The San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders kicked off the 2009 season in style. Playing in the nightcap of a Monday Night Football doubleheader, the Raiders looked to end their 11-game losing streak to the heavily-favored Chargers. Oakland came damn close, even taking the lead with 2:34 left on a 57-yard touchdown throw on fourth-and-15. But Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers justified his $93 million extension by leading the Chargers on a game-winning drive. San Diego triumphed, 24-20.
The real story, however, was the retro jerseys that both teams were wearing. Both the Raiders and Chargers -- like the Bills and Patriots in the lead-in game -- were members of the old American Football League. And as an ongoing tribute to the AFL's 50th anniversary, both teams dressed up in their old AFL uniforms.
For the Chargers, wearing powder blue was nothing out of the ordinary. For the Raiders, silver and white was a blast from the past, colors they hadn't donned in a long, long time (at least at home). So who had the better garb? Find out after the jump...
The Oakland Raiders are actually infamous for never changing their uniform design, as well as for always wearing black at home. In 2008, new head coach Lane Kiffin ordered the team to wear white at home for the first time in 45 years, a rather unpopular move. This time around, Raiders owner Al Davis gave his full consent, as it honored the league that he was once the commissioner of.
Davis was quite pleased that the old jerseys got a revival. "I thought about doing it in past," he said at a press conference, "but the league didn’t want us to do it. I was the one who designed the uniform. We used it in 1963 and it was great. The reason they didn’t want to use it in the past is the film cannot identify certain players in the throwback uniform; the silver numbers are tough to identity. So teams start complaining. So I stopped it, and we just did the black -- we’ve never changed -- and the white. I always loved those things. In ’63 everyone said, wow, that’s the best-looking uniform ever. But we just got away from it because of the film work. They’re always complaining about something."
The Oakland Raiders wore black and gold before Davis changed the color scheme in 1963. I don't know if the old silver ones are the best uniforms ever, but they're not bad. Their old color uniforms -- and older version of the black and silver -- look much better than the white version, as most color jerseys do.
The Chargers have also kept their jersey design mostly intact. In fact, most people might not even recognize that the Chargers are wearing retro uniforms since they currently wear an alternate jersey that looks just like it. The most notable difference, of course, is the uniform numbers on the helmets -- a design feature that was wisely abandoned by other teams.
Just so you can see the difference in the designs, here is the alternate home jersey that the Chargers currently wear. This was photo was taken by Stephen Dunn during the Chargers-Colts playoff game in 2009. There are several minute changes: the side stripe has a blue background, the front number is more defined, the side numbers are above the bolt and not below it, the lightning bolts all look different, and the facemask is a different color.
Both the Raiders and the Chargers played briefly in Los Angeles. The Chargers played their inaugural season in L.A. before migrating to San Diego, where they've been ever since. The Raiders spent more than a decade in Los Angeles before Davis move them back to Oakland.
I honestly think the old blue Chargers jersey trumps the current one by a lot. I think the numbers on the side of the helmet are incredibly dorky-looking, but I'm still willing to give the uni an A. As for the Raiders whites, they're okay. It's not the greatest jersey of all-time like Davis said it was, but then again, Davis is hardly an objective voice (he designed it after all). I give the old Raiders uni a thumbs up as well -- maybe not a they-should-wear-them-everyday thumbs up, but a thumbs up nonetheless.
Classic Raiders away uniform: B
Classic Chargers home uniform: A
Photos taken by Ezra Shaw, Getty Images