BERGEN COUNTY, N.J.- Although Thursday Night Football may be a bust for ratings and problematic for players, coaches, and staff, the National Football League’s Color Rush uniforms provide fans with a variation from the norm. At the beginning of this season, I identified, by division, the best Color Rush uniforms.
The New York Giants, by far, were my favorite in the NFC East and quite possibly in the NFL. They are set to be showcased in primetime, during Thursday Night Football, on December 22, 2016, against their division-rival Philadelphia Eagles. I wrote: “The Giants put a contemporary spin with metallic paint on the retro ‘Giants’ helmets. The uniforms, themselves, are an ode to the Giants Dynasty years…. Giants fans of all ages will enjoy these uniforms”.
There was a tumultuous path to greatness, however. I talked with Joseph Skiba, the Giants’ equipment director, about the inspiration and design behind this year’s color rush uniform. When telling me that Nike presented a red jersey and pants combination for its initial pitch to the Giants brass, Skiba “put [his] head down” and John Mara, president, CEO, and co-owner of the Giants, said: “this meeting is over. We are not going with this”. The feeling simply was that the color red was not indicative of the iconic Giants “look” that has stood the test of time. Skiba compares it to that of the New York Yankees, Montreal Canadiens, and the Los Angeles Dodgers, whose uniforms have virtually remain unchanged since their inception.
The second jersey and pants combination that Nike presented to the Giants was a blue combination. Skiba observed that “it kind of looked like that iconic 80’s uniform”. At the time, Mara’s thought process was that “[the Giants] can suffer through this one game” if they spun it to be an ode to “Big Blue” and the “Big Blue Wrecking Crew” (a nickname given to the 1980’s Giants defense, a nod to its style of smash-mouth football).
After signing off on this look, after a couple of months, John Mara developed a case of cold feet at the very last minute, right before the permission forms were due to Nike. Mara told Skiba: “I can’t do it”. At this point, Skiba’s imminent fear was that the Giants were going to be “the only one out of 32 teams not [participating in Color Rush]”. Mara explained to Skiba that he did not want this completely blue Color Rush uniform, worn for one night, to damage the organization’s iconic, timeless look.
Thinking about the 80’s uniforms, Skiba then suggested to Mara: “What if we go: all white?” From there, the ideas started flowing. In the eleventh hour, the Giants brass went back to the drawing board. Skiba explained the final product as: “a perfect combination of everyone’s input.” Chris Mara, senior vice president of player evaluation, suggested they exchange the current grey face-mask for a white one. Pat Hanlon, senior vice president of communications, suggested that they complete the retro look with a “Giants” helmet decal instead of the contemporary “NY”. Skiba called the Hail Mary design “a total group effort to put this iconic uniform back onto the field … and to give back to the fans. ”
The Giants are playing in Philadelphia against the Eagles, but, atypically, if the Giants had a home game this year, they were still going to be wearing the white uniforms, explained Skiba.
“I think it was a perfect opportunity to go under the color rush guidelines and give something complete new to the fans”, Skiba explained about the all-white creation. After the initial unveiling, to me, the reaction from Giants fans has been overwhelmingly positive on Twitter. According to one fan, Odell Beckham, Jr.’s color rush jersey sold out within 24 hours of being on sale on Fanatics.com.
— JerseyMike (@jerseymike7) September 19, 2016
— Joseph Laura (@Joseph_Laura) September 19, 2016
— Joseph Laura (@Joseph_Laura) September 19, 2016
— Bryan 〽️artorana (@BTown101488) September 19, 2016
As the saying goes: you can’t please everyone. J.P. from Texas told me that the Giants’ color rush uniforms remind him of another New York team.
— JayPee²³ (@jp_twothree) September 19, 2016
How does Skiba respond to that criticism? “I don’t want to say the one thing I really think! I want to laugh…. [Those people] probably haven’t seen any highlights of Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks, O.J. Anderson, Joe Morris, Phil Simms, and Mark Bavaro. I guess they missed that generation. Come on, now”.
Clearly passionate about his craft, Skiba understands that “a uniform is your identity. It is something you have to get right. It stands for what the fanbase and the organization represents. I think we did it”.
After the Giants played this past Sunday, Skiba and the entire equipment crew have worked tirelessly to completely change their look for their Thursday night game: from the decals on their helmets to the color of their cleats… all while having to travel to Philadelphia. With the amount of work they have turned out in the past 72 hours, perhaps Santa Claus should hire them as elves for 2017!
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