press

    Arizona Cardinals

    Best: Pat Tillman #40
    The only jersey that is welcomed in any NFL stadium. Related: The league really oughta consider what Adam Rank & I have repeatedly suggested on The Dave Dameshek Football Program: painting one of the white 40s on the field, Cardinals red, in the American hero's memory.

    Worst: Emmitt Smith #22
    He's the NFL's all-time leading rusher, but only 1,100 of those yards came in a Cards uniform. Wearing Smith's Arizona jersey would be like the director of "Analyze That" taking credit for Robert DeNiro's acting career.

    » Get your custom Arizona Cardinals gear here

  • San Francisco 49ers 19

    Associated Press/NFL

    San Francisco 49ers

    Best: Dwight Clark #87
    Montana, Rice and Lott are all great choices if you want to recognize the franchise's glorious past, while the current roster offers lots of options, too. If you want to stand out a bit, though, go with Clark's No. 87. He made "The Catch" after all. Need I say more?

    Worst: Gio Carmazzi #19
    It's not his fault the Niners decided to take him in third round of the 2000 NFL Draft, instead of the Bay Area kid named Tom Brady. That doesn't make wearing his No. 19 any more defensible.

    » Get your custom San Francisco 49ers gear here.

  • St. Louis Rams 18

    Associated Press

    St. Louis Rams

    Best: Isaac Bruce #80
    Because Bruce's rookie season was in L.A., his jersey honors the franchise's SoCal history while also celebrating the St. Louis-centric era, which was of course punctuated by his Super Bowl-winning touchdown in the final minutes against the Titans.

    Worst: Lawrence Phillips #21
    For a guy with the word "law" in his name, it's ironic how little Phillips adhered to it -- and on the rare occasions he was on the field, it's amazing how little the 1996 first-rounder adhered to being good at football.

    » Get your custom St. Louis Rams gear here.

  • Seattle Seahawks 17

    NFL/Associated Press

    Seattle Seahawks

    Best: Kenny Easley #45
    Seattle's 12th Man -- and the jerseys it's spawned -- is one of the cooler "new" traditions in the NFL. Wearing the jersey of a Kingdome star like Easley, a five-time Pro Bowler, 1984's Defensive Player of the Year and all-around bad dude (in a good way) would be a more distinctive way to show your fandom started before the league's best stadium opened.

    Worst: Jerry Rice #80
    He took Hall of Famer Steve Largent's retired No. 80 out of the rafters. Who does that?

    » Get your custom Seattle Seahawks gear here.

  • Buffalo Bills 16

    National Football League

    Buffalo Bills

    Best: O.J. Simpson #32
    If you watched him play, you know why.

    Worst: O.J. Simpson #32
    If you watched TV in 1994, you know why.

  • Miami Dolphins 15

    NFL/Associated Press

    Miami Dolphins

    Best: Jake Scott #13
    The safety was the MVP in Super Bowl VII as Miami completed its undefeated run in 1972. That's right: a Dolphins star wearing No. 13 who delivered in the Super Bowl. You'll definitely never see it happen again now that Dan Marino's No. 13 is retired.

    Worst: Wes Welker #83
    Unless your goal is to tweak Dolphins management for trading the future 100+ catch guy -- to the division juggernaut, no less! -- you don't want this jersey on your back.

    » Get your custom Miami Dolphins gear here.

  • New England Patriots 14

    Associated Press/NFL

    New England Patriots

    Best: Stanley Morgan #86
    Around The League scribe/Patriots fan Gregg Rosenthal suggests Troy Brown, the personification of the Pats' Swiss Army knife flexibility under Belichick. A fine idea from a football perspective, but not from a sartorial one. For all the success the team has had in the navy jerseys, the red jerseys are far more handsome. Besides, it's a good move to show your fandom predates the 21st-century dynasty by honoring Morgan, one of the more dynamic receivers of the 1980s, in spite of catching passes from the underwhelming QBs Steve Grogan and Tony Eason.

    Worst: Chad Ochocinco #85
    He did his best to make Tom Brady look like Tony Eason.

    » Get your custom New England Patriots gear here.

  • New York Jets 13

    Associated Press

    New York Jets

    Best: Emerson Boozer #32
    A very good running back who played in Super Bowl III and the Pro Bowl in the '68 season -- but more importantly, his surname is Boozer! You'll be the envy of the handful of Jets fans who enjoy beer. Nothing wrong with the No. 12 of Namath, one of the five coolest guys to roll through the NFL.

    Worst: Richard Todd #14
    The Butt Fumbler is very tempting here -- but Joe Namath's heir apparent and fellow 'Bama grad has a compellingly grim resume: 30 INTs in 1980; five INTs in the '81 AFC title game; pushing a reporter who didn't like him; and, worst of all, his last name is Todd, which to the uninformed will look like you're some shnook named Todd who personalized his jersey.

    » Get your custom New York Jets gear here.

  • Baltimore Ravens 12

    Associated Press

    Baltimore Ravens

    Best: Peter Boulware #58
    Joe Flacco's postseason run notwithstanding, the Ravens are all about defense. Go to a game at M &T Bank Stadium and you'll see that reflected by the thousands of No. 52 and No. 20 jerseys on the backs of mustachioed men with potbellies. Set yourself apart with the jersey of 1997's Defensive Rookie of the Year and key piece of the team's dominant turn-of-the-century defense.

    Worst: Elvis Grbac #18
    The Ravens made a historically unprecedented decision to replace their Super Bowl-winning QB with Grbac. It didn't go well. Better to just pretend it never happened by not wearing his jersey.

    » Get your custom Baltimore Ravens gear here

  • Cincinnati Bengals 11

    NFL/Associated Press

    Cincinnati Bengals

    Best: Coy Bacon #79
    Three reasons: 1. His last name is Bacon, which looks grand on the back of a jersey; 2. He wore the franchise's original, simpler, tiger-stripeless jersey while leading the league in sacks in 1976; 3. Bacon tastes good.

    Worst: David Klingler #7
    The otherwise neck-and-neck race between the University of Houston bust and fellow first-round failure Akili Smith is broken by Klingler's last name, which sounds like it belongs to a goofy sitcom character. Or a laughable NFL QB.

    » Get your custom Cincinnati Bengals gear here

  • Cleveland Browns 10

    NFL/Associated Press

    Cleveland Browns

    Best: Jim Brown #32
    Tempting to go with the late Ernie Davis, who personifies the near-misses and what-might-have-beens to which Browns fans have become familiar over the last half-century. Ultimately, though, Jim Brown is the right choice -- he's arguably the best player in the history of the sport, and, as you may have noticed, has the same name as the team.

    Worst: Ozzie Newsome #82
    Ozzie Newsome's jersey would be a prime "best jersey" candidate for the Browns, except he moved to Baltimore and built the Ravens into two-time champs. Fair or not, he's the symbol of the franchise's seismic shift from Cleveland to Baltimore -- and that's something no Browns fan should ever acknowledge, let alone embrace.

    » Get your custom Cleveland Browns gear here.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers 9

    National Football League

    Pittsburgh Steelers

    Best: Mel Blount #47
    By most teams' standards, the Steelers have been very successful since 1980. Not coincidentally, they've had a number of dynamic players whose jerseys would look good on a fan of the black-and-gold. That said, it's probably best to stick with a member of the '70s team -- after all, with four crowns in six years, they remain the NFL's greatest dynasty. Fans on the banks of the Three Rivers appreciate old-school style, and will be sure to pat you on the back for going with Blount's No. 47 over more rote choices like Bradshaw, Lambert or Swann.

    Worst: Cliff Stoudt #18
    If it weren't for QBs Stoudt and 1980 first-round pick Mark Malone, the Steelers might have drafted a local kid named Marino back in 1983.

    » Get your custom Pittsburgh Steelers gear here.

  • Houston Texans 8

    Associated Press

    Houston Texans

    Best: Earl Campbell #34
    Yes, it's wrong to wear the jersey of a player whose team abandoned your city. But Campbell's the exception that proves the rule here. First of all, the Texans don't exactly have a bunch of Hall of Famers in their brief history, and secondly, Tyler Rose was a Heisman winner for UT (the state's BMOC) before making the Oilers relevant in the late 1970s. Besides, those powder blue uniforms were nifty.

    Worst: Ed Reed #20
    He might yet prove to be the missing piece for the contending Texans, but at this point, he hasn't done a thing for the team -- and even if he does, do you think he'll consider himself a Texan or a Raven when it's all said and done?

    » Get your custom Houston Texans gear here.

  • Indianapolis Colts 7

    NFL/Associated Press

    Indianapolis Colts

    Best: Mike Pagel #18
    Show the world you've been a Colts fan -- an Indianapolis Colts fan -- since Day One ... even before the arrival of that other guy who wore the blue-and-white No. 18.

    Worst: Mike Vanderjagt #13
    I could go into detail about the big kicks he missed in big games, but his egregious misstep was badmouthing the head coach and star QB -- or, as that aforementioned star QB put it, "Our idiot kicker got liquored up and ran his mouth off."

    » Get your custom Indianapolis Colts gear here.

  • Jacksonville Jaguars 6

    Associated Press/NFL

    Jacksonville Jaguars

    Best: Fred Taylor #28
    The Jags have only been around since 1995, so there's not a ton of history to lean on when looking for a jersey that references the pro football heritage in Jacksonville (that is, unless you can find Brian Sipe's Jacksonville Bulls jersey from the USFL days). No shame in embracing the guy who wore teal for 11 seasons after playing his college ball an hour away in Gainesville.

    Worst: Tim Tebow #15
    Nothing wrong with being excited about the star of the nearby collegiate powerhouse playing for your team ... so long as he actually plays for your team. Too many Jags fans got so swept up in the rumors surrounding Tebow's nonexistent arrival in Jacksonville, they went out and bought his jersey. I know things have been grim there the last few seasons, but still ...

    » Get your custom Jacksonville Jaguars gear here.

  • Tennessee Titans 5

    Associated Press

    Tennessee Titans

    Best: Kevin Dyson #87
    Steve McNair's No. 9 is still ubiquitous in Nashville. Jevon Kearse's No. 90 remains popular, too, but when he left for Philly, his jersey should've left any Titans fan's closet. Instead, go with Dyson, who was involved in the most iconic plays of Tennessee's Super Bowl run back in 1999.

    Worst: Pacman Jones #32
    Subpar play, contract disputes, arrests ... what's not to love?! (If you don't understand the sarcasm in the previous sentence, you deserve to get rained on.)

    » Get your custom Tennessee Titans gear here.

  • Denver Broncos 4

    Associated Press

    Denver Broncos

    Best: Haven Moses #25
    Yeah, Elway's No. 7 is nice, but why merely go old school when you can go Old Testament?!

    Worst: Brian Griese #14
    Taking over for a legend on the level of Elway is hard. Griese was soft.

    » Get your custom Denver Broncos gear here.

  • Kansas City Chiefs 3

    Associated Press/NFL

    Kansas City Chiefs

    Best: Jan Stenerud #3
    The defensive stars from the early Super Bowl teams are all great candidates here, but what says pigskin in the American Heartland more than a Scandinavian kicker? Well, a lot of things, actually, but Stenerud deserves acknowledgment from Chiefs fans as the only pure kicker in the Hall of Fame, especially after those fans watched less-than-legendary Lin Elliott keep the team from a Super Bowl in '95.

    Worst: Todd Blackledge #14
    Blackledge -- the 7th overall pick in 1983 -- is the last QB drafted by K.C. to win a regular season game, but that's not exactly something a Chiefs fan should be proud of. In fact, it should be buried like a deep, dark, humiliating secret.

    » Get your custom Kansas City Chiefs gear here.

  • Oakland Raiders 2

    NFL/Associated Press

    Oakland Raiders

    Best: Otis Sistrunk #60
    Of all the characters to play for John Madden's iconic Raiders, Sistrunk might have defined the team best thanks to his bulging, bloodshot eyes and shaved bald head (before Michael Jordan made the look cool). Don't worry, though: The Assassin's No. 32, Snake's No. 12, Lester the Molester's No. 37 and the Stork's No. 83 will also earn you the respect of the Black Hole's denizens.

    Worst: JaMarcus Russell #2
    Rarely has a uniform number better described a player's performance.

    » Get your custom Oakland Raiders gear here.

  • San Diego Chargers 1

    NFL/Associated Press

    San Diego Chargers

    Best: Lance Alworth #19
    Resisted the urge to go with Air Coryell's human highlight film, John Jefferson, but ultimately chose Alworth, one of the best to ever play his position, and -- thanks in part to one of the NFL's best ever uniforms -- one of the most spectacular to watch. Plus, No. 19 is a cool number for a wide receiver.

    Worst: Ryan Leaf #16
    Update: The Colts made the right call taking Peyton over Leaf. The Chargers made the wrong call taking Leaf over anyone else.

    » Get your custom San Diego Chargers gear here.

Discuss ()