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The most anticipated moment of the Eagles offseason had nothing to do with a bank-breaking contract for franchise quarterback Jalen Hurts or the return of legendary rabble-rouser Jason Kelce.
It was all about a wardrobe change.
After two years of product development and navigation of the league’s red tape regarding uniform changes, the kelly green throwbacks are finally making a return. Team owner Jeffrey Lurie made the formal announcement last week at the NFL annual meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, with a wide smile on his face.
“I’m super excited,” Lurie told reporters. “I don’t know what date that’s going to be but I think the fans will love it. That’s why we’re bringing it back. We really took the feedback seriously over the years, and the first moment we could get the kelly green helmet approved we did and we’ll finally be able to see it on the field.”
Now comes the hard part: getting the exact shade right. The Eagles have been in a holding pattern of sorts since 2012, as the NFL didn’t permit alternate helmets. Lurie had been adamant about not wanting to taint the old-school look by mismatching a kelly green jersey with a midnight green helmet.
Now the rule has been changed, and it’s almost time to unveil the result. According to Lurie, the Eagles worked with Nike to develop a color combination that is “going to be identical to what existed” in the 1990s and 1980s. The combo will serve as the team’s new alternate color rush uniforms, meaning the Eagles can wear them up to three times a season.
That means in 2023, the Eagles will once again be flying in the same uniforms Randall Cunningham made famous.
1960: Championship colors
The Eagles won three NFL championships donning those beautiful kelly green uniforms: 1948, 1949, and 1960. Some of the greatest players in franchise history sparkled in them, including Chuck Bednarik, Timmy Brown, Steve Van Buren, Norm Van Brocklin, Tommy McDonald, Al Wistert, Pete Retzlaff, and Pete Pihos.
The team also wore the originals in Super Bowl XV, when they lost 27-10 to the Oakland Raiders. There are plenty of iconic images of Wilbert Montgomery shedding tacklers from that year in kelly green.
Later, Randall Cunningham and Reggie White grabbed the torch and lit a new flame under it. What could be called Cunningham’s two greatest moments occurred in kelly green: that 95-yard bomb to Fred Barnett from his own end zone in Buffalo; and the miracle touchdown pass over Carl Banks in 1988.
Though the Eagles struggled to push through the loaded NFC East in the 1980s and 90s — Cunningham won just one playoff game as the starter; White didn’t win any in Philly before capturing a Super Bowl in Green Bay — the Ultimate Weapon and Minister of Defense remain two of the greatest players in franchise history. (Despite that, Cunningham was once again left off the list of modern-era player finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.)
1996: End of an era
Jeffrey Lurie’s full-throated embrace of the fan-favorite uniforms in 2023 is a bit ironic. He was the person responsible for getting rid of the color. It happened in 1996, two years after he purchased the franchise.
His former wife, Christina Lurie, spoke about it with The Inquirer in 2010. “When we bought the team, Jeffrey and I were like, ‘We can’t live with the Kelly green color,” she said.
The Eagles broke out the kelly green uniforms on Sept. 12, 2010 in a game against the Green Bay Packers. They lost 27-20, but fans were treated to a vintage performance by then-quarterback Michael Vick, who threw for 175 yards and ran for 103. Members of the 1960 NFL championship team were honored, with some alumni wearing kelly green blazers.
Important note: The throwbacks worn in 2010 had more of a spearmint hue than the classic uniforms of White and Cunningham. They also featured white pants, opposed to the old-school silver ones, and the helmets lacked a white border around what should have been silver wings. The commemorative unis were a gallant attempt, but far from the real deal.
Great players in kelly green history
What does the return of the throwback uniforms portend? Here’s a look at some single-season highlights that happened in kelly green:
- Reggie White, 21.0 sacks in 1987, tops in franchise history
- Bill Bradley, 11 interceptions in 1971, tops in franchise history
- Randall Cunningham, 91-yard punt in 1989, tops in franchise history
- Wilbert Montgomery, 1,512 rushing yards in 1979, second-best in franchise history
- Sonny Jurgensen, 32 passing touchdowns in 1961, second-best
- Steve Van Buren, 15 rushing touchdowns in 1945, second-best
- Steve Van Buren, 18 total touchdowns in 1945, second-best
- Tommy McDonald, 13 TD receptions in 1961, second-best
- Mike Quick, 1,409 receiving yards in 1983, second-best