The Tennessee Titans are the professional American football team based in Nashville, Tennessee. They are members of the South Division of the American Football Conference (AFC) in the National Football League (NFL). Previously known as the Houston Oilers, the then-Houston, Texas, team began play in 1960 as a charter member of the American Football League. The Oilers won two AFL championships before joining the NFL as part of the AFL–NFL Merger.
- 1 Franchise history
- 1.1 Houston Oilers (1960–96)
- 1.2 Tennessee Oilers era (1997–98)
- 1.3 Tennessee Titans era (1999-present)
- 2 References
- 3 External links
Houston Oilers (1960–96)
The Houston Oilers began in 1960 as a charter member of the American Football League. They were owned by Bud Adams, a Houston oilman, who had made several previous unsuccessful bids for an NFL expansion team in Houston. Adams was an influential member of the eight original AFL owners, since he and Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt were more financially stable than the others.
The Oilers appeared in the first three AFL championships. They scored an important victory over the NFL when they signed LSU's Heisman Trophy winner, All-America running back Billy Cannon. Cannon joined other Oiler offensive stars such as quarterback George Blanda, flanker Charlie Hennigan, running back Charlie Tolar, and guard Bob Talamini. After winning the first-ever AFL championship over the Los Angeles Chargers in 1960, they repeated over the same team (then in San Diego) in 1961. They lost to the Dallas Texans in the classic 1962 double-overtime AFL championship game, at the time the longest professional football championship game ever played. In 1962, the Oilers were the first AFL team to sign an active NFL player away from the other league, when wide receiver Willard Dewveall left the Bears to join the champion Oilers. Dewveall that year caught the longest pass reception for a touchdown in professional American football history, 99 yd, from Jacky Lee, against the San Diego Chargers. In Canadian football, paid players have caught passes for touchdowns in excess of 100 yards since the playing field is 110 yards long.
The Oilers won the AFL Eastern Division title again in 1967, then became the first professional football team to play in a domed stadium, when they moved into Houston's Astrodome for the 1968 season. Previously, the Oilers had played at Jeppesen Stadium at the University of Houston (now called Robertson Stadium) from 1960 to 1964, and Rice University's stadium from 1965 to 1967. Adams had intended the team play at Rice from the first, but Rice's board of regents initially rejected the move. After the Astrodome opened for business, Adams attempted to move there, but could not negotiate an acceptable lease with the Houston Sports Association (owners of the Houston Astros) from whom he would sublease the Dome. The 1969 season, the last as an AFL team, saw Houston begin 3-1, but tumble afterwards. They qualified for the playoffs, but were defeated by the Raiders 56-7, to finish the year with a record of 6-6-1.
The years immediately after the AFL-NFL merger were not as kind to the Oilers, who sank to the bottom of the AFC Central division. After going 3-10-1 in 1970, they went 4-9-1 in 1971, and then suffered back-to-back 1-13 seasons in 1972-73. But by 1974, the Oilers led by Hall of Fame coach Sid Gilman brought the team back to respectability by reaching .500 at season's end. The next year, Bum Phillips arrived and with talented stars like Elvin Bethea and Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, the Oilers had their first winning season of the decade. Inadequate offense doomed them to a 5-9 season in 1976, but the team improved to 8-6 the following year, and in 1978, the Oilers' fortunes improved when they drafted University of Texas football star Earl Campbell, who was Rookie of the Year that year and led the Oilers to their first playoff appearance since the merger. Defeating Miami in the wild-card round, they then trumped New England, who would not lose another home playoff game until 2009. But in the AFC Championship, the Steelers routed them 34-5. The 1979 season was a near rerun of 1978 as the Oilers finished 11-5 in the regular season and again earned a wild card spot. Passing the Broncos, they edged by San Diego in the divisional round. Despite this, several of their starters had been taken out of commission by injuries and for the second year in a row the AFC Championship witnessed the team go down to defeat in Pittsburgh 27-13. A controversial out-of-bounds call nullified a touchdown by wide receiver Mike Renfro.
The team suffered through more lean years in the early 1980s. 1980 saw the Oilers go 11-5 and achieve a wild card spot for the third year in a row, but they were quickly vanquished by Oakland 27-7. A frustrated Bud Adams fired Bum Phillips, who was succeeded by Ed Biles. Afterwards began a long playoff drought as the Oilers fell to 7-8 in 1981, and 1-8 in the strike-shorted 1982 season. Another miserable year followed in 1983, as Houston went 2-14. Biles resigned in Week 6 and was succeeded by Chuck Studley, who served merely as an interim coach until Hugh Campbell was hired in the offseason. In 1984, the Oilers won a bidding war for CFL legend Warren Moon but didn't return to the playoffs that year either, with two wins and fourteen losses. The aging Earl Campbell was traded to New Orleans during the offseason and replaced by Mike Rozier from University of Nebraska. In week 14 of the 1985 season, Hugh Campbell was replaced by Jerry Glanville, who saw the team through the last two games to finish 5-9. A 31-3 rout of Green Bay on the 1986 season opener looked promising, but in the end Houston only managed another 5-11 record. Another strike in 1987 reduced the season to 15 games, three by substitute players. After ending 9-6, the team achieved its first winning record and playoff berth in seven years. After beating the Seahawks in overtime, they fell to Denver in the divisional round. Going 10-6 in 1988, the Oilers again got into the playoffs as a wild card, beat Cleveland in a snowy 24-23 match, and then lost to Buffalo a week later. 1989 saw a 9-7 regular season, but as always the team could only manage a wild card. In a messy, penalty-ridden game, they were beaten by Pittsburgh.
Renovation to the Astrodome
The Oilers' resurgence came in the midst of a battle for the franchise's survival. In 1987, Adams threatened to move the team to Jacksonville, Florida (later the home of one of the team's division rivals) unless the Astrodome was "brought up to date." At the time the Astrodome only seated about 50,000 fans, the smallest capacity in the NFL. Not willing to lose the Oilers, Harris County responded with $67 million in improvements to the Astrodome that included new Astroturf, 10,000 additional seats and 65 luxury boxes. These improvements were funded by increases in property taxes and the doubling of the hotel tax, as well as bonds to be paid over 30 years. However, Adams' increasing demands for greater and more expensive accommodations to be funded at taxpayer expense sowed seeds of tension that assisted the team's departure (some would say expulsion) from Houston.
The Oilers briefly rose to become a league power once again in the first half of the 1990s. In 1991, the Oilers won their first division title in 25 years, and their first as an NFL team. However, only two minutes away from their first conference title game in 13 years, they were the victims of a 80-yard march by John Elway and the Denver Broncos before David Treadwell kicked a 28-yard field goal to win the game 26-24. In 1992, the Oilers compiled a 10–6 regular season record, but made history against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Wild Card playoffs by blowing an NFL record 35–3 lead and eventually losing 41–38 in overtime, a game now known simply as "The Comeback."
Adams had been blamed for the team's previous spells of incompetence, largely because he had overly micromanaged the Oilers (for instance, all expenditures over $200 required his personal approval). He displayed this tendency again before the 1993 season. After three losses in the wild card playoffs and three losses in the divisional playoffs, he gave the Oilers an ultimatum – unless they made the Super Bowl in 1993, he would break up the team. While the Oilers responded with a 12–4 record, their best record ever in Texas, and another AFC Central title, they lost in the second round to the Chiefs. Adams made good on his threat to hold a fire sale, most significantly trading Moon to the Minnesota Vikings. Without Moon, the Oilers appeared to be a rudderless team. They finished the next season 2–14, the third-worst record for a full season in franchise history. The Oilers managed to get back to respectability over the next two years, but would never make the playoffs again in Texas. However, they did manage to establish the future cornerstone of the offense by drafting Steve McNair in 1995.
Final years in Houston
At the same time, Adams again lobbied the city for a new stadium, one with club seating and other revenue generators present in recently–built NFL stadiums. However, mayor Bob Lanier turned him down almost out of hand. Although Houstonians wanted to keep the Oilers, they were leery of investing more money on a stadium so soon after the Astrodome improvements. The city was also still struggling to recover from the oil collapse of the 1980s. Adams, sensing that he was not going to get the stadium he wanted, began shopping the Oilers to other cities. He was particularly intrigued by Nashville, and opened secret talks with mayor Phil Bredesen. At the end of the 1995 season, Adams announced that the Oilers would be moving to Nashville for the 1998 season. City officials there promised to contribute $144 million toward a new stadium, as well as $70 million in ticket sales. At that point, support for the Oilers in the Houston area all but disappeared. The 1996 season was a disaster for the Oilers; they played before crowds of less than 20,000 and games were so quiet that it was possible to hear conversations on the field from the grandstand. Meanwhile, the team's radio network, which once stretched across the state, was reduced to the flagship station in Houston and a few affiliates in Tennessee. The team went 8–8, finishing 6–2 in road games and finishing only 2–6 in home games. Adams, the city and the league were unwilling to see this continue for another season, so a deal was reached to let the Oilers out of their lease a year early and move to Tennessee.
Tennessee Oilers era (1997–98)
The Oilers' new stadium would not be ready until 1999, however, and the largest stadium in Nashville at the time, Vanderbilt Stadium on the campus of Vanderbilt University, seated only 41,000 and would not allow for alcohol sales. At first, Adams rejected Vanderbilt Stadium even as a temporary facility and announced that the renamed Tennessee Oilers would play the next two seasons at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis. The team would be based in Nashville, commuting to Memphis only for games—in effect, consigning the Oilers to 32 road games for the next two years.
Even though this arrangement was acceptable to the NFL and the Oilers at the time, few people in either Memphis or Nashville were happy about it. Memphis had made numerous attempts to get an NFL team, and many people in the area wanted nothing to do with a team that would be lost in only two years—especially to longtime rival Nashville. Conversely, Nashvillians showed little inclination to drive over 200 miles (320 km) to see "their" team. In a case of exceptionally bad timing, Interstate 40 was in the midst of major reconstruction in the Memphis area, lengthening the normal three-hour drive between Nashville and Memphis to five hours.
In Memphis, the CPAC Oilers played before some of the smallest NFL crowds since the 1950s, with no crowd bigger than 27,000 (in a 62,000-seat stadium). The few fans there were usually indifferent, and often those that attended were fans of the opposing team. Oddly enough, the Oilers went 6-2 in Memphis while going 2-6 on the road. Despite this, Adams had every intention of playing in Memphis the next season. That changed after the final game of the 1997 season. The Oilers faced the Pittsburgh Steelers in front of 50,677 fans—the only crowd that could not have been reasonably accommodated in Vanderbilt. However, by at least one estimate, three-fourths of the crowd was Steeler fans. Adams was so embarrassed that he abandoned plans to play the 1998 season in Memphis and ended up moving to Vanderbilt after all. The team rebounded that season, and was in playoff contention until losing their last two games for another 8–8 record.
Tennessee Titans era (1999-present)
During the 1998 season, Adams announced that in response to fan requests, he was changing the Oilers' name to coincide with the opening of their new stadium and to better connect with Nashville. He also declared that the renamed team would retain the Oilers' heritage (including team records), as had all other relocated teams except the Browns/Ravens, and that there would be a Hall of Fame honoring the greatest players from both eras.
Adams appointed an advisory committee to decide on a new name. He let it be known that the new name should reflect power, strength, leadership and other heroic qualities. On December 22, Adams announced that the Oilers would be known as the Tennessee Titans starting in 1999. The new name met all of Adams' requirements, and also served as a nod to Nashville's nickname of "The Athens of the South" (for its large number of higher-learning institutions, Classical architecture, and its full scale replica of the Parthenon).
1999 Super Bowl run
In 1999, Adelphia Coliseum, now known as LP Field, was completed and the newly christened Titans had a grand season, finishing with a 13–3 record — the best season in franchise history. They won their first game as the "Titans," defeating the Bengals before a sold out stadium (Every game since the Titans moved to Nashville has been sold out). They finished one game behind the Jacksonville Jaguars for the AFC Central title. The Titans did not lose a game at home. Tennessee then won their first round playoff game over the Buffalo Bills on a designed play, known as "Home Run Throwback" in the Titans playbook, that is commonly referred to as the "Music City Miracle": Tight-end Frank Wycheck made a lateral pass to Kevin Dyson on a kickoff return with 16 seconds left in the game and the Titans trailing by 1 point; Dyson returned the pass 75 yds for a touchdown to win the game. After replay review, the call on the field was upheld as a touchdown. The original play did not call for Kevin Dyson to be on the field and he was only involved due to an injury of another player. The Titans went on to defeat the Indianapolis Colts in Indy, and then defeated the Jaguars in Jacksonville in the AFC Championship Game. The Titans' magnificent season led to a trip to Super Bowl XXXIV, where they lost a heartbreaker to the St. Louis Rams when Kevin Dyson was tackled one yard short of the end zone (preserving a 23-16 Rams' lead) as regulation time expired, in a play known as "The Tackle".
In 2000, the Titans finished with an NFL-best 13–3 record and won their third AFC Central title—their first division title as the Tennessee Titans. They won Central division titles in '91 and '93 while still in Houston as the Oilers. The Titans would go on to lose their home Divisonal playoff game to the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
In 2002, despite starting the season 1–4 the Titans finished the season 11-5 and made it to the AFC Championship Game but lost to Oakland. In 2003, quarterback Steve McNair won the MVP award, sharing it with Peyton Manning. The Titans went 12-4 and made the 2003 playoffs, winning their wild card game over the Baltimore Ravens and losing in the AFC divisionals to the New England Patriots who went on to win the Super Bowl.
The 2004 season created an unusual number of injuries to key players for the Titans and a 5–11 record. Their 5–11 record turned out to be their second-worst record ever since the Houston/Tennessee Oilers became the Tennessee Titans. Numerous key players were cut or traded by the Titans front office during the off season, including Eddie George, Derrick Mason, Samari Rolle, Kevin Carter, and others. This was done due to the Titans being well over the salary cap.
In 2005, the Titans took the field with the youngest team in the NFL. Several rookies made the 2005 team including 1st round pick, cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones, offensive tackle Michael Roos, and three wide receivers, Brandon Jones, Courtney Roby, and Roydell Williams. After losing their first game of the season on the road to the Pittsburgh Steelers 34–7 and then winning their Week 2 home-opener against the Baltimore Ravens 25–10, the Titans began the season 1–1, but quickly fell out of contention. They lost on the road to the St. Louis Rams 31–27 and lost to their division rival, the Indianapolis Colts 31–10. After getting some redemption on the road against their new division rival, the Houston Texans 34–20, they lost five-straight games to the Cincinnati Bengals (31–23), the Arizona Cardinals (20–10), the Oakland Raiders (34–25), the Cleveland Browns (20–14), and then (coming off of their Week 10 Bye), their division rival, the Jacksonville Jaguars 31–28. The Titans would win at home against the San Francisco 49ers 33–22, but then, they went on the road and got swept by the Colts 35–3. The Titans would sweep the luckless Texans 13–10 at home, but that would be their last win of the year, as they lost their remaining three games to the Seattle Seahawks (28–24), the Miami Dolphins (24–10), and the Jacksonville Jaguars (40–13). Their record for the season was 4–12.
In 2006, The team finished at 8–8, a definite improvement over the previous year's mark of 4–12. The year saw Vince Young lead the team to an 8–5 record as the starting quarterback. That span also included 6 straight victories. The team's chances of making the postseason at 9–7 ended at the hands of the New England Patriots in a 40–23 defeat. Floyd Reese resigned as the franchise's Executive Vice President/General Manager on January 5, 2007 after thirteen seasons at the helm. He was replaced by Mike Reinfeldt on February 12 of the same year.
After starting a promising 6–2, the Titans lost 4 of their next 5 games to fall to 7–6. They then won their next 3 games including a must-win game against the Indianapolis Colts. They were tied for the final playoff spot with the Cleveland Browns, but they had the tiebreaker and the Titans made the playoffs at 10–6. In the wild card round they lost to the San Diego Chargers, 17–6.
The year began with the Titans selecting Chris Johnson out of East Carolina University in the first round of the NFL draft, and subsequently acquired former Titan (most recently Eagle) DE Jevon Kearse and former Falcons TE Alge Crumpler. After a Week 1 injury to Vince Young, Kerry Collins took over the starting quarterback position and led the Titans to a 10-0 record before their first defeat at the hands of the New York Jets on November 23. The Titans followed up the 34-13 loss by defeating the winless Lions on Thanksgiving by a score of 47–10. In week 14, Tennessee clinched its second AFC South title with a 28-9 victory over the Cleveland Browns. In the week 14 game against the Browns, Rookie Chris Johnson rushed 19 times for 136 yards and 1 touchdown and Lendale White rushed for 99 yards and 1 touchdown. They later clinched a first round playoff bye with a loss of the New York Jets in San Francisco. On December 21, 2008, the Titans played the Pittsburgh Steelers in a contest to decide the number one seed in the AFC. The Titans won 31-14 and clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Their final record was 13–3, which ties their franchise record for most wins. On Saturday, January 10, they lost their home playoff game 13–10 to the Baltimore Ravens, who had previously won their Wildcard game at Miami on January 4. The playoff game against Baltimore included 3 red zone turnovers and 12 penalties by the Titans.
After their successful 2008 season, the Titans looked to be very promising in 2009. However, the opening game against Pittsburgh resulted in a 13-10 overtime loss and things disintegrated from there as they dropped the next five matches. This losing streak culminated in a catastrophic 59-0 defeat at the hands of New England. After the bye week, it was decided that Vince Young would succeed Kerry Collins as the starting Quarterback. The team began recovering and won five in a row including a game against the defending NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals, on a 99 yard game winning drive by Vince Young, culminating in a touchdown pass on 4th down with 6 seconds left from the 10 yard line. During the Week 10 game in Buffalo, Bud Adams was seen making an obscene gesture towards Bills fans, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (who was also attending the game) fined him $250,000. Afterwards, the Titans sustained a defeat against Indianapolis, wins over St. Louis and Miami, a loss to San Diego, and finally a victory in Seattle to end the season at 8-8. Not only did the Tennessee Titans have a great 8-2 finish, but along the way, Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson became only the 6th player in NFL history to rush for over 2000 yards, surpassing Marshall Faulk's record for the most yards from scrimmage during a season with over 2,500 total yards.
The Titans started 2010 with alternating wins and losses. They crushed Oakland at home in Week 1 and then were beaten 19-11 by the Steelers in Week 2. In Week 3, Tennessee beat the Giants 29-10 in the New Meadowlands. In week 4, Tennessee lost 26-20 to Denver, and finally won 34-27 in Dallas to reach a 3-2 record by Week 5. The following game was a MNF rout of Jacksonville (30-3). In Week 7, they beat Philadelphia 37-19 in a come-from- behind win that included scoring 27 points in the fourth quarter. Wide Receiver Kenny Britt had his break out performance with 225 reception yards, 3 touchdowns, and 7 receptions. However, after a loss to the Chargers in Week 8, they were the only team to submit in a claim for the recently-waived Randy Moss. Even after this widely-publicized claim, the team was still unable to beat the Dolphins after their bye week, 29-17. In Week 11, at home against the Washington Redskins, the Titans lost Young to a thumb injury in-game and they snapped their NFL-leading interconference win streak at 14 games, losing to Washington 19-16 in overtime. After the game, Young had a highly-publicized meltdown in the locker room and walked out on Fisher, causing him to not only be promptly put on injured reserve, but also essentially guaranteeing his release from the team in the offseason. Losses continued to mount for the Titans, until a week 15 win against the Houston Texans kept their season alive at 6-8. Needing a miracle to get into the playoffs, this nonetheless happened with consequent losses against the Chiefs and Colts. The Titans' season ended at 6-10.
In the week following the Titans' final loss to the Colts, the generally pro-Young Bud Adams agreed that it would be best for the team to release or trade Young. Later that week, on January 7, 2011, Adams released a statement in which he would bring Coach Jeff Fisher back for his last season in Tennessee. On January 27, 2011 the Titans announced that Jeff Fisher would not return for his 18th and final season under contract as Head Coach in Tennessee. Following former head coach Jeff Fisher's departure, on February 7, 2011, Mike Munchak was named head coach of the Titans. During the 2011 NFL Draft the Titans took Washington QB Jake Locker with the 8th pick overall. Meanwhile, 15-year veteran Kerry Collins retired from the NFL in July (Unretiring a month later to join the Indianapolis Colts). On July 29, 2011 veteran Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck signed a 3-year, $21 million deal to play for the Tennessee Titans. During the summer training camp prior to the 2011 season, Chris Johnson did not show up to camp, pending contract negotiations. Johnson felt he was due a considerably larger sum of money. As the leading rusher since 2008 (4,598 yards) he was set to make $1.065 million in 2011, under current contract terms. On September 1, Johnson became the highest paid running back, agreeing to a four-year, $53.5 million contract extension, including $30 million guaranteed, with the Titans, ending his holdout.
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