Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Uniform Change That Wasn't

Today, the talk on Paul Lukas' indispensable Uni Watch blog turned to mention of Ron Wolf's proposed 1994 uniform change, thanks to his Page 2 column.

I'll let Paul talk about it in his own words:
"(I) once sent a letter to the Green Bay Packers, urging them to reconsider their plans to change their uniforms and color scheme (this was in 1993, six years before the advent of Uni Watch), and was surprised to get a phone call and a note from Packers CEO Bob Harlan (who, fortunately, later changed his mind about all the uniform changes described in that letter)."
He included a scan of the letter (click to enlarge):

The uniform Harlan describes jives with a contemporaneous account published in the Packer Report, September 18, 1993:

Possible Color Change Outlined

There was a rumor Sunday the Packers would have a press conference concerning their uniforms colors during the week following the Eagle game. This, however, seemed certain: The Packers plan to change their uniforms next season, retaining the current dark green, but switching pants and helmets from the present yellow to metallic gold.

The Packers hope the changes will be approved by the NFL Properties by the beginning of next month so they can wear the new uniforms next season. Among other changes are the removal of stripes now on the helmet, jersey, and pants.

Packer President Bob Harlan told the Milwaukee Journal the gold was not the same as that worn by any other team and that it was selected by General Manager Ron Wolf and Coach Mike Holmgren. Harlan said the helmet would be switched from yellow to gold and have a large green "G" on each side and the jersey would have a smaller green "G" on each sleeve. The white numbers on the green home jerseys and the green numbers on the white road jerseys will also have a gold outline. The pants will be plain gold.

"Years and years ago, we wore a gold helmet and gold pants," Harlan said. "And I think that's what Ron wanted, a simpler uniform. They didn't want to look like New Orleans or the 49ers. They looked at different golds and picked out what they liked."

Of course, the 49ers have since changed their gold, and New Orleans wears about a dozen different shades of gold, so it's not a huge help in determining the shade Wolf and Holmgren picked out.

Here's my interpretation of what this might have looked like, based on those descriptions:

Personally, as a longtime Packer fan... I'd have been okay with this. Heck, I'd be okay with this today. Don't like the plain shell, but add a single gold stripe down the side of the pants and across the seam of the helmet, and it's beautiful. Honors Lombardi's legacy with echoes of Lambeau's. I know, I'm probably the only Packer fan who thinks so, but there you have it.

I also have a recollection of them publicly considering a switch back to Curly Lambeau's navy and gold, but that's probably my faulty memory conflating the 1994 uniform change, announced in late 1993, with the 1994 NFL 75th Anniversary throwbacks.

Again, I'd still have been okay with that. I love the gold yoke, and it would help focus attention on the Packers' glorious pre-Lombardi history, which tends to get ignored in the NFL's general amnesia surrounding the pre-Super Bowl era.

But Wolf eventually decided that he couldn't go through with it. According to an interview he gave the St Petersburg Times:
"I never liked the yellow color in the Packers scheme," Wolf said. "NFL books say it's 'green and gold' but anybody can see it's a Michigan kind of yellow, of maize, which didn't sit well with me.

"I put together a proposal to change Green Bay uniforms, replacing the yellow with a gold much like we see on Rams uniforms and helmets. There were some other changes but I wasn't messing with the "G' on Packers helmets."

Everything was approved by the seven-member executive committee that operates the Packers. All I had to do was give the go-ahead."

I repeatedly looked over drawings of the new Packers uniform, thinking I would soon be pulling the trigger on changes. But, after a little more thought, decided it just didn't fly. We needed to fix what was truly broken. What we really had to have was better people on the field."

If the Packers were ever to move away from Lombardi's uniform, this would have been the time. The Favre era was right around the corner, and Wolf's uniform would be viewed now as the one in which they won a Super Bowl, the one in which they brought glory back to Green Bay.

I'd love to see those drawings Wolf mentioned.
UPDATE: Jeff Ash, assistant online editor of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, mentioned this story on his excellent blog "Out of Bounds" (and was kind enough to give a hat tip). He had something new to add:

"Here's one more little detail I remember from that time:

Wolf wanted to see what the new uniform looked like on the players, but he wanted to keep it quiet. So he enlisted one of his assistants to put on the gear. You might know the guy. He used to be an NFL player. At the time, he was the Packers' director of pro personnel. It was Ted Thompson."

Outstanding. Wonder what Ted remembers of that fashion show?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Goodbye, Gridiron Man

Well, it looks like this time he's really done it.

Sure, we've heard it before. But if Favre really has declined to have the surgery on his arm, that indicates he's not intending to throw a football with it anytime soon.

So he retires with 3 consecutive MVPs, not to mention 65,127 passing yards, 464 passing touchdowns, 9,280 attempts, 5,720 completions, and 291 consecutive starts (including playoffs), all of which are the most by any player in NFL history. But let's get to the really important number in Brett Favre's pro career - 15.

Not counting individual game or partial-season patches and tributes, or changes in manufacturer's marks, these are the uniforms Brett has worn in the pros:
  1. 1991 Atlanta Falcons home
  2. 1991 Atlanta Falcons away
  3. 1992-1996 Green Bay Packers home
  4. 1992-1996 Green Bay Packers away
  5. 1994 Green Bay Packers home throwback (09/18/1994 v. Philadelphia, 10/02/1994 v. New England and 09/25/1994 v. Tampa Bay)
  6. 1994 Green Bay Packers road throwback (10/31/1994 at Chicago)
  7. 1997-2007 Green Bay Packers home (eliminating the sleeve stripes pushes this into a new uniform in my universe, and therefore in this blog)
  8. 1997-2007 Green Bay Packers road
  9. 2001 Green Bay Packers road throwback (11/22/2001 at Detroit)
  10. 2003 Green Bay Packers road throwback (09/27/2003 at Detroit)
  11. 2008 New York Jets home (green jerseys/white pants)
  12. 2008 New York Jets away (white jerseys/green pants)
  13. 2008 New York Jets away alternate (white jerseys/white pants, 09/22/2008 at San Diego)
  14. 2008 New York Jets home alternate (green jerseys/green pants, 12/14/2008 v. Buffalo)
  15. 2008 New York Jets/Titans home throwback (09/28/2008 v. Arizona and 10/12/2008 v. Cincinnati)
That's a pretty decent list (and for what it's worth, the Packers and Jets use the exact same shade of Pantone green). What's surprising to me is that one-third of his uniforms were worn in the final year of his career.

Had Favre stuck around for one more season, he would have worn the New York Titans road throwback the Jets are about to unveil. And yet, when I think of his career, I'll always see him wearing the green and gold at Lambeau. I suspect that in a couple years, the image of him as a Jet will seem as strange to our eyes as a picture of him in Atlanta black does now.

Goodbye, Gridiron Man. Looking forward to the inevitable ceremony taking #4 out of circulation, and a trip to Canton in 2014.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Getting Ugly, Chapter 2: Getting Uglier

Following up on the new prototype jerseys that the Packers have been testing in practice comes this article about the Pro Bowl jerseys:

Reebok tests "stretch mesh" jersey at NFL Pro Bowl

HONOLULU - National Football League players were outfitted on Sunday with Pro Bowl jerseys made from a new material Reebok is testing and believes can improve athletic performance.

The "stretch mesh" jerseys are nearly 20 percent lighter than the standard NFL jersey and aim to allow for more range of motion, better ventilation and temperature control.

If all goes well, a number of teams will use the material next season.

The jerseys are also supposed to provide better fit and comfort, but don't tell that to New York Jets defensive tackle Kris Jenkins.

The 6-foot-4, 349-pound Jenkins first put on his AFC jersey for photo day and practice Friday, and it appeared two XL sizes too small, looking more like a crop top.

"I've been holding my breath since the pictures," Jenkins said.
And this great video from NBC's coverage of the game:

Don't mince words, Kris. How do you really feel? This highlights one of the concerns I've had about the move to spandex unitards: for every cut wide receiver on the field for any given play, there are several linemen who won't be exactly flattered by the body-paint look.

I'm very wary about the new jerseys. Design-wise, I'm wary about everything that has anything to do with the Pro Bowl:

The worst thing about moving the Pro Bowl to the week before Super Bowl is that the game, and its uniforms, will be much harder to ignore. Which I guess is the point from the NFL's perspective but sure seems like a lose-lose to me.