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The Tennessee Titans are a 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.

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Franchise history

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Houston Oilers era (1960-96)

1960s

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 football history, 99 yards (91 m), 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 (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 annihilated by the Raiders 56-7, to finish the year with a record of 6-6-1.

1970s

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 1972-1973. 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 penalty nullified a touchdown by wide receiver Mike Renfro.

1980s

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 3-13. 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 Nebraska University. 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 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, 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. 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.

1990s

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 and eventually losing 41–38 in overtime, a game now known simply as "The Comeback" or "The Big Choke", depending upon one's point of view. Adams had been blamed for the team's previous spells of incompetence, largely because he had overly micromanaged the Oilers. 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, 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. Houston residents were wary of investing more money on a stadium so soon after the Astrodome improvements, and 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 mayor Phil Bredesen. At the end of the 1995 season, Adams announced that the Oilers would be moving to Nashville. 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 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 him 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 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.

The result was, in many ways, almost as much of an embarrassment as the lame-duck season in Houston. Oiler fans took to the practice of wearing bags over their heads. 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 in 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)

Name change

Tennessee Titans secondary logo, the three stars is taken from the state flag

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 yards (69 m) 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.[1] 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' 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 end zone in a 23-16 game (in favor of the Rams) as regulation time expired, in a play known as "The Tackle".

2000–2003

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 Champions the 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.

2004–05

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.

2006–2007

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.

2008

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 consisted of 3 red zone turnovers by the Titans, and 12 penalties against Tennessee.

2009

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, the team began recovering and won five in a row. 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.

Notes and references

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