Tampa Bay Buccaneers Helmet History

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers helmet history can be described as radical, a stark contrast from the NFC East and NFC North teams, many of whom have stuck to tradition. The Bucs, a former NFC Central team, have since moved to the newly created NFC South since 2002, when the NFC Central was renamed the NFC North.

An interesting, interesting history here involves the Bucs’ helmet, so without further ado, let’s get started on a fascinating history lesson.


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Bucco Bruce: 1976-1996

If there’s a so bad it’s good persona in the NFL, Bucco Bruce fit that mold once upon a time. In the beginning, former Bucs’ owner Hugh Culverhouse picked the colors of red, green, orange, and white, but the shade of green resembled the aqua worn by the Miami Dolphins. Instead, Culverhouse opted for a shade of Florida orange, nicknamed creamsicle.

Lamar Sparkman was tasked with designing the team’s first logo, with hopes to create something that didn’t resemble that of the Oakland Raiders. The logo Sparkman came up with involved a sword-biting pirate in a plumed hat, winking, nicknamed Bucco Bruce by St. Petersburg Times sportswriter, Hubert Mizell.

Sportswriter Nick Bakay once famously stated “Bucco Bruce was a pirate who struck fear in the hearts of no one.”

The Bucs wore this helmet from their debut in 1976 to 1996, drawing ire from the NFL universe throughout its entire existence.


1997 Redesign

The team grew sick of their original threads and by 1997, started working with the NFL to create a more intimidating and marketable logo and color design.

The helmet switched from white to pewter, featuring a red jolly roger perched atop a sabre with two crossed sabres beneath it, and a black facemask.

After the 1997 redesign, the Bucs’ fortunes changed on the field. Prior to 1997, the team struggled and in its first twenty years of existence, won just one playoff game and appeared in the playoffs just three times.

From 1997 until 2002, the team made the playoffs five times, appearing in two NFC Championship Games, and ultimately winning the Super Bowl in 2002 over the other pirates of the league, the Oakland Raiders.

The team did bring back the Bucco Bruce look in 2009 to be worn as an alternate. Prior to this, the team had completely abandoned the old look, with team management and fans holding understandably negative reviews on the look. However, as with many looks that had long been abandoned to the point of erasure and forgetting of erasure, a rekindling of affection took hold.

From 2009 to 2012, the Bucs sponsored such throwback weekends to the point of completely redesigning the current Raymond James Stadium to orange banners and old fonts and logos to resemble the old Tampa Stadium, the Bucs’ original home.


2014 Redesign

The Bucs redesigned their helmets and uniforms again in 2014, this time featuring a chrome facemask, the first in the NFL to do so. The pewter became more metallic, and the logo was updated, now featuring a sleeker and larger jolly roger.

Despite the helmet resembling its 1997-2013 look, the uniforms were also redesigned with the helmet, again becoming the butt of jokes around the NFL, most notably due to the team’s numbering font.

Reviews on the helmet have been mixed.


My Take

Wow…get rid of the current helmet. It resembles something seen in arena football leagues. There’s too much flash, and the whole uniform needs to be scrapped. The Bucs had a phenomenal and winning look in the late-1990s and early-2000s. There was no reason to change the look.

I am in the minority having always loved the old Bucco Bruce look, so perhaps even a switch back to the classics in an era many teams tend to be reverting back to older looks, but updated versions of such looks.

So, anything prior to the 2014 redesign would suit me, perhaps even a mixture of both?

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  1. Oh I am totally 100% with you on that, the 1997 redesign was so sharp and so awesome, I don’t know who the heck came up with the new one, but I agree, it needs to go and they need to go back to the 1997 redesign. The black is awesome, and the current helmet is hideous.

    I always say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but people need to justify their existence on a regular basis, and so they mess with something great and turn it mediocre. Ridiculous.

    1. The entire uniform should be scrapped, and I hope they decide to go back to the 1997-2013 design soon. While I wasn’t totally against the new helmet, the chrome facemask (and chrome altogether) was more of a fad than anything else, identical to the Jaguars’ two-toned helmet.

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