I watched the Minnesota Vikings-San Francisco 49ers game Monday night with Dave Kopay, who played running back with the Niners in the late '60s and early '70s. The ESPN broadcast started and we both did a double take. Who was that team wearing ugly all-black uniform with red numbers, looking like some Arena League or prison team?
It was the 49ers, sporting an alternative home uniform they will wear twice this season. Gone for the night were the classic and iconic red uniforms with gold helmets. "Old gold," Kopay called it, as we both ripped the new uniforms. These weren't "throwback" uniforms, meant to invoke and earlier era. This was Oregon-football style uniforms, new ones that will be whipped out as a way to increase jersey sales.
By all accounts, the jerseys have sold well and are popular with the players. And the 49ers won handily, but if it were up to me, they would be retired with a perfect 1-0 record. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to uniforms and think changes have to have some grand purpose, not simply a way to goose sales. The numbers on the 49ers jerseys, for example, clashed with the black so badly that it made it hard to ID the players. And I hate uniforms of all one solid color (all-white unis, on the other hand, can be very attractive). Why mess with a classic?
The Niners weren't the only NFL team to offend my fashion sense in Week 1. The Cleveland Browns unveiled their new home uniforms (they played at the Jets, who chose to wear white) and they were an unappealing mismash of brown and orange, with orange numbers that were too garish. In typical Browns style, their coaches reportedly find that the numbers make it hard to identify players when reviewing tape. Leave it to the Browns to OK a design that could potentially have a negative impact on the field.
I might be a stick in the mud about these things so here are the old and new uniforms of the 49ers and Browns. Take a look and pick your favorites in the poll below.
(Photos by USA TODAY Sports)