Bungled Uniforms
September 23, 2009 | Kevin Zdancewicz


For this generation, the Cincinnati Bengals have been perennial losers. We're talking two winning seasons in the past twenty years (1990 and 2005). Clicking through the Bengals History page is like a marathon of all those depressing summer reading books in high school. (It's interesting to me that such a disheartening franchise has such a comprehensive history page, but that is neither here nor there). It looked like the Bungles might turn the corner in the middle of this decade with some .500 seasons surrounding that magical 2005 run to the first round of the playoffs that was stopped short by a Kimo von Oelhoffen shot to Carson Palmer's knee, but it didn’t last and now the team appears to have fallen on hard times again.


A beleaguered, yet glass-half-full Bengals fan during this sad stretch could always say, "At least the team has cool uniforms." That is, until 2004 when Cincinnati unveiled a new set that left something to be desired. The pre-2004 uniforms featured a solid incorporation of the tiger stripes theme into the football uniform template without going overboard. That basic look had been in use since 1981 when the team introduced the innovative helmet design, with the small addition of the cool leaping-Bengal logo to the sleeves in 1997. The team didn't do anything too drastic to change the look in’04, adding an orange alternate jersey and black pants and making small changes here and there. This begs the question, why bother ditching the solid previous set if the minimal changes are not for the better?


The current uniforms really don’t look too bad from the front, but from the side is a whole other issue. Cincinnati caught the side panel bug that has been going around mostly the college game (and some NFL teams) in recent years and unfortunately ended up on the miss side of a hit-or-miss uniform element. When the new Bengals’ uniforms were unveiled, I remember hearing that the white side panels were meant to mimic the white on an actual Bengal tiger. Though potentially apocryphal, if that was part of the reasoning then the Bengals organization seemed to forget an important fact: they were designing football uniforms, not an actual animal. The white looks fine on a tiger, but not so much on these side panels. Cincy tried to integrate the white into the pants stripe – not a bad idea considering that a large patch of white might not sync up nicely with the tiger stripes pattern – but the final product is less than stellar. This error is only compounded by how far the panels come up on the jerseys, which is often inconsistent from one player to the next.


The helmets remain the one bright spot, an orange shell with distinct black tiger stripes that surely cover the most polycarbonate real estate in the NFL. The simple, but powerful look strays from the normal pattern of a team logo on each side or wings/horns that appear to come off a player's head and becomes something very unique. But unlike a description of the rest of the uniform, in this case we mean unique in the good way.

Photo Courtesy of SI.com

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