American Football Wiki

Houston/Tennessee Oilers
Helmet/Logo 400px-AFC-Helmet Logo Hou-TEN-OilersNFL-Houston-TEN Oilers large Red-Columbia Blue wordmark
League American Football League (AFL) 1960-1969
National Football League (NFL) 1970-1998
Conference Western (AFL) (1960-69), American Football Conference (AFC), NFL (1970-1998)
Founded 1960
Ended 1998 (franchise retired upon move to Nashville to become Tennessee Titans)
Stadium Jeppesen Stadium (1960-1964)
Rice Stadium (1965-1967)
Houston Astrodome (1967-1998)
City Houston, Texas, U.S.
Team Owner Bud Adams
Last Head Coach Jeff Fisher, 1995-1998
Team Colors Columbia Blue, Red, White               
AFC-Throwback-Uniform-1997-98 Tennessee Oilers

Tennessee Oilers Jerseys (1997-98)

Team Motto Luv Ya' Blue
Mascot The Roughneck
Division titles 6:

AFL East: 1960, 1961, 1962, 1967

AFC Central: 1991, 1993

Playoff appearances 15: AFL: 1960, 1961, 1962, 1967, 1969 NFL: 1978, 1979, 1980, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993
Championships 2: AFL: (1960, 1961)
Team history
  • Houston Oilers 1960-1969 (AFL), 1970-1996 (NFL)
  • Tennessee Oilers 1997-1998 (NFL)
  • Houston/Tennessee Oilers Historical Teams
    1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969
    1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979
    1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989
    1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998
    Cheerleaders Oilers Cheerleaders
    Official Website
    Tennessee Titans' Website

    The professional football team now known as the Tennessee Titans played from their founding year of 1960 until 1996 under the moniker of the Houston Oilers. The Oilers won two AFL championships before joining the NFL as part of the AFL–NFL Merger.. In 2002, the Houston Texans, the Oilers replacement, debuted.


    Houston Oilers logo, 1975-1995

    The professional American football team now known as the Tennessee Titans originally was called the Houston Oilers. Based in Houston, Texas, the 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.

    Owner Bud Adams eventually relocated the Oilers to Nashville, Tennessee in 1996, changing the team name rechristening it first to the Tennessee Oilers in '96, then to the Tennessee Titans in 1999, the team logo, and the primary color scheme from Columbia Blue, Red and White to Titans Blue, Navy, and White. The new Titans franchise would retain the Oilers' team history and records, while the team name and colors would officially be retired by then NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

    History of the Oilers[]

    American Football years (1960-69)[]

    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, Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt and Buffalo Bills founder Ralph Wilson were more financially stable than the other five (all three would go on to own their franchises for over forty years, whereas the others pulled out by the 1980s).

    The Oilers competed in the East Division (along with Buffalo, New York and Boston) of the AFL before the merger, after which they joined the newly-formed AFC Central. The Oilers throughout their existence were owned by Bud Adams and played its home games at the Astrodome for the majority of its time in Houston (Jeppesen Stadium and Rice Stadium hosted the Oilers for their first eight years).

    The Oilers were the first champions of the American Football League, winning the 1960 and 1961 contests, but never again won another championship. The Oilers appeared in the 1962 AFL Championship, losing in double-overtime to their in-state rivals, the Dallas Texans; they also won the AFL East Division title in 1967 and qualified for the AFL Playoffs in 1969, both times losing to the Oakland Raiders.

    The Oilers' main colors were light blue and white, with red trim, while their logo was a simple derrick. Oilers jerseys were always light blue for home and white for away. The helmet color, however, was light blue with a white derrick between 1960 and 1979, before changing to a white helmet with a blue derrick beginning in 1980 and lasting the remainder of the team's time in Houston.

    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 7-7-1.

    1970-1977: Early NFL Years[]

    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, Oail "Bum" Phillips, a former Oiler assitant, became head coach and brought in talented star players 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.

    1978-81: Houston "Earlers" one of NFL's elite[]

    From 1978 to 1980, the Oilers, led by colorful and whimsical head coach (Phillips) and in the midst of the Luv Ya Blue campaign, the Oilers appeared in the 1978 and 1979 AFC Championship Games (but losing both). The Oilers were a consistent playoff team from 1987 to 1993, an era that included both of the Oilers' only division titles (1991 and 1993), as well as the dubious distinction of being on the losing end of the largest comeback in NFL history. For the rest of the Oilers' time in Houston, however, they were generally in the second division of the league, compiling losing seasons in almost every year outside the aforementioned high points.

    1983-1987 Lean Times in Rebuilding[]

    The team would begin to suffer through more lean years by the mid 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 of 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.

    Early 1990s: Moon/Glanville period success[]

    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.

    1995-1998: Final years in Houston[]

    File:Astrodome interior 2004.jpg

    The now-abandoned Astrodome, with football turf still intact, after the Oilers' departure.

    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.[1] 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, and was cutting off games prior to their finish in favor of preseason basketball.[2] 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.


    See also[]

    • List of Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans seasons
    • History of the Tennessee Titans


    1. PRO FOOTBALL;N.F.L. Owners Approve Move To Nashville By the Oilers. The New York Times. Retrieved January 13, 2012.
    2. Oilers hope to prove lame ducks can soar. The New York Times. Retrieved January 13, 2012.