Tampa Bay Buccaneers Helmet

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.

And man, through the decades, does this piece of helmet history get real. So real, that this article will only give an overview from 1976 until today. My greatest hope is to create one that is more in-depth, citing unused concepts and what-if’s far beyond the scope of this article, but definitely one for my unused helmet, jersey, and logo series.

An interesting, interesting history follows, so without further ado, let’s get started on a fascinating history lesson.


Bucco Bruce: 1976-1996

The original Tampa Bay Buccaneers helmet featuring Bucco Bruce.

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.

If you click on the link to the Raiders’ helmet history above, you can clearly see that Sparkman succeeded at his task.

Job well done, Mr. Sparkman.

Becoming the butt of jokes in the sports realm, St. Petersburg Times sportswriter Hubert Mizell nicknamed the caricature Bucco Bruce.

Further, 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, especially during the team’s formative seasons when the Bucs started off 0-26.


==> Click Here for the Buccaneers Team Profile <==


1997 Redesign

The 1997-2013 helmet design, featuring a pewter shell.

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.

After considering numerous prototypes, the helmet switched from white to pewter, featuring a red jolly roger perched atop a saber with two crossed sabers 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 (in one NFC Championship Game) just three times.

From 1997 until 2002, the Bucs 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.

After several years of dormancy, the Bucs brought 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. 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 they completely redesigned the current Raymond James Stadium to orange banners and old fonts and logos to resemble the old Tampa Stadium, the Bucs’ original home.


==> Click Here for the Buccaneers Jersey History <==


2014 Redesign

The 2014 helmet featuring chrome for the first time.

The Bucs redesigned their helmets and uniforms again in 2014, this time featuring a chrome facemask, the first team 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, which you can view by clicking through to the above link that’ll take you to the team’s jersey article.

Despite the negative fan and critical reaction of the uniforms, reviews on the helmet have been mixed, with some supporting the bolder logo while others criticized it for being too college or arena football-like.


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My Take

Wow…get rid of the current helmet. It resembles something seen in arena football leagues (see above paragraph). 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 mean, who wants to play for a team these days whose facemasks resemble the handle of a public toilet? Hey, if that’s your thing then great, but for the rest of us, chrome should probably confine itself to public bathrooms.

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?



Again, I love Bucco Bruce but I think if we held a fan vote today, the 1997-2013 look would win by an overwhelming margin, getting rid of the team’s current eyesore helmet and restoring the darker shade of pewter and smaller jolly roger.

Fans these days may love to have Bucco Bruce back as an alternate, but until the NFL gets rid of its ban on multiple use of helmets throughout the season, we might be stuck with just seeing the roger, unless of course, Nike wishes to plaster Bruce onto the sides of the current helmets, which may or may not be a good idea.

I do know of one good idea, though, and it’s to get rid of the current look and opt for something that became a Super Bowl-winning, instant classic.

Either way, let’s scrap the current.

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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.

  2. Obviously there are a lot of factors at play, but one thing I know about sports teams and players is they are often superstitious and it’s easy to blame performance on a change like your helmet and kit. So many players where their favorite socks or do rituals before a game.

    I live in New Zealand and our top rugby team is called the Crusaders. No one ever really thought about what crusaders meant, but they went the whole 9 yards with castles, knights on horses leading them onto the field and their strips represented the same thing. We don’t wear helmets in NZ although we should because head injuries occur all the time. Since the killing of Muslims in Christchurch where the Crusaders are based and the original Crusaders were feared knights who went out to kill muslims, it has been decided that they now have to totally change their names and everything that goes with it. It will be very interesting to see if their fortunes disappear with the trappings.

    1. Lots of factors, that’s definitely for sure. And yes, I saw the Christchurch Crusaders were changing the name. I wonder what the team’s new identity will look like.

  3. Wow, I knew that some teams reinvented their colors, but this newest helmet design is awful. I liked the original, but I know some people really abide by superstition, so why not stick with what worked in the late 90’s? Or, if they wanted to pay tribute to the earlier logo, why not make the helmet black, with an orange flag and a white jolly roger? Why did they have to change it all to red and chrome? Someone take away the design software from whoever has it now, or they’re going to end up with Comic Sans on their backs! XD

    1. Hi, Hilary; it’s abysmal, as is the rest of the uniform. I think a lot of teams felt their 1990s to be dated as teams like the Jaguars had since thrown their original 1990s uniforms to the wayside, as have many other teams. I’m glad you brought up the black helmet, because back in 1997 there were at least three black helmet prototypes in circulation that the team considered using.

  4. Hi, Todd, I am not a football fan but after reading your post I would tend to agree with you that they should go back to their winning look of the ’90s and please some of their fans. Good luck to your team in the coming years.

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