NFL: The 5 Worst Retired Jerseys of All Time

Jersey retirements are a way to honor a team’s best. Most times, the players had Hall of Fame careers or led the team to a championship. But not all retirements are this easy to celebrate. In some cases, teams retire jerseys of players who didn’t do enough to get their number in the rafters. Whether a player wasn’t on the team long enough or his contributions don’t add up, these are the worst retired jerseys in the NFL.

1. Doug Atkins, New Orleans Saints

Doug Atkins was a Hall of Famer, NFL champion, and one of the most feared defensive linemen of his era. Seems like a no-brainer to retire his number? It is for the Chicago Bears, where he spent 14 of his 17 seasons. Not so much for the New Orleans Saints, who had Atkins for the final three years of his career. The Saints didn’t see success until the 21st century, so it’s not surprising they’d try to latch on to Atkins’ glory years with the Bears.

2. Steve Nelson, New England Patriots

Steve Nelson was a good player for the Patriots and the heart of the team’s defense during the late ’70s and early ’80s. He made three Pro Bowls in his career. However, the Patriots’ most notable team achievement during this time was getting destroyed by the 1985 Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl.

This retirement made more sense in the ’80s when the Patriots had little success and just making the Super Bowl was a huge deal. Now, with six championships and some of the greatest teams of all time, Nelson’s accomplishments don’t measure up to other Patriots.

3. Jim Taylor, New Orleans Saints

Another one involving the Saints, but this is worse than Atkins. Jim Taylor only played one year with the Saints after winning four championships with Green Bay as well as 1962 MVP award. By this point, Taylor couldn’t contribute much to a team that couldn’t block for him. He retired in 1968 after disagreeing about his role. Taylor is a legendary Packer, but his playing days in New Orleans aren’t much to celebrate.

4. YA Tittle, New York Giants

While YA Tittle was a Hall of Fame quarterback who put up huge numbers for his day, he only played four of his 17 seasons with the Giants. He put up great passing numbers and led them to many division titles but didn’t win a championship. While the Giants appreciated what he did for the team those three years, it’s not enough to warrant a jersey retirement. Making it even worse, the Giants previously retired No. 14 decades earlier for Ward Cuff. Now the Giants have two No. 14 jerseys retired.

5. 12th Man, Seattle Seahawks

This jersey retirement is different than most of the others. Unlike retiring the jerseys of actual players, Seattle retired a number in honor of their fans. Seattle does have great fans who support their team through lean years, but the whole concept is wacky. Retiring a number is meant for players who’ve finished their career. Does this mean Seattle’s fans stopped supporting the team on December 15, 1984, when the number was retired? 

Plus, the idea isn’t new. Texas A+M has honored the 12th man since the 1920s, over six decades before the Seahawks did it. In fact, Seattle pays royalties to A+M for using the term. It also seems like a marketing ploy. Anyone can buy an official 12th man jersey from the NFL shop. If you aren’t a fan of the current players or are worried your favorite player may get traded or cut, you can buy a 12th man jersey that will always be in style.