By Lenn Robbins,The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
With no NFL games this weekend – please let’s not refer to the Pro Bowl as a game – we decided to do what every NFL reporter scrambles to do in the two weeks before the Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl – come up with off-beat, albeit, interesting content.
While watching the Bengals record another one of their trademark underdog, road, come-from-behind victories, a friend’s son said, “Those Bengals helmets are tough,” which I learned means cool.
He was correct. Those orange and back-striped helmets, which we’ll see next week when Cincinnati and the L.A. Rams meet in Super Bowl LVI, are pretty, uh, tough. The Rams once had a terrific helmet until they moved into their new stadium and scraped the class yellow ram’s horns with something along the lines of the initials of someone named Lame Attempt.
This inspired a spirited, somewhat buzzed debate about who has the best helmet in the NFL. Before we present our list, here are our two early wagers. We like the Rams giving the 4.5 points. And Von Miller may not win MVP, but he will be the impact player who impacts the game.
- Steelers – No football team captures the bond between its football team and town better than Pittsburgh. The three-stars on the helmet – yellow (coal), orange (iron ore) and blue (scrap metal) – with Steelers are iconic. When you think Pittsburgh, you think steel. Then you think steel, you think Pittsburg.
- Packers – No fancy design, no redesign every now and then for sales purposes. The white, oblong G, outlined in green, represents football and Green Bay. Set against a yellow helmet, the G says. As Lombardi never said, “Helmets aren’t everything, they’re the only thing.
- Raiders – No matter where they go, and the Raiders, who have called Oakland, L.A. and Las Vegas home, have been on the go, the black shield with the black patch over one eye of the helmeted “Raider,” screams: We come; We raid; We leave. Why Raiders hasn’t come to the NBA, NHL or MLB is a mystery.
- Saints – If the Steelers are the best at linking a helmet with a city, the Saints are a damn-close runner up. The black fleur de lis against the gold background is ideal for this Cajun city and its French Quarter. Now get me a po-boy and a Hurricane, followed by some beignets and coffee from Café Du Monde and we’re ready for some football!
- Cowboys – How many states are as well known by their moniker – the Lone Star state – as Texas? The navy star against the silver helmet has been the Cowboys staple since its third season. Momma may not want their sons to grow up to be cowboys, but wearing that helmet is cooler than any Stetson out there.
- Vikings – The two, white Gjallarhorn (meaning horn and yell) are as synonymous to the Minnesota Vikings as it is to Scandinavia Vikings. Thirty-two percent of the population of Minnesota is of Scandinavian descent. Placed against the purple helmet, Skoll Country waits for the renaissance of the Purple People Eaters.
- Chargers – We hope they never win a “home” playoff game in Inglewood, but the white lightning bolt outlined in power blue against a yellow background is the prettiest is the NFL. Because there never was any mention of San Diego, the lightning bolt logo makes the move to Inglewood seamless. But leaving SD is unforgivable.
- Colts – Similar to the Packers’ G, the Colts horseshoe is plain, simple and unmistakable. Unlike the Steelers, who have only known Pittsburgh home, Colts arrived in Indy in the middle of the night, making any bond with the city a reach. But the blue horseshoe (open side up to catch good luck) is classy.
- Bengals – Their futility of late has obscured the chicness of the orange helmet with the black stripes. If that doesn’t scream Bengals, what else would? Yes, there’s no mention of Cincy or green chili but play to your strengths. The previous orange helmets
- Chiefs – the late Lamar Hunt, one of the leading founders of the AFC reportedly designed the white arrowhead with an interlocking KC and a black outline on a napkin. Hunt liked the interlocking SF on the Niners helmet. His is better.
- 49ers – If only there was a 49ers reference on the gold helmet. A mean-looking panhandler (is there a nice looking one?). San Fran’s red interlocking SF is resplendent, true, but it’s about the gold, gold, gold.
- Buccaneers – For a franchised founded in 1976, the two Super Bowl titles is impressive, both won under the pewter helmet with a red flag that backdrops a skull above a football with crossed swords. The Gulf Coast had its share of buccaneers. Now it has strip clubs. Same difference.
- Seahawks – This begins a run on animal logo/mascots which often don’t make sense. At least in this sense Seattle fans voted on Seahawks. The ornery looking bird is emblematic of the many Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest. By far the fiercest looking bird in the NFL.
- Dolphins – This is the 1st entry in the category of teams that changed their helmet for the worse. Miami used to have a playful-looking dolphin wearing a helmet. No there is no helmet and the dolphin looks like a killer whale. But the turquois mammal jumping into an orange-sun outline against a white helmet is second only to the Chargers.
- Eagles – There is some history here. The Eagles are named for the blue eagle which was symbolic of the New Deal. But like Miami, Philly’s decision to go away from a screaming eagle clutching a football to silver and white wings against a green helmet is a loss.
- Broncos – A benefactor and victim of redesign. The original white bronco looked sickly. The white bronco head, spewing smoke from its nostrils inside a capital D was tough. The current Bronco helmet has no D and the bronco has orange eyes. Orange eyes?!
- Patriots – The third entry in redesign failure. Patriot Pat in a three-point stance with the down hand on the football was Top 5. The new Patriots logo depicts the profile of a New Englander who looks as if he’s had high cheekbone implants and an extended jaw.
- Lions – The last time a lion was spotted in Detroit was? The Lion is regal, a silver feline raised up on its hind legs is fearsome and impressive. When the franchise was move to Motown the name was in homage to the Tigers, also not seen in Motown since? Motown – hey, how about an auto industry theme?
- Browns – Middle of the pack is a perfect ranking for a no-frills helmet -.no logo, no numbers, just a dark orange helmet. Cleveland fans also voted on the name, in honor of legendary coach Paul Brown. He claimed it was in honor of boxer Joe Lewis, the Brown Bomber.
- Bears – We’ve officially entered the “Meh?” portion of the rankings. The Bears get credit for sticking with wishbone C (wishbone for good luck; C for Chicago) since 1962. The C, originally white, went to orange in 1974, the same colors as the University of Illinois. Perhaps Lions and Bears once roamed the Midwest. Perhaps not.
- Giants – The large NY, with the Y underlining the N is college-student logo design at best. The double-striped NY logo in the mid-70’s was a drastic departure. The Giants then went to italicized “Giants,” before coming back to the NY. Much ado about nothing.
- Falcons – This begins a run of bad bird logos. Atlanta began with a black falcon that looked like a coat hook. Then it added more white, making it look like, well, a coat hook. Then it added some red. Nowhere does it mention Atlanta. Or football. If the falcon was clutching a football, that would be a start.
- Cardinals – Look, the Cardinal makes for a cool logo. The St. Louis Cardinals do it best with the birds perched on a bat. The state bird of Arizona is the Cactus Wren, so there goes that. At least Arizona has played it safe. Just mean-looking Cardinal, which sounds like an oxymoron.
- Ravens – The last of the bird logos and the worst. The raven is a menacing looking bird. Not Baltimore’s. Baltimore’s Raven has a Big Bird quality to it. Two saving graces: It’s better than the original logo, a B with wings. And the fans voted on this new logo. Maryland knows crabs, not birds.
- Rams – One of the worst offenders of the redesign. The pre-2021 yellow ram horns against a blue background was simple and classic. The new one is simply a branding/marketing ploy gone horribly wrong. Anyone who has signed a real estate contract knows how fatigued one gets after initialing in 30 some-odd places. That’s L.A.’s new logo.
- Bills – The most heinous offender of the redesign. The Bills once had a buffalo proudly displayed on their helmet. Then they went to a buffalo rising up off its rear legs as if to take flight, clearly from the school of, “If Pigs Could Fly,” design school. Oh, yes, they added a red stripe.
- Jets – The Jets have a lot of problems. Changing the helmet logo won’t help them win but why did they ever go away from the plane with JETS on the side? Want to make it more NY-centric? Great; write New York on the side. New York Jets. Easy. Instead they went to a helmet outline with NY and Jets stenciled inside and a smaller football. I
- Titans – Tennessee had a clean slate to work with and came up with something out of comic book – a T within what looks like a hazardous material circle racing through the atmosphere trailing contrails. Essentially, it’s a meteor named T. And the colors – red, white, navy blue and Titan blue which mixed together yields gray.
- Commanders – This has nothing to do with politics. The Redskins needed to be abolished. Some two years later we get the Commanders and a W on the helmet. The WFT plays in Maryland and trains in Virginia. Not much W there. Not much originality. W for whatever.
- Panthers – The black growling panther with teal blue or Carolina blue highlights shouldn’t be exposed outside of the Tar Heel State. This looks like a college logo. A Division III logo. And that’s an insult to any Division III that has a member of the feline community as its mascot.
- Jaguars – The only USFL logo in the NFL. ‘Nuff said.
- Texans – Well, what do we have here? The head of a steer split into red and blue, making it resemble comedy and tragedy masks. There is a white star on the blue side but there’s another team in Texas that has the market corned on the star. And to think the Houston had a Top 5 with its Oilers logo. Redo immediately!
P.S. Agree or disagree or both with this ranking, NFL teams will have alternative helmets next season. You have ample time to contact your team and make a case for the design on second helmet.