Repeat after me: The colors will not make them run faster. The design will not make them hit harder.
These new uniforms unveiled Tuesday will have no bearing on whether the Buccaneers are legitimate contenders for Super Bowl 55 at Raymond James Stadium.
Zero. Nil. Zilch. Nada.
(Drumming fingers on desktop.)
Well, maybe just a smidge.
There is some anecdotal evidence of teams changing their uniform design and going on a streak of unprecedented success. The Broncos, for instance, completely revamped their uniforms in 1997 and promptly won the first Super Bowl in franchise history. The next year, they won again. The Patriots did a redesign in 2000 and by 2001 they were on a streak of three Super Bowl titles in four years. Pistons, Seahawks and Twins fans have similar tales.
Of course, there are plenty of lesser-known stories of jerseys having no impact whatsoever. The Browns had a radical re-imaging in 2015 and lost 44 of their next 48 games. And the last Bucs re-design? Let’s just say that version will never be seen in postseason history books.
Paul Lukas, who was ESPN.com’s uniform guru and created the media project Uni Watch, says the oft-cited stories of new designs leading to championships feels more coincidental than cause-and-effect.
“I think it’s a non-issue and would frankly prefer not to lend it any more credence," he said in an email.
There’s a lot of validity to that viewpoint. For instance, which do you think had more impact on the Patriots in 2000: changing the shade of blue in their uniforms, or drafting a quarterback named Tom Brady? And it’s not like those 1997 Broncos emerged from some dank, crypt to win the Super Bowl. They had gone 13-3 the year before.
The point is a uniform design is not going to drastically alter a team’s fortunes. Certainly not as much as management performance or player acquisition or payroll size or the vagaries of injuries.
But might it have some small effect in the right circumstance?
When Stu Sternberg took the reins of the Devil Rays in late 2005, he described it as a franchise under construction and immediately began making sweeping changes in how the business and baseball operations departments were run.
A name change and rebranding were in the works almost from the beginning and were eventually unveiled in November of 2007. Months later, a team that had never had a season with more than 70 victories finished 97-65 and reached the World Series.
Did the uniform change play a part?
Perhaps, but clearly not as much as Evan Longoria or David Price making their Major League debuts, Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett coming in a trade from Minnesota, or Eric Hinske and Cliff Floyd signing as free agents.
“It was an excuse to break from the past, to start fresh and write our own history," Rays president Matt Silverman said. “The new logo, the new uniforms energized our fan base and gave us all a reason for optimism. We were able to ride that wave all the way through the season and the World Series. It was a small role, an undefinable role, but it’s hard to imagine that type of turnaround season without the new logo and without the new uniforms."
There have been academic papers that have studied whether black or red uniform colors had an impact on the aggressiveness of NFL or NHL players. Evidence in one famous study from Cornell University in the 1980s showed teams in those colors were penalized more frequently, suggesting a potential link between uniform and performance. Subsequent papers say the link is tenuous, citing the possibility of referees being influenced by aggressive colors or team management being predisposed to find players with an edge.
There appear to be no studies on the impact of new uniforms, although the psychological implications are often discussed.
“New uniforms serve as a symbol. A symbol that we’re turning the page and writing a new chapter. Symbolically it is a way for us, on a psychological level, to move on from the past," said Dr. Eric Bean, a board member with the Association of Applied Sport Psychology. “Symbolism is very powerful from a psychological standpoint."
Do you know what else is very powerful?
A quarterback who will throw 20 fewer interceptions.
If the Bucs make the playoffs in the 2020 season, it will be because Tom Brady brings a calm to the offense and Todd Bowles continues to bring a ferociousness to the defense.
As for new uniforms?
Eh, color me skeptical.