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Relocated NFL Teams: The Tennessee Oilers

The Tennessee Oilers was the name of NFL outfit Tennessee Titans during the 1997 and 1998 seasons. The Tennessee Oilers came into being following the relocation of the Houston Oilers from Houston to Nashville, Tennessee in 1997. With their new stadium in Nashville set to be completed in 1999, the Oilers needed to find a venue to use on a temporary basis. The only available stadium in Nashville was the 41,000 seater Vanderbilt which was considered too small for a football team. Further out of town in Knoxville was Neyland Stadium but it was also rejected because it would be virtually impossible to sell out its 102,000 seats. Team owner Bud Adams eventually negotiated a deal that would see the team play at the Liberty Stadium in Memphis until the Nashville Stadium was complete.

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The problem with this arrangement is that it was unpopular with both Nashville and Memphis residents. Few fans from Nashville were willing to travel 200 miles to see their team play their home games. To complicate matters further, the Interstate40 was undergoing redevelopment at the time lengthening the drive from Nashville to Memphis from three to five hours. On the other hand, Memphis fans were unwilling to support a team from a rival town that would then be snatched away in less than two years time. As a result, the Oilers played in front of some very lean crowds, usually less than 40,000. Many of those who attended games were rival fans, mostly just Memphis residents looking to spoil the party for the Nashville team. This beat the entire purpose of playing away from Nashville. However Adams was adamant the arrangement would last until 1999.In the final game of the 1998 season, three quarters of those who came to Liberty Stadium wore the Black and yellow strip of the Pittsburg Steelers even if it was technically a home game for the Oilers. This was a major embarrassment for the team and Bud Adams. After that, Adams finally allowed the team to play at the Vanderbilt Stadium.

During their two years in competition, the Tennessee Oilers finished with 8-8 records. This was not enough to get them to the playoffs both times, extending their playoff drought to five years starting from their time in Houston. Their very first opponents in competition were the Oakland Raiders whom they dispatched 24-21 on August 31, 1997. They would then go on to lose the next four games before they recovered their form to string together a 7-4 run that saw them finish with an 8-8 record. Interestingly, their away record for the season was 2-6 and their record in Memphis was 6-2 which perhaps shows Memphis was home after all. The 1998 season opened with a 23-14 win over the Cincinnati Bengals followed by three straight losses. They then picked themselves up to finish the season with another 8-8 record. The highlight of the period was the performances of young quarter back Steve McNair and running back Eddie George who both turned into All-Pros. Steve McNair made 2665 passing yards in 1997 which was the highest in the Oilers franchise since 1993. In 1998, he improved this tally, passing for 3228 yards. Meanwhile Eddie George rushed for a total of 2767 yards and scored a total of 82 points for both years. Another of the Oilers standout performers was placekicker Al Greco who topped the scoring charts for the franchise both years.

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Why Did The Tennessee Oilers Relocate?

The Oilers were not technically relocated. Having played the 1997 season in Memphis, they came back to their actual home Nashville in 1998 due to hostile reception in Memphis. In 1999, the Oilers’ new stadium was finally completed and christened Adelphia Coliseum. The name Oilers, which the team had acquired in Houston was not particularly suited to Nashville and Bud Adams therefore appointed an advisory committee that would conduct a fans contest to come up with a suitable name. Bud Adams wanted the team’s new name to reflect heroic qualities like strength, power and leadership. The name “Titans” was selected as a tribute to the Greek heritage of Tennessee. Nashville is nicknamed “The Athens of the South” because of its numerous institutions of higher learning and classical architecture.

Who Played For The Tennessee Oilers?

Some key players include:

Steve McNair RB 1997,1998
Eddie George QB 1997,1998
Dave Krieg QB 1997,1998
Frank Wycheck TE 1997,1998
Brad Hopkins OL 1997,1998
Darryll Lewis CB 1997,1998
Gary Walker DT 1997,1998
Joe Bowden LB 1997,1998
Willie Davis WR 1997,1998
Isaac Byrd WR 1997,1998
Terry Killens LB 1997,1998
Barron Wortham LB 1997,1998
Lonnie Marts LB 1997,1998
Mark Stepnoski C 1997,1998
Derrick Mason WR 1997,1998

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