“Tastes evolve,” so … will new Broncos management mean new uniforms?
Aug 29, 2022, 5:44 PM
(Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The new president of the Broncos, Damani Leech, held aloft a commemorative Broncos jersey after his introductory press conference at UCHealth Training Center on Monday afternoon.
It’s a jersey that might soon be a part of the Broncos’ past.
In the course of a question-and-answer session with media, Leech said that the uniforms will be part of what he examines as he assumes the Broncos’ reins.
“I think you’ve got to try and balance history and tradition and three Super Bowls wearing this uniform,” he said, “but also understanding that tastes evolve, your customer evolves, and connecting with fans and representing your brand in the best way is important to do.
“Again, no proclamations on Day 1, but it’s also one of those things, certainly, that I’ll be looking at.”
Forget about marketing initiatives, the changes on the business side of the organization and even a potential new stadium. The first two don’t resonate with the public at large; the last one might not be resolved for several years.
But for many in Broncos Country, a uniform change would. For the Walton-Penner ownership group, it would represent a visible to put their own stamp on the organization.
It is also a topic that never fails to stoke passion among the fans.
“The main thing that I’ve learned in a few weeks is that there are a lot of opinions about the uniforms,” Broncos CEO Greg Penner said.
“And I have not formed any conclusions yet.”
The Broncos unveiled their current uniform template in 1997.
To great fanfare, they introduced a design that resembled nothing that came before it. John Elway, John Mobley and Harald Hasselbach modeled the uniforms.
The reviews were unkind.
Writing for The (Colorado Springs) Gazette-Telegraph, Mike Klis noted, “The Broncos don’t have new home uniforms; owner Pat Bowlen had someone steal them from the Chicago Bears’ equipment room.” The Los Angeles Times ran a photo with the caption, “Bronco bust?”
In the Louisville Courier-Journal, Pat Forde described the uniforms as “something better suited for Arenaball” and said the Broncos had “murdered tradition.” The Tampa Tribune noted that the uniforms were “hideous.”
And a poll with 4,700 responses conducted by The Denver Post at the time revealed that 76 percent hated that uniform.
But the Broncos stuck with it. Specifically, then-owner Pat Bowlen stuck with it. He commissioned and spearheaded the changes.
Denver immediately won two Super Bowls after the overhaul. A third followed in February 2016. Leech noted these successes Monday.
In between, the Broncos introduced an alternate orange jersey in the template. It debuted in 2002 and became the primary jersey a decade later.
With that, the sight of the sea of orange at what is now known as Empower Field at Mile High returned after the years when the primary jersey was blue and the stands were a forgettable muddled mishmash of fans wearing blue, white and orange.
But the Broncos also had two stretches of at least five years without playoff football in the template. They missed the postseason from 2006-10, and now have an ongoing six-year streak without postseason football. But aside from introducing a throwback-template “Color Rush” look with the old “D” and an orange-on-orange scheme, the Broncos kept the uniforms.
Part of the reason they remained during the eight-year stewardship of the Pat Bowlen Trust was because they represented a signature component of Bowlen’s vision.
Indeed, the current uniform design was very much his baby.
“The first question I’m asked is, ‘Why?'” Bowlen said when asked about changing the uniforms in 1997. “he best answer is I’ve always wanted this organization to be No. 1 in everything. That’s my mission; the organization’s mission.
“And I felt playing in uniforms that essentially have been the same for 30 years was not moving in that direction. I felt we needed a change.”
But now, a quarter-century later, something similar could be said of the Broncos’ current look.
For a while, the Broncos were at the forefront. Swooshes, contrasting jersey side panels and tapered pant stripes spread through all levels of football like a contagious virus over the decade that followed.
But by the 2010s, football fashion changed. Designs became sleeker. What was revolutionary became passe.
And that is the risk of a “forward-thinking” uniform. Such an outfit becomes dated, whereas time-tested, clean looks stand the test of time and become iconic.
It’s particularly glaring for the Broncos in the AFC West. Kansas City and Las Vegas have donned the same basic uniform design for at least a half-century.
The Los Angeles Chargers have tweaked their look over the decades. But their current design is basically a sleeker take on their original 1960s look. Even having player numbers on the helmets is an element cribbed from the Sid Gillman years.
Monday, Leech noted noted that “tastes evolve, your customer evolves, and connecting with fans and representing your brand in the best way is important to do.”
And based on what Leech and Penner said, they may already have deduced that after a quarter-century, it’s time for a new look — and one that may have echoes of the old — for the Broncos’ uniforms.