The Houston Oilers

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The Houston Oilers were a professional American football team in the AFL’s East Division between 1960 and 1996. During their time in Houston, they played their home games at the Jeppesen Stadium (1960–1964), Rice Stadium (1965–1967) and Houston Astrodome (1968–1996).

How did the Houston Oilers Start up?

The Houston Oilers began as one of the founding teams of the AFL in 1960. It was owned by Houston businessman Bud Adams. Lou Rymkus was hired as the team’s first coach and the first signings were running back Billy Cannon and Veteran Quarterback Georg Blanda. They made a deal to play their home games at the Jeppesen stadium at the University of Houston.

The Houston Oilers in Competition

Houston began life in the AFL in impressive fashion, winning the first two AFL championships, by beating the San Diego chargers in the finals both times. They made it to the championship final again the following season but were unable to retain the title, losing to the Dallas Texans. Despite changing coaches several times, the Oilers failed to make it to the AFL finals even once during the rest of the 60s. In 1965 the oilers changed their home base from Jeppesen Stadium to the Rice Stadium after a deal to play at the Harris County Domed Stadium, which later became the Aerodrome fell through. Between 1963 and 1966, the Oilers failed to make it to the playoffs but were crowned East Division champions in 1967 with a 9-4-1 record. They were however eliminated in the playoffs by the Oakland Raiders 45-7 effectively missing a trip to Super Bowl II. They moved to the Houston Aerodrome Arena in 1968 where they played for the rest of their existence. Houston made the AFL playoffs once more in 1969 but were again defeated by the Raiders 56-7.

The1970s started with the merger between the NFL and the AFL and the Oilers were placed in the Central division. They would find the going in the new NFL setup much tougher, putting together a string of poor results. They waited until 1978 for their first appearance in the NFL playoffs but failed to make it to the Super Bowl after losing 34-5 to the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 1979, the Oilers would meet the Steelers again in the AFC Championship and fell 27-13 to the eventual Super Bowl winners.

The 80s began relatively well for Houston as they made it to the playoffs for a third consecutive year but fell to Oakland Raiders 27-7 in the wild Card game. A seven year playoff drought followed, a spell in which they changed coaches two times. They won the 1987 Wild Card game, but were beaten 34-10 by the Denver Broncos in the divisional playoffs. They were again downed in the divisional playoffs in 1988 by the Buffalo Bills but made it to the playoffs for a consecutive third season in 1989. They did not make it past the Wild Card game however, losing 26-23 to the Pittsburg Steelers.

The oilers extended their impressive form into the 1990s, making it to the playoffs for a further three consecutive seasons. However they only made it past the Wild Card stage once, losing to the Buffalo Bills 41-38 in the 1992 Wild Card game. During their final four seasons they did not make it to the playoffs a single time. They lost their final game 21-12 to the Cincinnati Bengals at home, finishing the 1996 season with an 8-8 record.

Houston Oilers’ Most Notable Moments

The Oilers were immensely successful during their early spells in AFL football. They won the first two AFL championships (1960 and 1961) and threatened to monopolize it when they appeared in the finals again in 1962. During the first two finals, they beat the San Diego Chargers 38-28 and 10-3 respectively and lost the 1962 finals 20-17 to the Dallas Texans.

The Oilers made history in the 1992 Wild Card game against the Buffalo Bills by blowing a 35-3 third quarter lead, the largest lead ever squandered in NFL history. They lost the game 41-38 in overtime despite Warren Moon’s 371 yard passes and four touchdowns in the first half.

Houston Oiler’s Most Notable Players

Hall of Famer Earl Campbell played for the Oilers from 1978 to 1984, getting selected for the Pro Bowl in 5 of those 6 years. He was a standout running back, recording 9407 yards and 74 touchdowns during his Houston career. 1980 was his most prolific year, running 1934 yards, while managing an impressive 5.2 yards per carry and 13 rushing touchdowns

George Blanda, another Hall of Famer, was with the Houston Oilers from their inception in 1960 and helped them win their two AFL championships. In 1961 he led the AFL in passing yards (3330) and touchdown passes (36). In 1962 he made 42 thrown interceptions, an NFL record that stands to date.

Elvin Bethea Play a record 210 games for the Oilers between 1968 and 1983, a stretch in which he made Pro Bowl 8 times. His jersey was retired by the Oilers and was inducted to the Pro Hall of Fame in 2003.

What Happened to the Houston Oilers?

Bud Adams had continually lobbied the city of Houston to build a new arena for the Oilers as the Houston Aerodrome was out of date. When city officials turned down his request, Adams, whose fortune was also feeling the heat of the oil clash of the 1980s, began exploring options for a new city. In 1995 he announced his wish to move the team to Nashville, upon which Houston city officials promised $144 million for a new stadium and ticket sales worth $70 million.

However this was not forthcoming as the 1996 season attracted fewer than 20000 fans per game. At the conclusion of that season, a deal was struck that would see the oilers move to Tennessee with a year remaining in their lease agreement for the Aerodrome. When the Oilers left, the city of Houston immediately set into motion plans for a new NFL franchise. In 1999 Robert McNair was awarded an expansion franchise for the city and the Houston Texans were born. The team inherited the Oilers’ red, white and blue strip and built a new stadium, the Reliant Stadium in 2002 next to the Astrodome.