History of the Tennessee Titans
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. In 1999, the Titans played their most memorable season since joining the NFL, when they made it all the way to Super Bowl XXXIV, but they fell to the Kurt Warner-led St. Louis Rams.
Houston Oilers (1960–96)
The Titans were originally formed as the Houston Oilers, one of the eight charter members of the American Football League (AFL). They became a part of the National Football League in 1970 as part of the AFL-NFL merger and have remained a member of the NFL ever since. They played in Houston through the end of the 1996 season. They were part of the AFL's Eastern Division for their first ten years and became part of the American Football Conference upon their joining the NFL. They were placed in the AFC's Central Division, which they were part of until 2002.
Tennessee Oilers era (1997–98)
After the 1996 season, the Houston Oilers announced they would be moving to Nashville for 1997. 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 — too small for even temporary use. Vanderbilt was also unwilling to allow for alcohol sales. At first, owner Bud 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—essentially sentencing the Oilers to 32 road games for the next two years. The University of Tennessee's Neyland Stadium, in Knoxville, was slightly closer to Nashville. However, Adams rejected it because at 102,000 seats, it would have been all but impossible to sell out.
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. After numerous attempts to get an NFL team, Memphians 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. At the time, 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 Oilers played before some of the smallest NFL crowds since the 1950s. None of the first seven games of the season attracted crowds larger 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. 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 at Vanderbilt. However, Steeler fans made up the great majority of the crowd (at least three-fourths, by one estimate). 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. The Oilers had gone 6-2 in Memphis while going 2-6 on the road. In the years since, many in the Memphis area, like other areas of Tennessee, began to embrace the Titans as their team. The Titans have both radio and preseason TV affiliates in the area.
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 Nissan Stadium, 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 did not lose a game at home and 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, 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 one point; Dyson returned the pass 75 yards 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 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 Indianapolis, 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 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 Divisional playoff game to the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
In 2002, the Titans were moved to the newly created AFC South division as a part of the league's divisional realignment caused by the addition of the Houston Texans. 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 41-24.
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. In 2003, quarterback Steve McNair won the MVP award, sharing it with Peyton Manning.
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 third-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.
In 2005, the Titans took the field with the youngest team in the NFL. Several rookies made the 2005 team including first 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 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 six straight victories. The team's chances of making the postseason at 9–7 ended at the hands of New England 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 four of their next five games to fall to 7–6. They then won their next three games including a must-win game against the Indianapolis Colts. They were tied for the final playoff spot with the Cleveland Browns, but they won the tiebreaker and 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 one touchdown and Lendale White rushed for 99 yards and one touchdown. They later clinched a first round playoff bye with a loss of the New York Jets. 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 three 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 fourth down with 6 seconds left from the 10-yard line to Kenny Britt.
During the Week 10 home game against Buffalo, Bud Adams was seen making an obscene gesture towards the Bills bench, 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, running back Chris Johnson became only the sixth player in NFL history to rush for over 2000 yards (2,006), 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 a 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. On January 7, 2011 Adams released a statement announcing he would retain Coach Jeff Fisher, as Fisher was under contract for the next season. Adams also stated that he hoped to extend Fisher's contract following the 2011 season, but that an extension would be contingent upon the team's performance. Despite these initial proclamations, it was announced on January 27, 2011 that Fisher and the Titans had mutually agreed to part ways. This ended Fisher's tenure as Head Coach, a tenure which lasted more than 17 seasons, spanned three cities (Houston, Memphis, and Nashville), and saw three different incarnations of the team (Houston Oilers, Tennessee Oilers, Tennessee Titans). Following the departure of former head coach Jeff Fisher, Mike Munchak was named head coach of the Titans on February 7, 2011. 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.
With Hasselbeck starting, the Titans won three of their first four games, but afterwards saw a bumpy series of wins and losses. They finally finished the season 9-7, failing again to reach the playoffs, but remaining in contention to Week 17.
- Bouchette, Dan. Steelers-Oilers/Titans rivalry plays its final act in Pittsburgh under the Monday night spotlight. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2001-11-29.
- "Tennessee will have a name of its own". Tennessee Titans. July 29, 1998. Archived from the original on August 24, 2000. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
- Pitoniak, Scott (December 9, 2003). "Years later, "Miracle" still legendary". National Football League. Archived from the original on December 11, 2003. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
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