Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Strategery Behind Whitewashing

Tonight, the Packers will step on to the Lambeau Field turf wearing white jerseys for the first time since 1989. In that season, they wore their road jerseys for the first two games, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 10 and the following weekend against the New Orleans Saints.

This was the subject of a question posed to "Ask Vic" back in 2014 by "Mark from Fairfax, VA":
Vic, a few days ago while surfing YouTube for Packers videos, I came upon highlights of the 1989 Packers season when they were QB’d by Don Majkowski, went 10-6 but didn't make the playoffs. In one of their home games against the New Orleans Saints played at Lambeau Field, the Packers wore their white road jerseys. Might you know why that was done? And why did Green Bay play Dallas, an NFC East team, in that regular season twice? I’ve posed these questions on a couple of Packers sites but no one has answered.

( senior writer Mike Spofford): Your question intrigued me, so team historian Cliff Christl and I put our heads together and did a little research. Turns out the Packers wore their white jerseys at Lambeau for each of the first two games in ’89, against the Buccaneers and Saints, and haven’t since. Cliff found a Press-Gazette article in which head coach Lindy Infante said it was planned in advance to beat the potential early-season heat by keeping the Packers out of their dark green jerseys. There was also talk of Tampa Bay QB Vinny Testaverde’s color-blindness, and his difficulty distinguishing reddish colors against green grass. The Bucs had switched before the ’89 season from wearing their orange jerseys at home to wearing white, but they were forced to wear the orange at Lambeau. The following week, the Saints wore their supposedly heat-absorbing black.

As it happened, the game-time temps were only 66 and 71 degrees, respectively, for those two games. Testaverde had a solid day, going 22-of-27 for 205 yards with one TD and no interceptions in beating the Packers, 23-21. The black-clad Saints may indeed have worn down, though, as the Packers rallied from a 21-0 deficit for a 35-34 victory, one of the biggest comebacks in team history.
So the results were mixed. Let's start with the first game, against the Bucs.

If the Packers were hoping to confuse Testaverde in that first game, it didn't work. But how awesome is it today to see those Creamsicle uniforms?

As Spofford mentioned, the Pack had more luck in the second game. Here's a view of the teams at midfield:

What's up with that gold "G" on the 50-yard line?

I always like seeing the classic single-gray-bar helmet graphic. The Packers continued to use it for years after the facemasks were changed to green. Here we see the graphic in the endzone:

Some things are constant, though; the gold railings at Lambeau Field are iconic.

Again, if the Packers had intended to place the Saints at a competitive disadvantage by making them wear black jerseys, they were unsuccessful. Mother Nature apparently didn't get the playbook, and the temperature at kickoff was very mild and clement. The Packers clawed back from that early deficit to win, but the white jerseys didn't help them.

And with those mixed results, the grand experiment was over and the Packers went back to wearing their dark jerseys at Lambeau Field. Until tonight.

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