Where the Commanders' rebrand has succeeded and struggled after one year
Where Commanders' rebrand has succeeded, struggled after a year originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
One year ago today, the words, "We are the Commanders" were first uttered.
Yes, the franchise's third name, which was revealed on Feb. 2, 2022, is somehow already 365 days old.
So, to mark that anniversary, Pete Hailey has decided to evaluate the most positive and negative parts of the rebrand. Here's his list, which will assuredly be unanimously agreed upon and not hated on at all...
The successful aspects of the rebrand
The on-field gear
The uniforms aren't flawless — the white jerseys on top of both the white and (quasi)burgundy(-ish) pants produced clunky combos — but for the most part, the players looked quite good when they suited up for action on a weekly basis.
Sure, the black-on-black pairing came off a little Steeler-y, but you know what it did more? Came off as super badass. Guys like Jonathan Allen were so menacing in those alternates that it's a slight surprise that the league didn't constantly throw flags for excessive intimidation or some other fictional penalty whenever the squad chose to don them.
The burgundy-on-burgundy and burgundy-on-white options, meanwhile, did a solid job of incorporating the past and creating an updated feel simultaneously.
And the helmets, whether it was the matte burgundy or glossy black, acted as excellent finishers for that game's 'fit.
A vital piece of any sports rebrand is the execution of the uniforms, and Washington handled that area capably.
Allowing the community to pitch in
From the "Command the Canvas" initiative at FedEx Field that lent local artists the chance to show off their paintings, graffiti projects, etc. around the stadium to enlisting the help of Black-owned businesses such as The Museum DC and DC PROPER to develop merchandise, the club is attempting to give outsiders the opportunity to influence this new chapter.
Generating that type of buy-in is paramount, seeing as loyalty to the team is waning. President Jason Wright is aiming to better weave in the organization with its surroundings and initiatives such as these will assist greatly in that goal. The more the merrier here.
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In retrospect, waiting until Week 17 to officially unveil a mascot seems rather excessive, while doing so in the midst of an epic Carson Wentz meltdown was just plain bad luck.
But in the end, Major Tuddy was worth the wait.
Major Tuddy's name is the ideal mix of unique and goofy. On top of that, his appearance is comfortably on the approachable end of the approachable-creepy spectrum, which is a must for all mascots but one that isn't always accomplished.
Plus, Ol' Tuds is on Twitter and already more entertaining than, like, three-quarters of the platform's users:
Major Tuddy pays homage to a legendary offensive line and will be a highlight for numerous kids who cross his path. He's absolutely worthy of a salute.
By the way, in a similar vein, Mando the dog was a total hit. Hopefully there's another pup roaming the sidelines in 2023. Does Major Tuddy have a leash available?
The aspects of the rebrand that have been a struggle
The overall acceptance of it all
This was essentially inevitable.
Basically, whatever name and direction Washington went with was destined for derision, because the once-permanent name and logo, while controversial, left an indelible impact on so many.
But still, the fact that there are people who are longing for Football Team — a label so plain that calling it "vanilla" would be too complimentary — to Commanders is disheartening and speaks to how the entire switch has been received.
Now, a more inspiring debut campaign would've done wonders, of course. Had Ron Rivera's bunch ripped off 12 victories in the fall and winter, there'd be so much natural momentum behind the enormous change.
However, did those in charge err in eliminating Red Wolves/Redwolves from the pool of candidates? Was it a mistake to so heavily emphasize choices that were closely tied to the area/the military? Hell, would it have been best to just stick with Football Team?
Those are all questions that are fair to ask now and maybe they're on the minds of the folks who led the rebrand. But between the scrutinized name and the plethora of runoff consequences that stem from it (including those that are touched on below), perhaps the Commanders era is already doomed to, at best, tepid enthusiasm no matter how much time passes or how many playoff berths are earned.
The lack of nickname
In terms of what truly matters in this world, there are roughly 352,000 more important items than the inability to cut Commanders down into a shorthand sobriquet.
That said, it'd be really nice to be able to cut Commanders down into a shorthand sobriquet.
The Capitals are widely known as the Caps. The Wizards can be referred to as the Wiz. The Commanders, sadly, isn't workable in the same way — which is a point that tons of supporters bemoaned as soon as the initial announcement was made.
The hope was that, during the course of the season, a solution would reveal itself. Sadly, much like the quarterback situation, no obvious answer has emerged, despite everyone's best efforts (or, in the case of the "'Manders" crowd, mediocre efforts).
A solid nickname is of use in chants, in texts, on sports radio and in countless other forums. Yet for Washington's NFL fans, it's merely a figment of their imagination.
The revamped fight song
Remixing a classic anthem is risky, but when done right, the reward can be huge.
In this instance, the Commanders took on that risk but failed to reap any reward.
"Fight for our Commanders" only actually altered a couple of verses, but even with those scant tweaks, the beloved tune suffered in quality.
A version of the Commandersâ new fight song is being played ahead of the Welcome Home Luncheon pic.twitter.com/A5t79jiinE
— Pete Hailey (@PeteHaileyNBCS) September 1, 2022
There were seemingly multiple versions of "Fight for our Commanders" — a slower, jazzy edition caused serious panic — and ultimately, the freshened-up fight song became an afterthought at FedEx Field. There were times when it could barely be heard following touchdowns (if it was played at all) at home contests in 2022.
The previous song was largely worth belting out in the stands and at home. Its replacement, on the other hand, simply hasn't resonated. Pivoting and embracing the "Commanders Song" — otherwise known as the jam that encourages listeners to put their left hands up — would be prudent.