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Top 10 Tennessee Titans in NFL History
The played well in two different cities but still have no NFL championships to show for it. Today I rank the top 10 Tennessee Titans of all time.
Previously known as the Houston Oilers, the team began play in 1960 in Houston as a charter member of the American Football League. The Oilers won the first two AFL championships, and joined the NFL as part of the AFL-NFL Merger in 1970. The team relocated from Texas to Tennessee in 1997. The team renamed themselves the Titans in 1999 and appeared in the Super Bowl that same season.
For this list, I take into account career success, their importance to the franchise, and Hall of Fame status.
10. Dan Pastorini
He doesn't get the credit he deserves.
Taken in the context of today's rules restricting defenses, opening up receiver routes and protecting the quarterback, Dan Pastorini's numbers are all the more impressive. Especially when you think about how he played through broken ribs and a punctured lung. He was the first quarterback to wear a flack jacket and played his earliest days behind a poor offensive line. He was one tough dude, playing through pain all the time. He led the Oilers to two straight AFC Championship Games. Bum Phillips once said Pastorini knocked on the door, but he couldn't kick it in.
He was traded to Oakland before the 1980 season, but broke his leg five games into the season. He retired as a pro bowler with 103 career touchdowns.
9. Keith Bulluck
He might be one of the most underappreciated linebackers of the 21st century.
Keith Bulluck played in only one Pro Bowl in his entire career, but he skillfully manned the right side of the Titans defense for eight solid years and racked up over 700 tackles. It's not like anyone wanted to run at him, he shed blockers and pulverized runners all day. He also played the pass deceptively well and racked up a very respectable 21 interceptions over his career. When folks think of the Titans glory days with Steve McNair, the defense sometimes gets overlooked. Bulluck shouldn't be.
Bulluck played his final season with the Giants before retiring after 2010 season. He finished his career as a three time All-Pro and led the league in tackles in 2004.
8. Steve McNair
"Air McNair" possessed a skill set that included a strong arm and a power running style.
A first round pick in 1995, Steve McNair didn't t is chance to star until the team moved to Tennessee. In his third season as a starter, he helped the team to Super Bowl XXXIV and came just one yard short of a victory. In his career, McNair proved to be a versatile threat and helped Tennessee be a regular postseason team in the early 2000s. He was named league MVP in 2003 after setting career highs in yards per attempt and touchdowns.
McNair spent his final two seasons in Baltimore. In 2009, he was murdered by his mistress. He was a three time pro bowler and was All-Pro in 2003.
7. Eddie George
The workhorse of a running back was the backbone of the offense for his career.
A first round pick in 1996, Eddie George was an instant impact for the team. He won the offensive rookie of the year and never missed a game because of an injury. In their Super Bowl loss to St. Louis, George had 130 total yards and scored two touchdowns in the game. He is only the second NFL running back to rush for 10,000 yards while never missing a start and holds the second longest streak of regular season starts. In five of his eight seasons with the Titans, George carried the ball over 330 times. His career totals include 10,441 rushing yards, 268 receptions, 2,227 receiving yards, and 78 touchdowns.
George spent his final season in Dallas before retiring after 2004. He was a four time pro bowler and two time All-Pro during his eight seasons in Tennessee.
6. Billy Johnson
"White Shoes" was the leagues first great kick returner.
A fifteenth round pick in 1974, Billy Johnson made the team as a kick returner. His speed and quickness made him essential to the offense as well. As a rookie, he began celebrating touchdowns with a dance known as the "Funky Chicken." The dances, along with his footwear, made Johnson popular among Oilers fans. As a kick returner, Johnson returned five punts for touchdowns along with two kickoffs in his first four years with the Oilers and added 12 more touchdowns on offense.
He spent his final NFL seasons in Atlanta and Washington. He was a three time pro bowler and All-Pro, Pro Bowl MVP, and a member of the 70's, 80's, and 75th anniversary team.
5. Mike Munchak
He's one of the most dominant guards the game has ever seen.
A first round pick in 1982, Mike Munchak was seen the ideal run blocker. In his rookie season, he quickly earned a starting position at the left guard position. He remained in that position for 12 seasons. He was part of an offensive line that was perfect to run the run and shoot offense. His 12 seasons in Houston are the second most in team history.
Munchak retired after 1993 as a nine time pro bowler, 10 time All-Pro, and a member of the 80's all decade team. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.
4. Elvin Bethea
He's one of the most forgotten pass rushers of the 70's.
During his career in Houston, Elvin Bethea played in 210 games, including a stretch of 135 consecutive. He played at defensive end and guard in the 1968 season and didn’t miss a game until breaking his arm in a game in 1977. He led the team in sacks six times, finishing his career with 105 unofficial sacks. His career high was in 1973 with 16 sacks, which still ranks as the best in Oilers/Titans history, a feat made more remarkable by the Oilers' 1-13 record.
Bethea retired in 1983 after 16 NFL seasons. He was a five time All-Pro and eight time pro bowler. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003.
3. Bruce Matthews
He is an NFL ironman playing a position that takes a lot of punishment.
A first round pick in 1983, Bruce Matthews blocked for every Oilers/Titans running back from Earl Campbell to Eddie George in his 19 NFL seasons. During his career, he played every position on the offensive line. He never missed a game because of injury and started 229 consecutive games. He holds the NFL record for most games played by an offensive lineman as well as seasons played by an offensive lineman. His brother Clay, his sons and nephews have continued the Matthew family legacy in the NFL.
Matthews retired after the 2001 season with an NFL record 14 pro bowl appearances, 10 time All-Pro, and a member of the 90's all decade team. He was a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee in 2007.
2. Warren Moon
It's hard to ignore a guy who threw for over 35 miles in his career.
After going undrafted and spending six seasons in the Canadian Football League, Warren Moon signed with Houston in 1984. In his first season with team, he threw for a then franchise record 3,338 yards. In 1990, Moon led the league with 4,689 passing yards. He also led the league in attempts, completions, touchdowns, and tied Dan Marino's record with nine 300-yard games in a season. That included throwing for 527 yards against Kansas City, the second most passing yards ever in a single game. In 10 seasons as a Houston Oiler, Moon set a franchise record for wins with 70, which stood until Steve McNair broke it in 2004.
Moon was traded to Minnesota before the 1994 seasons. After retiring in 2000, Moon was a nine time pro bowler, All-Pro in 1990, lead the league in passing twice, and the 1990 NFL MVP. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006 and is the only man to be a member of the NFL and CFL Hall of Fame.
1. Earl Campbell
"The Tyler Rose" was the cornerstone of the offense for his entire career.
A first round pick in 1978, Earl Campbell proved to be force even for a rookie. The leagues rookie of the year and offensive player of the year ran for over 1,400 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first year. The "Luv Ya Blue" era in Houston was due mostly to Campbell's running ability. Campbell possessed a rare combination of speed and power, and was a prolific running back during his entire career in Houston. He is the second running back in history to lead the league in rushing in three straight seasons. In 1980, Campbell ran for 1,934 yards including four 200-yard rushing games. He finished his career with 9,407 yards rushing and 74 touchdowns.
Campbell was traded to New Orleans where he played his final two seasons. In nine seasons, he was a five time pro bowler, three time All-Pro, and the 1979 NFL MVP. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.