We’re in for a unique one today as the Jacksonville Jaguars helmet stands front and center, and what an evolution it is. What most NFL fans fail to realize is the fact the Jaguars oh, so nearly looked quite different from the traditional teal and black palette they’re used to seeing.
From those proposed helmets and uniforms from 1993, to the infamous two-toned look from 2013 to 2017 to a return to tradition in 2018, they may be a young franchise, but their helmet history is one that makes an outsider believe this team has lasted for decades.
And that’s where our story about the Jaguars’ helmet begins.
Pre-1995: The Proposed Look
When a shocked Wayne Weaver was awarded the Jaguars, he held up the proposed teal jersey and silver helmet, whose leaping Jaguar logo drew ire from Ford Motor Company, who owned the Jaguar. Ford claimed the logo too closely resembled the Jaguar and as a result, the Jaguars redesigned their helmet and uniforms.
This original helmet consisted of a silver shell, a gold leaping jaguar, with a teal and gold helmet stripe.
The brand was one that looked hot with expansion teams adopting teal or purple as part of their color schemes in the late-1980s and early-90s. Among these teams were the Charlotte Hornets, Toronto Raptors, Vancouver Grizzlies, San Jose Sharks, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers (Carolina blue which is close to teal), Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and Arizona Diamondbacks.
However, toward the latter half of the 1990s, black became increasingly marketable, prompting the switch to a black helmet and black as the main color for the Jaguars after the redesign.
From the team’s debut in 1995 until 2012, the helmet consisted of a black shell with a snarling jaguar head, replacing the unused leaping jaguar. The teal tongue was Wayne Weaver’s way of “feeding the Panthers to our Jaguars,” acknowledging the team’s expansion brethren, the Carolina Panthers.
A fun fact can be made that this almost became the case in 1996 as both the Panthers and Jaguars came within one game of reaching the Super Bowl in just their second season of existence, the only time expansion teams had gotten this far in the four major sports leagues since 1970 until the Vegas Golden Knights of the NHL reached the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season.
In 2009, the Jaguars redesigned their uniforms to a simpler shade of teal, but kept the helmets intact. The only difference to the helmet from 2009 to 2012 occurred when the helmet would turn teal when light hit it at a certain angle. This, to date, is the only time a team has designed helmets like this in NFL history.
2013 to 2017: The Infamous Two-Tone
Some regard it as the worst helmet in NFL history, and I agree. In 2013 the Jaguars did something new in the NFL and introduced a two-toned helmet along with a newer, updated version of the snarling jaguar logo.
To the team’s defense, the new logo was an upgrade over the first, which bore a lighter shade of gold, a teal nose, and teal eyes.
The downside, however, was the mustard shade of gold in the back half of the helmet, which was panned all over the sporting landscape, giving the Jaguars the look of a collegiate or arena football team. Per NFL rules, the team was forced to wear these helmets for five seasons before they could escape the abysmal lid for good.
2018: Return to Normalcy
The Jaguars overhauled their uniform once more in 2018 and the all-black shell returned while the logo remained intact. The uniforms became among the simplest in the NFL, which matched the helmet and gave the Jaguars an aesthetically pleasing look.
Many have lauded the return to normalcy, myself included, and the Jaguars will be required to continue with the look for another four seasons before introducing another redesign if they so choose to.
I’m just glad to see the black helmets return. I was four when the Jaguars entered the NFL and they quickly became one of my favorite teams due to the teal and black uniform combination along with the helmet. I even had some Jaguars merchandise while growing up, including the Jaguars’ mini-helmet. Since my Cleveland Browns were officially suspended from 1996-1998 due to the relocation of personnel to Baltimore, the Jaguars filled the void as my AFC team.
So, I can at least state how glad I am to see the team return to the all-black shell and I hope it remains for quite some time. If I had to rank the NFL helmets in 2017, they would’ve been 32nd, but this new look is easily a top-15 one and it’s refreshing to see that the fans in general took kindly to the change.
The Jaguars might have a short history that only gets interesting in the team’s early years, the team does have a long, long history of different helmets and jerseys, even before their inception. However, this might pertain as trouble to teams like the Jaguars, as some will continually rebrand due to failure to find a true identity; the same might be true with the Jaguars.
A uniform change before they even took the field to avoid copyright infringement is one thing, but to have not one, not two, but three complete overhauls within two and a half decades says a lot; the team simply can’t find an identity to win over fans, where fan support in Jacksonville continues to be an issue.
Perhaps stability has come to the team with a newer, plainer look, but until the Jaguars can continually hold onto a look that might one day achieve iconic status, they will go through the same thing; a design, then a redesign five seasons later, as per the NFL rules.
One can only hope that this team, now well into its existence, can hold an identity both today and for years to come, but history is not on their side. Time will tell.