Return of Lions' black jerseys is full-circle moment for Dan Campbell

The Detroit Lions have brought back their black alternate jersey, and it's a full circle moment for head coach Dan Campbell.
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The Detroit Lions have been teasing a new look for the better part of a year, so you can excuse fans who were extra excited to see new uniforms revealed on Thursday night.

After an early leak of the jerseys, folks had an idea of what was to come later in the day, and when the show began, it did not disappoint. The Lions revealed three new designs each honoring the past and representing the present. Detroit's blue and white uniforms are clean, and the looks blend the history of the franchise well.

The showstopper from the reveal, of course, was the return of the black alternate jersey. A look that has been controversial with many fans given it represented a period of extended losing, the dark threads are back with a modern twist.

The last time the Lions wore black was in the early 2000's when Matt Millen had taken over the franchise after their move to Ford Field. At that time, the black jersey wasn't synonymous with winning, even though Calvin Johnson began his Hall of Fame career wearing that alternate, Some had said it didn't feel like the Lions' classic silver, blue and white palate, which made it even more polarizing with traditionalists.

Alternate jersies have become the rage in the NFL though, and in some senses the Lions were ahead of the curve with the black look. It was popular enough that it gained a cult following with many fans and players, which is why many wanted it to return.

Dan Campbell pushed for return of black jersey in unique bet with Rod Wood

Not surprisingly, the black uniform was a hit with head coach Campbell, who wore the jersey when he played for the Lions from 2006-2008. The rugged look fits his personality well, and Campbell often wears black on the sideline as a a coach. So it makes sense Campbell would embrace the design.

Lions' brass understood the historical implications of bringing the black back, so before they did, they covered their bases. As Wood explained to reporters, including Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Campbell wanted the jersey to be back immediately after becoming head coach in 2021. Instead of caving, Wood made a bet with Campbell. Win the division, and the black uniforms could return.

Detroit of course won the NFC North in 2023, and a pair of playoff games, shaking their dark history as perennial losers. The move to wait on the return of the black jersey ensured they would see no blowback from the decision to bring back a color scheme that invited memories of 2008's 0-16 season. It was a brilliant decision by Wood, and Campbell deserves credit for not only waiting, but delivering on the his part of the deal.

Now, Campbell gets to coach the Lions wearing the very jersey he used to love wearing. It's just another full-circle moment as he continues to shift football paradigms in the Motor City.


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