The Tennessee Titans are a professional American football team based in Nashville, Tennessee. They are currently 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.
The team relocated to the state of Tennessee in 1997, first playing in Memphis for one season before moving to Nashville. For two seasons, the team was known as the Tennessee Oilers before changing its name to Titans in 1999.
Houston Oilers era (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 is considered the second-most influential 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 football history, , from Jacky Lee, against the San Diego Chargers. 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.
The years immediately after the AFL-NFL merger
were not as kind to the Oilers, who sank to the bottom of the AFC Central
. 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 1970s. In 1978
, the Oilers' fortunes improved when they drafted University of Texas
football star Earl Campbell
, who was both Rookie of the Year and MVP that year and led the Oilers to their first NFL playoff appearance. The Oilers made three straight playoff appearances, but three postseason exits that included two back-to-back AFC Championship Game losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers
prompted Adams to fire Phillips.
The team suffered through more lean years in the early 1980s (the 1981
Oilers won their first two games, both on the road—but then the team lost 23 consecutive away games, an all-time NFL record which remained intact until the Detroit Lions
lost their 24th straight road game on December 21
). In 1984
, the Oilers won a bidding war for CFL
legend Warren Moon
but didn't return to the playoffs until 1987
. From 1987
, the Oilers were one of the most successful teams in the AFC, making the playoffs each year but failing to reach the Super Bowl. In 1991
, they won their first division title of any kind since 1967.
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
unless the Astrodome was "brought up to date." At the time the Astrodome only seated about 50,000 fans for football—the smallest capacity in the NFL. Not willing to lose the Oilers, the city 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.
Adams was frustrated that the Oilers, despite their gaudy regular season performances, could not make it to the AFC Championship Game, let alone the Super Bowl. In 1992
, for example, 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 to eventually lose 41–38 in overtime, a game now known simply as "The Comeback
". Adams had been blamed for the team's previous spells of mediocrity, largely because he had a tendency to micromanage the Oilers. He showed this again before the 1993 season
. After three losses in the wild card game and three losses in the divisional playoffs, he gave the Oilers an ultimatum—make the Super Bowl
in 1993 or he was breaking 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—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, which is the second worst record for a full season in franchise history next to the 1-15 record achieved by the 2007 Miami Dolphins. 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
Final years in Houston
At the same time, Adams again lobbied the city for a new stadium—one with club seats
and other revenue generators present in recently–built NFL stadiums. However, Mayor Bob Lanier
turned him down almost out of hand. Houston residents were wary of investing more money on a stadium so soon after the Astrodome improvements and that the city was 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 then-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 all but disappeared. Houstonians wanted to keep the team but did not want to give Bud Adams any more money for what he did. 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. It was especially notable that the team went 8–8, finishing 6–2 in road games and finishing only 2–6 in home games. After the season, the city agreed to let Adams out of his lease a year early, allowing Adams to move the Oilers 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. 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
. 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 to see "their" team.
The result was, in many ways, almost as much of an embarrassment as the lame-duck season in Houston. The Oilers played before some of the smallest NFL crowds since the 1950s. 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. Not helping matters was a history of hostility between the NFL and the city of Memphis; two attempts to earn a permanent franchise, the Memphis Hound Dogs and Mid-South Grizzlies, were met with rejection by the league. 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 be reasonably accommodated at Vanderbilt. However, nearly all neutral observers estimated that the crowd was at least two-thirds Steeler fans. Adams 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) and that there would be a Hall of Fame honoring the greatest players from both eras. Unlike four years earlier, when Art Modell
agreed to leave the Cleveland Browns
' name and heritage behind when he moved his organization to Baltimore
, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue
raised no objection when Adams declared that he would retain the rights to the Oilers name—effectively foreclosing Houston from reclaiming it for an expansion team.
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 and Classical architecture).
1999 Super Bowl run
, 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 finished one game behind the Jacksonville Jaguars
for the AFC Central title. 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 but 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 for a touchdown to win the game. After reviewing the replays, 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' Cinderella 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 endzone in a 23-16 game (in favor of the Rams) as regulation time expired in a play known as "The Tackle
, 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.
In 2002, the Titans made an AFC Championship Game appearance but lost to Oakland, who went on to lose Super Bowl XXXVII to Tampa Bay.
In 2003, quarterback Steve McNair won the MVP award, sharing it with Peyton Manning. The Titans made the 2003 playoffs, winning their first-round game over the Baltimore Ravens and losing in the AFC semifinals to the New England Patriots who went on to win the Super Bowl.
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 Derrick Mason
, Samari Rolle
, Kevin Carter
, and others. This was done due to the Titans being well over the salary cap
, 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
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. The year marked a turning point in the Titan's franchise
Logo and uniforms
When the team debuted as the Oilers in 1960, the club's logo was an oil rig derrick. Except for minor color changes throughout the years, this logo remained the same until the team was renamed the Titans in 1999.
The Oilers uniforms consisted of blue or white jerseys, red trim, and white pants. From 1966 through 1971, the pants with both the blue and white jerseys were silver, to match the color of the helmets. The team commonly wore light blue pants on the road with the white jerseys from 1972 through 1994, with the exception of the 1980 season, and selected games in the mid 80s, when the team wore an all-white road combination. For selected games in 1973 and 1974, and again from 1981 through 1984, the Oilers wore their white jerseys at home. The light blue pants were discarded by coach Jeff Fisher in 1995.
From 1960 to about 1965, and from 1972 to 1974, they wore blue helmets; from 1966 to 1971, the helmets were silver; and they were white from 1975 to 1998.
During the 1997–98 period when they were known as the "Tennessee Oilers", the team had an alternate logo that combined elements of the flag of Tennessee with the derrick logo. The team also wore their white uniforms in home games, as opposed to their time in Houston, when their blue uniforms were worn at home. The team reverted back to wearing their blue uniforms at home when the team name was changed to the Titans and their uniforms were completely redesigned, though on occasion the white uniforms are still worn for a home game.
When the team was renamed the Titans, the club introduced a new logo: A circle with three stars, similar to that found on the flag of Tennessee; a large "T"; and blue and red flames (sometimes referred to as the Flaming Thumbtack by detractors). The uniforms consist of white helmets, red trim, and either navy or white jerseys. White pants are normally worn with the navy jerseys, and navy pants are worn with the white jerseys. On both the navy and white jerseys, the outside shoulders and sleeves are light "Titans Blue". In a game vs. the Washington Redskins in 2006, the Titans wore their navy jerseys with navy pants for the first time.
The Titans introduced an alternate jersey in 2003 that is light "Titans Blue" with navy outside shoulders and sleeves. That jersey is usually worn with the road blue pants. In November 2006, the Titans introduced light "Titans Blue" pants in a game at Philadelphia. The pants were reminiscent of the ones donned by the Oilers. In December 2006, they combined the "Titans Blue" pants with the "Titans Blue" jersey to create an all "Titans Blue" uniform. On December 10 the Titans paired the "Titans Blue" pants with the away jerseys to create a uniform that resembled the former Houston Oilers away uniforms when Tennessee faced the Houston Texans in Reliant Stadium.
During the 2006 season, the Titans wore seven different uniform combinations, pairing the white jersey with all three sets of pants (white, Titans blue, navy blue), the navy jersey with the white and navy pants, and the Titans blue jersey with navy and Titans blue pants. In 2007 against the Atlanta Falcons, the Titans paired the navy blue jersey with the Titans blue pants, a game of which they won. The team has yet to pair the Titans blue jersey with white pants.
In 2008, it was announced that the "Titans Blue" jerseys would become the regular home uniforms, with the navy being relegated to alternate status.
Other notable alumni
Coaches of note
Radio and television
The Titans' flagship radio station is WKDF
103.3FM, Mike Keith
is the team's play-by-play announcer, and former Titans tight end Frank Wycheck
provides color commentary during games. Larry Stone is also apart of the team doing "Around the League". The Titans Radio Network is broadcast on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville, TN and on many other stations Most preseason games are televised on WKRN
, the ABC
affiliate in Nashville.
Notes and references