Monday, February 22, 2010

Rumor mill - throwback uniform in 2010? (UPDATED)

Surprising news out of the Uni Watch blog this morning:

NFL News: A little birdie who’s in a position to know sent me some NFL tips the other day. I can’t confirm any of it, but I feel the info is solid enough to pass along, with the proviso that it’s all subject to change:
I got a memo mentioning new third jerseys for the Packers and Colts. The memo also mentioned “updated” third jerseys for the Cardinals, Eagles, Patriots, and one other team (I think it was the Bears, but I’m not positive).

Based on something I saw earlier, I’m almost certain the Packers will be wearing 1929 throwbacks. Those are dark blue jerseys with a dark blue numeral inside a gold circle over khaki pants and dark blue socks. Of course, per today’s uniform standards, the circle and numeral on the front would be much larger, and I believe the style guide showed a solid brown helmet with gray mask to simulate the leather ones some players wore in 1929. It’s gone from the server now, however — I guess I’m lucky I saw it.
So there you go — completely accurate, authoritative information. Unless it’s not.

If true, this would be a very unusual move for the Packers. They've done plenty of throwbacks over the past fifteen years, but only to commemorate special events. With this, they would join a growing group of teams who wear throwback looks as their regular alternate uniforms. The Jets, Buccaneers, Vikings, Steelers, Bills, and Falcons all have adopted them in recent years, joining the Lions and Cowboys, who have worn them on and off since the NFL abandoned the "Thanksgiving Classics" throwback promotion.

And under the NFL's current guidelines, they wouldn't be able to introduce another alternate until 2016.

UPDATE: Fox 11 in Green Bay has picked up on the story:

Packers in blue jerseys?

Team wants to add official third jersey to lineup

Updated: Monday, 22 Feb 2010, 6:40 PM CST
Published : Monday, 22 Feb 2010, 4:37 PM CST

Reporter: Lou Hillman

GREEN BAY - They may be the "Green and Gold" but the Packers haven't always worn those two colors.

"We've had a lot of different uniforms and colors," said Mark Murphy, the Packers President and CEO.

On Monday, Murphy confirmed with FOX 11 that the team wants to have a historical throwback jersey for some games next season. It would be the Packers official third jersey.

"I think one of our biggest advantages as a team and an organization is the history that we have and I think this is really a chance to enhance that and celebrate it," said Murphy.

Some think they already know the Packers pick.

According to , a Web site about jersey-related news, it will be the 1929 "blue" one. In fact, the Packers unofficial nickname used to be "the blues."

So is that the plan?

Murphy told FOX 11 the team is not ready to reveal its plans.

"No, not yet," Murphy laughed.

Fans we spoke with say a throwback jersey is a good idea for the team.

"We have probably the most history of all of them, we probably should have one. Like I said, I wouldn't want to see them wear it every game but I certainly wouldn't mind a game or two each year," said Don Harms, of Sobieski.

"I had no idea until we came in here that they weren't always green if not green and gold until I saw this and I thought 'oh, we were blue,' it just makes you more interested in the past," said Bonnie Jeranek, of La Crosse.

You may remember the Packers played in the 2001 Thanksgiving game in their 1939 jerseys. The team also played several games in 1994 in their 1937 jerseys.

Murphy said the team is now looking to have something that it can use for several years, but there are NFL rules.

"You can have a third jersey, whether it's a different color or a historical throwback, and you have a 5-year window. Those are some of the details we really need to work out," said Murphy.

So will the green and gold, be blue too next season? The Packers say an official announcement is still months away.

There's our confirmation. This thing is a go.

UPDATE 2: Jeff Ash, of the Green Bay Press-Gazette's fantastic "Out of Bounds" blog, has also joined the conversation. He adds this colorized photograph of Johnny "Blood" McNally wearing the original uniform in question:

He also gave this blog a shout-out, which is always appreciated.

(updates h/t: Johnny O, Tim O'Donnell)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Going for the Gold, Part Two

After introducing the Packers' first gold jersey in 1923, Curly Lambeau re-designed the uniform for the 1925 season. He kept the gold base, but replaced the nine thin navy sleeve stripes with a navy shoulder yoke.

These uniforms were also kept for two seasons, before the Packers' sartorially mercurial founder reverted back to navy jerseys.

The yoke would return in 1937, with the blue and gold reversed, in Lambeau's most enduring uniform. Gold-over-gold uniforms wouldn't be seen again in Green Bay for nearly a quarter-century, when Lambeau's successor Gene Ronzani dabbled in gold himself.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Going for the Gold, Part One

After wearing navy jerseys in the team's first four seasons, Curly Lambeau unveiled a radical change for 1923, when the Packers switched to a gold jersey with nine thin navy stripes on each sleeve. It was worn with gold socks and dark gold pants, creating the team's first monochromatic uniform.

Here we see Curly proudly modeling his new look:

This is a shot of the uniforms in action:

This uniform would be worn for two seasons before being replaced with another gold jersey, this one featuring a navy blue shoulder yoke.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Video - Don Hutson's TD leading seasons

Today we have some rare video of the Lambeau-era Packers in action, including a few fleeting seconds of great color footage: Top Ten Records That Will Never Be Broken, #5: Don Hutson Leads the League in Touchdowns Eight Times. Well worth checking out.

Some screen captures (click for larger):

Yet another color-on-color matchup against the Bears:

This three-image sequence shows Irv Comp passing up the middle to Hutson, who catches it, spins and runs for a few extra yards:

Interesting - those pants look a lot like the canvas-colored version the Packers wore as part of their 1994 throwback.

This is from 1935 or 36, Hutson running in for a touchdown (love the official's snow-white getup and flat cap):

So why won't Hutson's record be broken? He led the NFL in touchdowns eight times - his closest competitors are Lance Alworth, Jim Brown and Emmitt Smith, who each led the league in touchdowns three times.

Hutson was such a dominant player that you can't just compare him to other players of his era—his stats compare favorably to those of entire teams. In 1942 (in which he earned his second consecutive MVP), Hutson made more receptions than three entire teams: the Detroit Lions, the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles. In that same season, he scored 17 touchdowns, as many as the Pittsburgh Steelers and more than the Eagles, Brooklyn Dodgers, Chicago Cardinals and Detroit Lions. More, even, than the Cardinals and Lions combined.

There's hardly a word to describe his accomplishments. "Dominant" is diminished through overuse, but if it ever applied to a player it would be Hutson. From his bio at the Hall of Fame website:
Don Hutson’s first touchdown came on an 83-yard pass from Arnie Herber in just his second game as a Green Bay Packer. He wound up with 99 career touchdown receptions, a record that stood for more than four decades. When Hutson retired in 1945 after 11 superb seasons, he held 18 NFL records, including 488 career receptions. That was 200 more than his closest competitor.

Hutson invented modern pass receiving. He created Z-outs, buttonhooks, hook-and-gos, and a whole catalog of moves and fakes. Although he had been an All-America at Alabama in 1934, there were plenty who doubted the skinny speedster could stand the pace of pro football. But it wasn't long before his mere presence on the field had changed the defensive concept of the game.

Don could outmaneuver and outrace virtually every defender in the league. He led the NFL in receiving in eight of his 11 seasons and in scoring five straight years. Twice, in 1941 and 1942, he was named the league’s MVP.

Like everyone in the days before free substitution, Hutson was a 60-minute player who spent most of his career as a very fine safety on defense. In his final six seasons, he swiped 30 opposing quarterbacks’ passes. Often after scoring a touchdown, he would kick the extra point. In one quarter of a 1945 game, he caught four touchdown passes and kicked five PATs for an amazing 29 points.
Curly Lambeau had the vision to bring the passing game into pro football, but it was Don Hutson who made it work.

There will never be another like him.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Your 1931 Green Bay Packers

The Milwaukee Journal color section comes through again, offering this unique look at Curly Lambeau's Packer squad:

The Green Bay Packers of 1931

National League Champions 1929 and 1930 ...

Here they are—a sprinkling of new faces among the old—Coach Lambeau and the 31 players that started the 1931 season and their race for the third successive championship in the National Professional Football league. Today the Bay team, cut to 22 players, faces Philadelphia at Green Bay in the sixth game of the season. Front row, left to right: McCrary, Darling, Grove, Johnson, Herber, Woodin, Dunn, Bowdoin and Wilson. Second row: Comstock, Davenport, Gantenbein, Nash, Doncarlos, Jannison, Perry, Michalske, Molenda, Bruder, Radick. Standing: Coach Lambeau, Lewellen, Stahlman, Blood, Sleight, Dillweg, Baker, Engelman, Earpe, Zuidmulder, Fitzgobbon and Saunders.
The Packers had been unstoppable to this point in the season, beating the Cleveland Indians, Brooklyn Dodgers, Chicago Bears, New York Giants and Chicago Cardinals by a combined score of 118-20.

The Bays would continue their run on that October day with a relatively tight win against the Frankford Yellowjackets, 15-7 (credited in the photo's caption as "Philadelphia", Frankford being a neighborhood within the City of Brotherly Love). After Frankford, the Packers would defeat the Providence Steam Rollers (twice), Chicago Bears, Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants for a second time each, and the Staten Island Stapletons. They would lose two games, both in Chicago - once to the Cardinals and the third game they played against the Bears.

This 12-2-0 record was good for a winning percentage of .857 (the NFL of the time didn't count ties in the standings) and brought Green Bay its third consecutive World Championship. That was the first time any team had won three in a row, an accomplishment that has only once been equaled —by the 1965-67 Packers—and never beaten.

On the uniform front, this was the first year for this particular uniform (jerseys from the previous two seasons featured the player's number in a small gold circle on the chest). And although we can't see them in this photo, the Packers added white numbers to the back for this season. The Packers would continue to wear their solid blue jersey/gold pants/blue socks combination until 1934, when the white numbers would be added to the front of the jersey, where they remain today.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Another Modest Proposal

The UniWatch blog is currently running a contest in which entrants re-design one NFL club's jersey. As those who follow my Borchert Field blog know, I'm a sucker for uniform concepts, so naturally I submitted an entry this morning: my proposal to re-design the Packers' jerseys.

Entrants were limited to a 50-word description of their concept. Mine read:
Green Bay’s design is beautiful, but the jerseys, with the bold sleeve striping, are relics of a day when jerseys had sleeves (which is why the Packers truncated them in 1997). My solution - drop the striping altogether. The distinctive element is now a stencil font befitting the team’s name.
Certainly not my best PhotoShop work, but hopefully the design stands on its own.

I didn't want to just create some wild concept for its own sake. I wanted a new uniform that I could actually see Aaron Rodgers wearing as he drops back to pass before a packed house at Lambeau Field. So what works, stays. No changes to the pants or socks. The iconic helmet is also virtually untouchable in any realistic Packers concept (not even Ron Wolf could get away with that one), although I took the opportunity to bring back the gray face mask. There's something about the gray which just screams "pro football" to me, and I like the idea of a single uniform element, in this case the helmet, creating as stable a visual link as possible to Lombardi's era.

So, to the jersey. First things first: the sleeve stripes. We've talked about this before - sleeve stripes became hopelessly anachronistic the day players stopped wearing sleeves. This has been a problem for over a decade; the five-stripe pattern was being chopped down by players even before Nike reduced it to three stripes, as seen in this photo from Super Bowl XXXI the previous season:

On the new template with its cap sleeves, the vestigal sleeve stripes look even sillier:

So why not bow to reality, make it official and remove the sleeve stripes entirely?

At the same time, I also removed Forrest Gregg's neck striping - it didn't seem to fit without the sleeve stripes to balance it, and like the sleeve stripes it has fallen victim to player customization for years.

If players customize their jerseys to crop off a uniform feature, that feature doesn't have any place in my concept. With an eye towards something the Packers would actually wear, I'm using as a ground rule the new single-template-for-all-positions design the NFL is implementing next season. All players in all positions will be wearing the same uniform cut, and the design ought to reflect that. So out you go, last echo of Gregg's coaching tenure.

I also wanted to create something new while staying within the Packers' uniform tradition (which is why I didn't want to overhaul the helmets, pants or socks - they work marvelously in this new template, and we'll have no change for change's sake). I'm not a fan of the intricate piping and overdone paneling that has become fashionable in the NFL's design studio. Not to mention the wavy striping that doesn't quite make sense. Those just don't belong on the most storied of franchises.

So no sleeve stripes, no crazy piping. But I wasn't terribly interested in just putting out a blank green jersey. I thought about adding a "G" patch to the chest as the Jets and Steelers have done, but that seemed a little too easy a solution. Not to mention that once you add a commemorative or memorial patch, the jersey can get cluttered very quickly.

I decided instead to create a custom number font. Those can also get pretty dicey, but can work. The stencil seemed like a natural, fitting in with the wordmark the Packers have used since the 1970s:

The Packers also used to stencil player numbers on the backs of helmets in the 1960s, as in this Paul Hornung gamer:

The number font itself is based on the classic block font worn by the Packers in the 1940s:

A small logo on the back collar, one final Packers identifier, finishes off the concept. My one little concession to modernity.

I'm pretty pleased with the result. I'm a fairly tradition-minded Packer fan (okay, make that extremely tradition-minded), and I would be happy to see the Packers adopt this look.

I think the final result strikes the right balance to create a jersey worthy of the Packers' history. Deeply traditional and yet strikingly modern, the jersey is instantly recognizable wherever it is worn, from the football field to the grocery store.

Feedback is, as always, welcome.


I'm honored to report that my design was selected by the judges as one of the eleven finalists, but fell short in the popular vote. Thanks for everyone who voted, and the fine folks at Uni Watch for a great contest. And congrats to Brad McPelican and his very cool Seahawks update.