After six seasons in their current set, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set to unveil new uniforms this afternoon.
In preparation for the unveiling, we’ve decided to take a look back at Tampa Bay’s logo history, which dates back to the Buccaneers’ inaugural season in 1976.
Shortly after the NFL awarded an expansion franchise to the city of Tampa, ownership partnered with a local radio station to conduct a name-the-team contest that resulted in the Buccaneers being selected over other choices such as Buzzards, Coastal Tides and Sailors.
The team then commissioned award-winning Tampa Tribune cartoonist Lamar Sparkman to design their first logo, which featured a pirate named Bucco Bruce wearing a plumed hat and clenching a knife in his mouth.
“I approached it with the idea that he was a cavalier, not a hairy-legged slob,” Sparkman said, noting how he used actor Errol Flynn, smuggler Jean Lafitte and the famous Musketeer d’Artagnan as inspirations for his design. “The plume feather adds class, I think. I put the dagger in his mouth to add aggression, and then had him wink. It is a half wink and half sneer.”
The logo was accompanied by a unique color scheme of florescent orange and red as a nod to Florida’s citrus industry and warmth of the sunshine, as well as the symbolism of “courage and fortitude in battle.”
That logo and color scheme spanned 21 seasons, and infamously included an 0-26 start, an NFL-worst 100-233-1 record and 14 consecutive losing seasons from 1983-96.
Tampa Bay then underwent a significant rebrand in 1997, introducing a new red and pewter color scheme and replacing Bucco Bruce with a tattered flag featuring Calico Jack’s version of the Jolly Roger held up by a sword.
“We’re not fooling around anymore. We mean business,” then-owner Malcolm Glazer said. “We have what we think is the perfect uniform for a perfect team in a perfect city.”
The new look notably coincided with the opening of Raymond James Stadium, the end of the Buccaneers’ 15-year playoff drought and the franchise’s first and only Super Bowl win (XXXVII).
It lasted until 2014, when Tampa Bay unveiled new uniforms that featured a modernized logo set, oversized helmet decals, the first chrome facemask in the NFL, a unique number font, a brighter shade of red and the return of orange as a tertiary color.
“The enhanced logo still features the team’s iconic, windswept red battle flag, while sporting a more menacing skull positioned over crossed swords and a football,” co-chairman Edward Glazer said. “We believe (the changes) set the stage for our transition into this new, exciting era of Buccaneers football.”
Unfortunately, Tampa Bay has failed to make the playoffs in the six seasons since its most recent logo and uniform update, leaving fans clamoring for a return to the franchise’s glory days.
It appears they’ll get their wish, too, as head coach Bruce Arians announced last month the Buccaneers’ new uniforms will resemble their Super Bowl-era set. It’s unclear if any logo changes will take also place, though we did spot a minor — albeit much-needed — update to the team’s secondary ship logo in a uniform teaser video back in February.
Photos via the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.