Another year, another Super Bowl featuring the New England Patriots. But there are plenty of good uni-related subplots in this Sunday's Pats-Rams matchup, which we'll get to in a second.
First, here are the basics: The NFC is the designated home conference this year, which means the Los Angeles Rams get their choice of which uniform to wear. They've opted to go with their blue and yellow throwbacks. That wouldn't normally be allowed in a Super Bowl, but the Rams received permission from the league to wear their throwbacks more often this season than the rules would normally allow, and that waiver is now extending to the big game.
This in turn means that New England will be wearing its white road uniform for the second consecutive Super Bowl. The Pats were the home team last year but chose to wear white because that's what they'd worn for their previous two Super Bowl wins (plus, it didn't hurt that the previous six Super Bowl winners, and 12 of the previous 13, had worn white).
That sets the sartorial stage for the big game. Here are 10 tidbits to keep in mind while the action unfolds on Sunday.
1. A Super Bowl first: The Rams have been switching back and forth between their primary white helmet horns and their yellow throwback helmet horns design all season. (The helmet shells are the same; they swap out the horn decals.) That includes the progression from the NFC Championship Game, in which they wore white horns, to the Super Bowl, in which they'll be wearing the yellow horns. They'll have different face mask colors, too. All of which will make them the first Super Bowl team to wear a different helmet design in the big game than the one it wore to win the conference championship.
Super Bowl Fun Fact: Rams will become 1st team ever to wear different helmet designs in the conference championship game (left) and the Super Bowl (right).— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) January 28, 2019
(Doesn't violate one-shell rule because it's the same set of helmets with different horn decals and masks). pic.twitter.com/J0zC2ubfeq
2. Blast from the past: The Rams are poised to become the second team to wear a throwback uniform in the Super Bowl. The first was the 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX. They were one of many teams that wore throwbacks during the 1994 regular season as part of the NFL's 75th-anniversary celebration, and they received permission to keep wearing the retro design in the postseason.
Super Bowl Fun Fact: The Rams will become only the second SB team to wear throwbacks. The first? The 49ers in SB XXIX. pic.twitter.com/aKwU2AzFVs— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) January 28, 2019
3. Blast from the past denied: With the Rams wearing throwbacks, many fans have called on the Patriots to wear their old "Pat Patriot" throwbacks. Unfortunately, that's not possible due to the NFL's "one-shell" rule, which makes it impossible for the Pats to wear a white helmet shell, at least for now (though a possible solution to that problem might be on the horizon).
Super Bowl un-Fun Fact: Even if the Patriots wanted to wear Pat Patriot throwbacks this Sunday (which seems unlikely, given how the Brady/Belichick era is associated with the current uni set), they can't because of the NFL's one-shell rule. Details here: https://t.co/nv4BvgNjnm pic.twitter.com/nOAWrbESzw— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) January 28, 2019
Color by numbers Numbers by color: The Patriots have appeared in so many Super Bowls that it can be hard to remember which uniform they wore in which game. Here's a graphic showing their Super Bowl uni history, along with the result of each game:
Super Bowl Fun Fact: This will be the Pats' 11th Super Bowl. They're 2-2 in navy jerseys, 3-2 in white, and 0-1 in red. (h/t John M. Williams) pic.twitter.com/jt7eAwXvAv— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) January 28, 2019
5. Blue meanies: Lots of fans have complained that the Rams' navy blue helmet shell doesn't match their royal blue throwback jersey. But guess what: The helmet and jersey didn't match back when this uniform was originally worn, so the throwback's color mismatch is true to the original.
Super Bowl Fun Fact: Everyone's been complaining that the Rams' throwback helmet and jersey don't match (left), but they didn't match back in the day either (right), so that aspect of the throwback is actually accurate! pic.twitter.com/5wkNPEUSNc— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) January 28, 2019
6. Got it right the first time: The Rams' helmets are essentially unchanged since they were painted onto the team's leatherhead lids by halfback Fred Gehrke, who studied art at the University of Utah. Seven decades later, it's still the best helmet design the league has ever had.
Super Bowl Fun Fact: The Rams' helmet horns were first painted onto the team's leather helmets by halfback Fred Gehrke, who studied art in college. pic.twitter.com/g892zwUD3m— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) January 28, 2019
7. The more things change ... : The Rams and Patriots faced each other in one previous championship game: Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002. The Pats' uniforms have barely changed since then, while the Rams' look has undergone a series of incremental changes. (As a footnote, Pats quarterback Tom Brady played in that game, while Rams quarterback Jared Goff was busy being 7 years old.)
Super Bowl Fun Fact: Rams and Pats previously faced each other in SB XXXVI. Pats' uniforms have barely changed since then, while Rams have made a series of alterations. pic.twitter.com/yIykxCOsSc— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) January 28, 2019
8. Heavenly: The Rams have never worn their royal blue jerseys in a Super Bowl -- or have they? They wore that uni during the Super Bowl scenes of the 1978 movie "Heaven Can Wait," with Hollywood star Warren Beatty leading the team to victory -- and wearing the same number as current Rams signal-caller Jared Goff! A sign from above, perhaps?
Super Bowl Fun Fact: The uniform the Rams will wear on Sunday has been worn in one previous Super Bowl - sort of. It was worn by the Rams, with Warren Beatty as QB, in the Super Bowl scenes of the 1978 movie 'Heaven Can Wait.' pic.twitter.com/ABmlsuD33a— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) January 28, 2019
9. What might have been, Part 1: Saints fans are justifiably angry about the way their team's season ended. But the NFC Championship Game's outcome was also a downer for your friendly uniform columnist, who had been intrigued for months by the following scenario. Saints quarterback Drew Brees wore three jersey patches this season: one in remembrance of team owner Tom Benson, another for being a team captain and another for being a past winner of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. If the Saints had made it to the big game, how would they have fit the Super Bowl logo onto his jersey? Would they have removed one of the other patches to make room for it? Alas, we'll never know.
Super Bowl Fun Fact: Saints QB Drew Brees wore three jersey patches this season - captaincy, Tom Benson memorial, and Walter Payton Man of the Year. If Saints had made it to the SB, the SB logo patch would have given him a record 4th patch! (Or maybe they would've removed one.) pic.twitter.com/NlVV3NIUr1— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) January 28, 2019
10. What might have been, Part 2: Most NFL teams put a team logo on the nose bumper -- that white panel on the helmet's forehead area. But three teams leave that spot blank: New Orleans, Kansas City and Washington. Rather amazingly, two of those three teams made it to the conference championship round. So if the Chiefs and Saints had won, instead of the Pats and Rams, we would've had the Battle of the Blank Bumpers!
Super Bowl Fun Fact: 2 of the 3 NFL teams with blank nose bumpers played in the conference championship games (the 3rd such team is Washington). If Saints and Chiefs had won, the Super Bowl would be the Battle of the Blank Bumpers! pic.twitter.com/4UVcubjg25— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) January 28, 2019
Honorable mention: Uni Watch reader Jay Braiman is a scholar of NFL hyper-minutiae. Every year, he comes up with Super Bowl trivia that scales new heights in triviality (yes, that's a compliment). Here are some of his uni-related observations for this year:
• This will be the 16th time that neither team will wear white pants (including the previous Rams-Patriots meeting in Super Bowl XXXVI). The Patriots are 2-4 in Super Bowls against teams wearing non-white pants, having beaten the Rams and Seahawks and lost to the Bears, Packers and Giants (twice), while the Rams are 0-2 against teams wearing non-white pants (Steelers, Patriots).
• This will be the eighth Super Bowl in which one team wears blue jerseys and the other has blue numerals on white jerseys.
• This is the third consecutive year and seventh time overall that neither team's helmet has center striping. The Patriots have been involved in six of those seven Super Bowls (the one exception being Super Bowl IV between the Chiefs and Vikings).
• The Patriots are 3-1 in Super Bowls against teams whose helmet shells and facemasks are the same color (as the Rams will be wearing), including their win over the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. Overall, teams whose helmet shells and facemasks are different colors have a 10-14 record against teams whose helmet shells and facemasks are the same color.
OK, that should be enough to keep you busy during the game and should make you the most knowledgeable (or maybe just the most annoying) person at whatever Super Bowl party you attend.
Paul Lukas always roots for the NFC team in the Super Bowl. If you like this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook and sign up for his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, check out his Uni Watch merchandise or just ask him a question? Contact him here.