The Tennessee Oilers

Graeme
By
Posted: December 11, 2014


The Tennessee Oilers were the successor franchise to the Houston Oilers, a struggling American football team that had relocated from Houston at the end of the 1996 season. The team was owned by Bud Adams and played only two seasons as the Tennessee Oilers before being renamed “Tennessee Titans”. The team played their home matches during their two seasons at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis and the Vanderbilt stadium in Nashville.

How did the Oilers Start up?

The Tennessee Oilers began when Houston Oilers moved from Houston and came to Nashville. The team was looking for a new stadium since their new stadium would not be complete until 1999. The available options were the 41,000-seater Vanderbilt Stadium at the Vanderbilt University and 102,000-seater Neyland Stadium at the University of Tennessee. Bud Adams rejected these two options and chose to play at the Liberty Bowl stadium in Memphis, 200 miles away from the team’s base. The team pretty much maintained their roster from Houston and coach Jeff Fisher continued at the helm.

The Tennessee Oilers in Competition

The team’s debut in Tennessee was a 24-21 overtime victory over the Oakland Raiders at the Liberty Bowl. The star of the day for the Oilers was Running Back Eddie George who rushed for 216 yards. The Oilers then lost the next game away to the Miami Dolphins, the first of a four-game losing streak, with Quarterback Steve McNair struggling in his first full season as a starter. The oilers then recovered to win the next three games, 30-7 at home to the Cincinnati Bengals, 28-14 over the Washington Redskins and 41-14 away to the Arizona Cardinals. During the remainder of the season, they alternated wins and losses for a 4-4 run which ultimately took them to a season record of 8-8.

During the 1998 season, playing at the Vanderbilt Stadium, the Oilers started poorly losing three of the first four games. However Running Back Eddie George and Quarterback Steve McNair kept developing into All-Pros, an important factor in the Oilers’ subsequent winning run. The team was in playoff contention on the homestretch but blundered by losing their last two games finishing with another 8-8 record. Strangely the Oilers posted 2-6 on the road and 6-2 in Memphis that season.

The Oilers’ Most Notable Moments

When the Oilers moved into Nashville from Houston, owner Bud Adams refused to use any of the two stadiums available in the city as a temporary home. He chose instead to use the Liberty Dome in Memphis as the team’s home stadium. Due to the existing rivalry between Memphis and Nashville, the move was unpopular in both cities. Nashville fans refused to travel 200 miles with the team for each home game and Memphis residents refused to embrace a temporary team from a rival city. As a result fan attendance was consistently low, rarely reaching 20,000. The biggest crowd at the Liberty Dome, numbering 30,000 plus, came to watch the Oilers play the Steelers on December 21, 1997. However, despite the Oilers technically being at home, most of the fans wore the black and yellow strip of the Steelers and the Oilers were booed throughout. After that game a seething Adams learned his lesson and two months later an agreement was reached for the Steelers to play at the Vanderbilt stadium in Nashville.

Tennessee Oilers’ Most Notable Players

Eddie George was an important player or the titans during the Oilers’ two years in Tennessee. He made Pro Bowl both times, a feat which he extended two more years when playing with the newly named Titans to make it four consecutive Pro Bowls. During the two seasons, he rushed a combined 2767 yards and scored 82 points.

Quarterback Steve McNair was the other standout performer beside Eddie. In 1997 he made 2665 passing yards, the highest for the Oilers since Warren Moon in 1993. 1n 1998 he set a career passing high with 492 attempts for 3228 passing yards. McNair spent ten of his eleven years in pro football with the Oilers/Titans franchise, making Pro Bowl three times.

Placekicker Al Del Greco’s scoring prowess was a welcome contribution for the Oilers. He spent ten years with the franchise through different eras. He topped the scoring charts for the Oilers in both the 1997 and 1998 seasons. During his 17-year career he scored a total of 1592 points, earning him a place in the Alabama Hall of Fame.

Other notable players for the Oilers include Frank Wycheck, Derrick Mason and Willie Davis.

What Happened to the Tennessee Oilers?

In 1999, the Oilers were ready to move into their newly completed stadium and Adams announced that the team would be adopting a new more appropriate name. After all there is no oil in Tennessee. Adams appointed an advisory committee to decide on a new name that better connected with the people of Tennessee. He instructed that the team’s new name should reflect strength power and leadership among other heroic qualities. The committee agreed on the name “Titans”, playing on Nashville’s Greek heritage. The team retained the Oilers’ heritage from its years in Houston and a Hall of Fame honoring players from both eras was instituted.

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