Nov 9, 2020
We consult a higher authority
this week to help us dig into the story of the NFL's former Houston
Oilers - one of the American Football League's founding franchises
in 1960, and the predecessor to today's Nashville-based Tennessee
Before decamping for divinity
school in the late 1990s and a second career as a vicar in the US
Anglican church, Fr. Ed Fowler ("Loser Takes All: Bud Adams, Bad
Football & Big Business
") spent over 30 years as both
a writer and columnist for sports sections at major newspapers such
as the Austin American-Statesman,
Kansas City Star, Chicago Daily News, and
finally, the Houston Chronicle - where he spilled plenty
of ink on the trials and tribulations of Houston's first
professional football team.
The Oilers were owned throughout
their existence by Houston oil industry entrepreneur Bud Adams -
and dominated the AFL's early years by winning titles in 1960 and
1961, and barely missing out on a third (a double-OT loss to the
Dallas Texans in the 1962 AFL Championship Game).
Post-merger, the Oilers spent
the bulk of the '70s as NFL also-rans until the coach "Bum"
Phillips-led "Luv Ya Blue" era (1978-80), that netted two straight
(though losing) AFC Championship Game appearances and featured
stars like Elvin Bethea, Billy "White Shoes" Johnson and rookie RB
sensation Earl Campbell.
Though the team consistently
made the playoffs from 1987-93 behind the QB wizardry of CFL star
Warren Moon, the Oilers posted losing records in virtually every
Adams, who first threatened to move the team in the late 1980s,
followed through at the end of the 1996 season and relocated the
Oilers to Tennessee - where they became the "Tennessee Oilers" for
the 1997 (Memphis) and 1998 (Vanderbilt Stadium) seasons, before
permanently converting to the "Titans" in 1999.
The Titans retained the team's previous history and records, and
the Oilers name was officially retired by then-league Commissioner
Paul Tagliabue, preventing the name from ever returning.
The NFL would return to Houston just three years later with a
new franchise, the Texans.