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The Best Players by Uni Number for … the NFL

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Our latest “Best Players by Uni Number” graphic comes from reader Marc Mayntz. Instead of focusing on a particular city or state, he’s turned his attention to the entire NFL. I’ll let him explain:

I tried to include nameplates, but it just looked clunky and really distracted from the overall look. I did include them for Nos. 1-9, so you could compare and contrast.

Every franchise is represented except the Bengals and Texans. I couldn’t put JJ Watt ahead of Warren Sapp and I couldn’t demote Bruce Smith below Anthony Munoz. Sorry, Cincy and Houston fans.

The Vikings are represented the most, with eight players (sorry about all the purple!), with the Steelers and Niners close behind with seven players each.

I tried to pick uniforms from each player’s “best” season. Reggie White is split evenly between the Eagles and Packers because he was always so consistently good for both teams.

The Cowboys are the only team shown in white.

From an aesthetic standpoint, this is probably the best graphic we’ve seen so far, if only because so many more teams — and thus colors — are represented. As for Marc’s individual player choices, I’ll let you folks quibble about that.

If you want to see more “Best Players by Uni Number” graphics, look here.


Letters on the Move

Yesterday I mentioned the annual appearance of the Red Wings’ preseason NOBs. But it turns out that the Wings have made another preseason move worth noting: Their “C” and “A” designations have quietly migrated from the upper-right chest to the upper left chest (as shown above).

This is just the latest development in the odyssey of the Wings’ C/A positioning, which has gone back and forth across the jersey several times over the decades. Sometimes they’ve worn the letters on the upper-left chest, like most teams do, but there have also been several periods when the letters have appeared on the upper-right chest. The most recent switcheroo came in 2007, when the letters moved from left to right (this was due to their jersey crest moving slightly upward as a result of the then-new Reebok Edge tailoring template). They’ve stayed that way until now.

In any other year, we’d just say, “Well, that’s the Red Wings for ya,” but this year we have to say, “That’s probably to make room for an upcoming ad patch.” Dang.


Bulletin Reminder

In case you missed it on Thursday, this week’s Bulletin article is a faaascinating interview with L.A. Kings equipment assistant Bob Halfacre. Longtime readers may remember him as the guy who designed the Mets’ black uniforms (yes, I like him anyway), but he also has his own uniform company and has been working for the Kings for over 30 years. He has a lot to say about hockey uniforms, illegal jersey sizes, Reverse Retro, Reebok vs. Adidas, how to avoid that locker room smell, and — as you can guess from the photo shown above — his time with the Stanley Cup. For what it’s worth, two of the comments posted on this piece are “Really great interview! I learned a lot.” and “Wow, not a big hockey guy, so wasn’t expecting to be so intrigued by your interview. Very interesting though.”

My Premium Subscribers can read the article here. If you haven’t yet subscribed, you now have three ways to get on board:

Incidentally, next week’s Bulletin piece will be my annual NHL Season Preview, and the NBA Preview will follow the week after that, so this is a good time to subscribe!


Soccer Jersey Reminder

In case you missed it earlier this week, I’m collaborating with longtime Uni Watch reader Austin Chen on the first-ever Uni Watch soccer jerseys! We’re taking pre-orders on them for the next week, for delivery around the start of the World Cup. Full details here.


What Paul Did Last Night

Did you know that September is National Chicken Month? It’s true! And since yesterday was the last Thursday of the month, that meant it was time for Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co.’s annual chicken-themed show, featuring lots of songs about chickens, chicken-clucking background patter, the crowning of a new Chicken Queen, helpful visual aids, and even giveaway gummy chicken feet (sounds gross, tastes surprisingly good!). A swell night at a time when I really needed one.

• • • • •
We got one new Uni Watch Plus sign-up yesterday (thank you!), bringing our running total to 354. I will continue to send a Uni Watch prize package to a randomly selected enrollee on any day when we receive at least seven new sign-ups.

To our Florida readers, our thoughts are with you. Hope you’re okay — let us know how you’re doing. And to our readers in the Carolinas, stay safe today.

I’m visiting my mom this morning. Play nice while I’m away, okay? Okay! — Paul

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Comments (86)

    Definitely agree with the all-NFL graphic being the most aesthetically pleasing. Really great work from Marc. (Though I can’t say say I agree with Reggie Wayne (as good as he was) over Rob Gronkowski at 87.)

    More egregious is that they put his Carolina uni on there. Dude played 3 seasons at the end of his career in CAR. He was a member of the legendary Dome Patrol and a member of the New Orleans Saints for a decade. Sam Mills is a Saint.

    I knew someone who called him Cutler Claus because he had a tendency to give games away.

    I think I’d take a kicker over him, too.

    LJ Smith over Ozzie Newsome? Even Stallworth…
    I’m sure there are plenty of other 82’s better than Smith, who was a solid tight end for like 5 years.
    And while I can’t think of many great players to wear number 6, certainly there are many better than Cutler.

    I believe that’s Jimmy Smith of the Jaguars. It was probably done so that the Jags could be included on this list. As a Ravens fan, I would have preferred Ozzie as well, but the Browns are already represented by Jim Brown.

    Jimmy Smith! That makes way more sense. Eagles and Jags uniforms are far more similar than I would have thought. Still, Newsome is far better, to the point that attempted inclusion of all teams wouldn’t justify him in this spot.
    Also looking at it again I just assumed the green 60 was Chuck Bednarik, and didn’t even pay attention to the name. That is another major mistake. Concrete Charlie was placed on the NFL 50th, 75th, and 100th anniversary teams. A dominant two way player.

    OK, I couldn’t figure out who 82 for the Eagles was, but if it’s Jimmy Smith that makes more sense. That said, picking Smith (who was very good!) over JOHN STALLWORTH is what the kids call “cray-cray.”

    Jimmy Smith makes more sense but man the Jags and Eagles are a lot closer to each other with those respective sets, both in color and number font.
    Speaking of the Birds: #5 and #23 must not be popular numbers. I can’t believe McNabb and Vincent are the best ever with those numbers but I have not done the research.
    And the “2” on Reggie White’s “92” is it the one the Packers wore.

    I looked on Pro-Football Reference, 6 is a pretty meh number throughout the history of the NFL. Cutler honestly probably the best. There’s a couple good punters to don the number, but at this point Baker Mayfield might be the second best 6. That’s how unimpressive that number is.

    I think 6 is the only eligible number that has never been worn by a starting Super Bowl QB.

    Little doubt that Concrete Charlie ought to be at #60 over Grantham…though I would lobby for Otto Graham.
    If you ‘had’ to include a Jet, I’d replace Faulk with Curtis Martin for #28.

    Agree. Bednarik was a great center AND great middle-linebacker. And I’m a Giants rooter since 1958.

    Agree that Butkus is a clear choice over Sam Mills. And Reggie Wayne over Gronk? Wayne wasn’t even the best wideout on his own team for the first half of his career! Seriously the team needs a tight end! Finally Sapp over Aaron Donald is a total joke. Donald is one of the 2 best DTs that I can remember watching (I am 63). Hint-The other one made the team and also has ties to Pittsburgh.

    Instead of criticizing the choices, enjoy the beautiful aesthetics of the collage!

    Alvin Kamara for #41? Maybe in a few years. Until then, it has to be triple-threat Keith Byars.

    Wonderful visual. But even this Bucs fan is going to have a hard time defending Sapp Daddy over Aaron Donald at 99.

    Clearly stated that he tried to get every team represented so in the case of close calls put it in for the guy whose team isn’t represented.

    Makes sense for Jimmy Smith but not Sam Mills as Steve Smith and Julius Peppers is listed.

    This graphics for this series of “Best By Number” all look great, especially this one…and the debate of who should be listed/who was omitted is fun and informative.
    Minor nitpick: Shouldn’t the 9 in Reggie White’s block have a black outline?

    I believe that’s a “split” jersey representing the Packers with the 9 and the Eagles with the 2

    Tough for me to tell which is which…so one of those digits needs the border.
    Personally, since no other player got the split-decision treatment, I’d depict Reggie as an Eagle. YMMV.

    The thing about the graphic is each time I look at it I catch another detail.
    Patriots shown in red and blue, FNOB for Youngblood, different shades for the Vikings, the NASCAR font for Polamalu.
    I can make some arguments for chosen players but no argument about how much thought and detail went into it.
    Well done!

    Champ Bailey over Charles Woodson at 24? Nah.

    And yeah, I hate seeing a Bronco over a Raider anywhere.

    If I could pay to watch one player over again in his prime it would be Gale Sayers. Lenny Moore (who I’d plug into the #24 slot over any of those mentioned) would be a close second to Sayers. Two guys who were magic with the ball in their hands.

    These graphics are always fun. I enjoy the back-and-forth over choices.

    I’m a Giants fan so naturally my eyes darted right to 56. I didn’t expect to see any other Giants included so I was very pleasantly surprised to see Jesse Armstead at 98. Not only is that the first football jersey I ever bought, but I had the chance to meet him once and he’s an incredibly nice and gracious person. Great selection.

    Feel like Otto Graham should get 14 over Fouts or 60 over Grantham. He played 10 seasons and went to 10 championship games.

    I can fix Cutler super easy – change the NOB “C” to a “B”. Any Bears fan will tell you Kevin Butler was a far better 6.

    I proposed Butler over Cutler when this exercise was done for Chicago teams a few months ago. Others agreed.

    A top kicker isn’t more valuable than a league average starting QB, but at least you can point to him being one of the best of his era (twice, second team All-Pro).

    Kevin Butler is a lot more likeable, too.

    As an Eagles fan, I don’t think McNabb deserves to be on this list. He had some really good stats and took us to multiple NFC Championships but that’s also the huge issue with McNabb. He could never win the Big Game. Also, his character and off the field antics tarnish his reputation here in Philly.

    P.S. Chuck Bednarik Should have been 60

    This is awesome…as someone who did one of this, mad props to you. I’m not going to call out any numbers because this is your list and not mine…this looks amazing…

    Paul — were there any numbers that were hard to find a representative for because it is an unpopular number? For instance, there are many many great players that wore #88. Are there any numbers where the reverse of that is true? Where there just were not a lot of choices?

    One quibble i have is Marshall Faulk and Orlando Pace. I feel you should have the jersey eras swapped. Pace spent more seasons in the classic rams uniform whereas Faulk played only one season in the classic rams uniform. I’d give Pace the classic look and give Faulk the updated look.

    Cool collage indeed! If we really wanted to get the Bengals in there, I’d nominate Chad Johnson fka Ochocinco, but yeah no I don’t know any Houston Texans would could be remotely good enough for this exercise aside from JJ Watt, and Warren Sapp was a true monster.
    Red Wings…sigh I hate that you’re probably right, but if you’re pleasantly wrong then I’d say the cynicism is totally on point.

    I love Larry Fitzgerald and if you are under the age of 30 I totally understand. However, the best 11 ever worn has to be HOF and two time NFL champ Norm Van Brocklin. He won one each for Rams and Iggles. The last one beating a meat packing team from Green Bay coached by Lombardi. Not too shabby.
    Still has the record for most passing yards in a game with 554.
    NYT ran an article on the great one just two days ago.

    Cam Newton > Warren Moon. Newton had one of the top 3 or 4 seasons a QB has ever had. That alone puts him over. Also Kuechly should absolutely be 59.

    Bednarik at 60, but that’s just my opinion.

    McNabb was surprising at first, but I honestly can’t think of any other #5’s better than him. Kerry Collins? No way…

    Steve Young over Troy Aikman? Methinks not. I’d argue Zack Martin should have 70 over Rayfield Wright too, though I’m happy both are Cowboys.

    I love that Champ Bailey is included. Too bad he made the cut as a Bronco and not for Washington. Stephen Davis (48) surprised me. Faulk over Darrell Green at # 28? Meh, I don’t know. Bummed that not one of the Hogs made the cut. I would’ve liked to see Russ Grimm (68), Jeff Bostic (53) or Joe Jacoby (66) in this. And with all due respect that I can muster for anybody who played for Dallas, I’d put Slingin’ Sammy Baugh ahead of Tony Dorsett for # 33.

    On the subject of Washington, their representatives here probably should’ve gotten a white background, given that they were a white-jersey-at-home team from ’81 to ’00. I definitely don’t associate John Riggins with Washington’s burgundy (*cough*red*cough*) jersey.

    I’m not going to debate players but I do see a number font error for Jim Langer. I don’t think the Dolphins ever used that style “2” during Langer’s time in Miami. Also, something about the “6” for Langer and Kuechenberg just doesn’t look right. It’s almost as if it’s upside down.

    Interesting that they went with Orlando Pace in the St. Louis navy/gold, but Marshall Faulk in the old Royal/Yellow that carried over to StL for a few years, when Pace wore those colors for longer than Faulk (drafted in ’97 vs Faulk being traded to the Rams in ’99)! Also, I could easily put JJ Watt OR Aaron Donald over Warren Sapp at #99, if you asked me :)

    My fault…I re-read and see that the artist chose the player’s best season, which ’99 could definitely be argued as Faulk’s best season

    Well, at least you got Jim Brown right. But Otto Graham (14) had a far better career than Dan Fouts (who never won a thing), and Joe Thomas (73) was better than John Hannah. And a strong case can be made for Leroy Kelly (44) over John Riggins.

    P.S. There was nobody better than Jay Cutler (6) in the entire history of the NFL? Nobody?

    The ONE AND ONLY #60 is Concrete Charlie Bednarik.
    Any one of the #3 Kickers (Stover, Stenerud, etc.) over Russell Wilson at #3
    Fred Belitnekoff over Sherman at #25
    Randy White over Urlacher at #54
    #36 should be The Bus.
    #30 Why not Bill Brown or Lawrence McCutcheon?
    #40, Mike Haynes over Crazylegs Hirsch? No way.

    Don’t apologize for the Vikings’ purple! Purple looks good and everyone but you knows it! If anything sports needs more of it! GET OVER IT!!!

    I agree there must be a better choice than Cutler for #6.

    Don Hutson > Dan Fouts for #14. Set receiving records not broken for decades while revolutionizing the position.

    I understand the reasoning but would also put Donald for 99. Would also pick Butkus > Mills.

    Packers fans would put Tony Canadeo over Wilson but not one I would go to the mat over. However, Horning > McNabb I might …

    I have nothing against Dallas, but a very little thing that bothers me when I look at this is the “Cowboys Column” of Newton, Wright, and Martin.
    Swap out Big Cat for Art Donovan for added visual appeal (plus he’s worthy of consideration).

    Wright over Huff is unconscionable. So is Mills over Butkus. Also Haynes over Sayers, Rivers over Williams, and for the love of God, Tony Dorsett over SAMMY BAUGH?!?!?!?! Faneca over Ray Nitschke?. Picking McNabb over Hornung? For the most part, this looks like a “best to wear the number since 1990.”

    #74 is an embarrassment of riches: in addition to Bruce Matthews, cases could easily be made for both Bob Lilly and Merlin Olsen as well.

    Matthews absolutely belongs at #74.
    The only issue I have is that he should be represented as the lone Titan on this graphic ; )

    Bob Lilly is one of the top ten players in NFL history. Bruce Matthews played for a long time and was good…not an all-time great.

    Man what a good looking spread. Great work. These things are so fun to compile and discuss. Two additional suggestions: 87 for hall of fame DE Claude Humphrey, and 3 for hall of famer Jan Stenerud.

    Great graphic, but like some others, I have some disagreements:
    3: Jan Stenrud (hall of famer, no less)
    5: George McAfee (hall of famer RB for Chicago Bears)
    17: Harold Carmichael (Eagles WR) or Jim Hart (Cardinals QB)
    35: John Henry Johnson (HOF RB for Steelers, 49ers)
    41: Tom Matte (Baltimore RB from the 60s)
    43: Charley Taylor (HOF WR for the Redskins)
    51: Dick Butkus (COME ON, MAN)

    70 should be Jim Marshall, the TRUE NFL Iron Man.
    93 should be John Randle. That would make 10 Vikings, cementing our place in history as top underachievers.

    If players are listed by where they had their best seasons shouldn’t Manning be listed as a Bronco? 2013 in Denver is the best season he, or any other QB, has ever had.

    The “[s]orry, Cincy and Houston fans” is an odd word choice when Houston fans are represented by Bruce Matthews. He may not have been a Texan, but Houston fans absolutely loved him, and he spent twice as long there as he did in Tennessee post-move.

    I know he’s only in his 6th season, but I think T.J. Watt should get a shout at #90. His impact on the game is really obvious even when he isn’t playing! The Steelers have not won a single game when he has been out. And when he plays, he somehow makes the rest of the defence seem to play a notch higher.

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