TAMPA — The Bucs’ garish “alarm clock number” uniforms are gone. Thankfully.
When they were officially unveiled on March 3, 2014, many fans thought April Fool’s Day had arrived a month early.
Nike — which was in the middle of wild NFL uniform redesigns after taking over the league’s outfitting rights in 2012 — said the new uniforms incorporated the “unique historical aspects of the Tampa Bay area by showcasing the city’s roots, vibrant culture and spirited fan base” with a “refreshed color scheme honoring the franchise’s past and present, while confidently positioning the team for the future.”
To this day, we wonder whether the Nike designers mainly responsible for this mockery had ever had a Cuban sandwich with salami or could even name what number James Wilder Sr. wore. Nike took several swings at modernizing NFL uniforms, and missed many more times than they made contact.
“How should (the Bucs uniforms) be remembered?” asked Paul Lukas, the founder of UniWatch, a site dedicated to uniforms and their design. “As part of Nike’s gimmicky attempt to remake the look of the NFL — an attempt that’s clearly fallen flat as teams like the Bucs and Browns are returning to more straightforward looks.”
When the Bucs unveiled their new uniforms in 2014, co-owner Edward Glazer said that “today marks the culmination of more than two years of research and planning to bring the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into a new and exciting era of our history.”
Fans universally winced. “They worked for two years on these things?”
Maybe too much thought went into them. They tried to keep too much of the history with a modern look and it became a mishmash of overthinking. Calling them too busy might be too nice. Gaudy? Just plain ugly?
They tried. That pewter color that the Bucs’ introduced in their Super Bowl era threads — they are the only NFL team to wear the color — transformed into more of a coffee color. And the “bay orange” detail from the creamsicle days seemed forced. The enlarged trademark pirate flag on the helmet might have been the best of the ensemble, but it was overmatched by all the failed bells and whistles.
Then there are the numbers, which were peddled as an homage to a buccaneer’s blade carvings. Even Jose Gaspar would have pressed his snooze button instead of endorsing.
And let’s not forget that those numbers had a reflective chrome border, thoughtfully ensuring that if the Bucs didn’t win on the field, they could be the best crossing guards in town.
Let’s get to that point. Does the fact that the Bucs frequently lost while wearing these uniforms play a factor in why they never caught on? Tampa Bay owned a .354 winning percentage in these uniforms. They never played a postseason game in these uniforms. Only twice did they not finish in the NFC South cellar in these uniforms. They became synonymous with a franchise that looked bad while losing.
Keep in mind that when Nike took over the NFL uniform rights in 2012, the Seattle Seahawks had an equally “modernized” uniform revamping. And on the surface, the changes in color and design were equally as jarring. Then again, the Seahawks have gone to the playoffs seven times in eight seasons since the re-design, playing in two Super Bowls and winning one, and suddenly those neon green accents look pretty good when you’re winning games.
That design succeeded. But more of the Nike remodels — like the Bucs’ — failed.
In 2013, the Jaguars unveiled overly busy uniforms that include a two-colored helmet that went from black to gold. They scrapped them after five years, the league minimum that teams are required to keep a redesign, and went back to a more traditional look.
In 2015, the Browns went away from their iconic look with a horrific uniform change that included pants that had the team name down the outer side of the thigh, distinguishing them from all the other NFL teams that wear orange and brown. Five years was enough for that look as well, and they also will have new uniforms in 2020.
But will history forgive their gaudiness? Remember back in the day, the creamsicle uniforms were wildly unpopular. That swashbuckling pirate was the helmet any kid of the 1970s and ’80s didn’t want from the supermarket quarter machine (Should have gotten a gumball instead). And the color scheme — orange, red and white — was too unique. No one plays football looking like that.
But now, the creamsicles are cool again. Like all things retro — powder-blue baseball uniforms and the red, white and blue ABA ball — they are appreciated over time.
People adorn Bucco Bruce on their chests throughout Tampa Bay and beyond, and recent renditions of Bruce Arians and Tom Brady’s likenesses wearing that feather-plumed hat while chomping down on a knife are nothing short of ingenious.
Still, it took time.
Tuesday, a new Bucs uniform era will dawn. Maybe down the road, we will remember these old ones fondly.
Or just be happy we only had to see them for six years.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieInTheYard.