Tennessee Titans began in 1960 as the Houston Oilers, charter members of the American Football League. 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, and still one of the best professional football championship games 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, 99 yards, 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.
They then fell from the AFL elite, and the years immediately following the 1970 AFL-NFL merger proved to not be much brighter. In 1978, the Oilers' fortunes changed 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. From 1978 through 1980, the "Luv Ya Blue" Oilers would make the playoffs each year but three postseason losses prompted owner Bud Adams to fire head coach Bum Philips and signaled the decline of the Oilers for a few years (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, 2003). In 1984, the Oilers won a bidding war for CFL legend Warren Moon but didn't turn return to the playoffs until 1987, where the Oilers nearly went to the Super Bowl. From 1987 through 1993, the Oilers were one of the most successful teams in the AFC, making the playoffs each year but failing to reach the Super Bowl. The mid-1990s signaled the decline of the Houston Oilers and the ill-fated "run and shoot" offense and by 1997, owner Bud Adams moved the team out of Houston.
Although the city of Cleveland kept the franchise's name "Browns", and the team's history when it left, Houston's status as the home of the first two American Football League championships did not save the city's AFL heritage. Unlike his support of an old-line NFL city (Cleveland) in holding on to its tradition, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue did not intervene when Adams declared that no other Houston football team could ever use the name "Oilers".
Even before the Oilers relocated, they established the future cornerstone of their offense by drafting Steve McNair in 1995. The soon-to-be Tennessee Titans spent 1997 in Memphis as the short-lived Tennessee Oilers. The Oilers played their home games at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium while waiting for their new stadium to be finished in their permanent home city, Nashville. They played the 1998 season at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville. In 1999, Adelphia Coliseum, now known simply as The Coliseum, was completed and the newly christened Tennessee Titans were well received by their new fans in Tennessee's state capital. The Titans made the playoffs in their inaugural year in the "Music City", which was capped off by their unbelievable first round playoff victory over the Buffalo Bills and a third win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The 1999 first round win was due to a lateral from tight end Frank Wycheck to Kevin Dyson on a late 4th quarter kickoff return; Dyson returned the pass 75 yards for a touchdown to win the game. This game qualifies as one of the greatest games in NFL history and became known as the "Music City Miracle". The Titans' Cinderella season led to a trip to Super Bowl XXXIV, where they lost a heartbreaker to the St. Louis Rams.
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.
Players of note
Pro Football Hall of Famers:
- Elvin Bethea
- George Blanda (born 1927, first player to pass for 36 touchdowns (Oilers, 1961))
- Earl Campbell
- Ken Houston
- Mike Munchak
Not to be forgotten:
See also: List of American Football League players
- 43 Jim Norton (born 1938, all-time American Football League interception leader)
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