While the Denver Broncos helmet has gone through numerous changes, the team’s overall identity has followed from what might be the strangest AFL/NFL uniform ever in the early 1960s to the dated redesign of 1997 that remains true here in 2019.
Who the Broncos are today aren’t the same team they were in the early 1990s and ditto for those teams of the 1960s and 70s, especially those early-1960s duds, and they were duds, believe me.
In fact, overall color schemes and in recent memory, color shades, have transformed the Broncos by the generation, adopting some of the latest trends until today, when the team continues to stick with their same 1997 design, but is something bigger and better in the making?
When the Broncos debuted in 1960, their shades of mustard yellow and barnyard brown became that of a laughingstock, which bode true to their helmets, which were plain brown with a white numbered decal on the sides.
The team played as well as their laughingstock look, compiling a combined record of 7-20-1 between 1961 and 1962.
In 1962, Jack Faulkner became the coach and made it a point to change the team’s image, dropping the infamous color scheme and helmets changed to orange as the primary color with royal blue as the secondary.
In 1967, the Broncos would switch to a royal blue helmet and went without a logo, the only team in the AFL to do so at the time and the only team in professional football other than the Cleveland Browns.
In 1968, the team added the ‘D’ with bucking bronco logo that the team became synonymous with over the next twenty-nine seasons, from 1968 to 1996.
These helmets remained for the Broncos except during the 1994 season when NFL teams wore throwback uniforms to commemorate the NFL’s 75th anniversary, whereas they wore their 1962-1967 design during select throwback games.
In 1997, the Broncos, like many teams in the late 90s and early 2000s, debuted a radically redesigned look featuring darker colors, which were becoming popular during the turn of the century.
Teams like the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers, among others, had started this trend in 1996, and by 2002, the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers had all followed suit.
For the Broncos, the new look consisted of a navy blue helmet shell with a fiercer-looking bronco’s head and an orange mane. Blue became the primary color with orange now fully relegated to secondary status.
In 2009, to commemorate the AFL’s 50th Anniversary, the Broncos brought back the infamous brown helmet that had not been seen since 1961 to be worn during select games on NFL-sponsored Throwback Weekends, featuring the original AFL teams dressing up in their 1960s looks, along with the officials who wore AFL-themed uniforms featuring red stripes in favor of the traditional NFL look.
This helmet has remained with the team ever since, but upon debuting their color rush look, the Broncos revived the old bucking bronco within the capital ‘D’ to pair with their navy helmets for a combination of a classic look with a modern twist.
I’m honestly in love with the color rush helmets, which as I stated above, provide an epic combination of modern and classic. If I had my way, these helmets would be promoted to full-time while the current helmets would fade into the past.
It would combine innovation with tradition, linking both new and old school Broncos fans to something fresh, keeping up with a modern look while giving a well-deserved nod to past Broncos’ teams.
While had the NFL not instituted a ban on the use of multiple-colored helmets during the season, Nike, when creating the Color Rush look, may’ve gone as far as to have brought back the royal blues, but we’ll never know.
Either way, adopting the faux-back look will enter the team into something that’s rather unique amont NFL Circles.
My argument here is the Broncos’ current helmet and overall uniform is so outdated I’m surprised there aren’t jokes stating ‘1999 called, they want their uniform back.’ It’s a dated Reebok design that went out of style somewhere in 2008-09, when teams started, for the most part, reverting back to classic threads, a trend that continues into 2019. Ironically, it was the 49ers who began such a trend when they brought back a modernized version of their “Championship Colors.”
While I would lobby for the old royal blue helmet, the color rush version works and even if the Broncos didn’t redesign their uniforms to go along with the helmet, it would still be a decent fit with the current uniforms nonetheless.
If the Broncos are listening, bring them back!
Whether the Broncos decide to bring back something more classic or adopt the faux-back remains to be seen, but this much is certain: The NFL teams aren’t forced to wear their Color Rush look these days, though many have adopted the look as third jerseys. Teams like the Cleveland Browns, Broncos, and others have gladly adopted such a look, meaning to me they’re a hit with the fans, or else these teams wouldn’t bother.
It remains to be seen if the Broncos decide to adopt something lighter, as much of the NFL has been doing recently, with more teams scheduled to do so in 2020 and beyond, notably the Browns and Rams. The Broncos did make such a swap a few years back with their jerseys, promoting the orange look to primary status while relegating the blue to alternate, along with the orange Color Rush jerseys.
Perhaps with enough fan demand, the dated 1997-look will return to the history books for good.