Big news yesterday out of Tennessee, where Jim Wyatt, who writes for the Titans’ website, confirmed that the team will wear Oilers throwbacks next season. Not only that, but Ryan thinks the retro uni will be worn against the Texans, which would create a Houston vs. Houston matchup.
The news was buried in Wyatt’s latest “mailbag” column, which included a reader question about the Oilers throwbacks. Ryan’s responded like so:
As for the Oilers throwbacks, nothing has changed from what I’ve said previously. The plan is to wear them for a home game in 2023. The exact game is still TBD, but I’ve already said I suspect it will be for the game vs the Texans. Wouldn’t that make the most sense?
I’m not sure when or in what context Wyatt has previously said that the Oilers design would be revived for 2023, but this is the first I’ve heard of it. As for the Texans, they and the Titans are both in the AFC South, so the Titans will definitely have a home game against them next season. But the 2023 NFL schedule won’t be released until sometime in May, so we can’t even speculate yet about when the potential Houston vs. Houston game might take place.
Some quick history: The Tennessee franchise debuted in 1960 as the Houston Oilers in the old pre-merger AFL and is still controlled by the family of original owner Bud Adams. After moving from Houston to Tennessee in 1997, the team played for two seasons as the Tennessee Oilers, wearing essentially the same uniforms they wore in Houston, except for a left-chest patch. In 1997, the patch said, “Tennesse Oilers Inaugural Season 97”:
The following year, the “Inaugural Season” wording was removed and the “97” was changed to “98”:
The franchise changed its name to the Titans in 1999 and got new uniforms. Ten years later, in 2009, the team wore 1960s home and road Oilers throwbacks for three games as part of the league’s AFL 50th-anniversary celebration:
Those 2009 games mark the only time the Titans have worn Oilers throwbacks. It’s not clear whether the new throwbacks planned for 2023 would be based on that 1960s design or on the more familiar Earl Campbell-era design, but I’m assuming the latter.
A few other fun facts:
- The 1998 Tennessee Oilers are among of the handful of NFL teams to wear white for every single game.
- The 1997 Tennessee Oilers’ uniforms were made by Wilson — whose maker’s mark, oddly, was rendered in inconsistent colors:
- Even stranger: In 1995, when the Oilers were still in Houston, they were one of the few NFL teams to have their uniforms made by Wilson Staff — a golf brand! At least one player — offensive lineman Mark Stepnoski — was still wearing a jersey with the Wilson Staff maker’s mark in 1997, the team’s first season in Tennessee:
- Finally: If the Houston vs. Houston game comes to pass, it won’t be the first time the Titans have had a weird matchup during a throwback game. As you may have noticed in one of the earlier photos, one of their 2009 AFL throwback games was against the Jets, who were wearing Titans of New York throwbacks — so that game was Titans vs. Titans!
I know some fans think the Texans, not the Titans, should be the team that’s allowed to wear Oilers throwbacks. I understand that point of view, but I also enjoy the throughline of franchise continuity — it’s a good history lesson. Mainly, though, I’m just glad that the Oilers’ uniforms will be back on the field, regardless of who’s wearing them.
But wait — there’s more! Last night I got an interesting note from reader Drew Smalley, as follows:
I’ve thinking about this for a while. Now that it’s been announced, when the Titans wear the Oilers throwbacks, the helmet needs an edit.
Instead of the oil derrick, it would be awesome if they replaced it with the WSM tower. Look it up if you don’t know its significance to Nashville and country music.
The tower is indeed a local landmark (details here):
Here’s the logo for a local radio program, which shows how the tower could look as a stylized illustration:
Not sure I’d want it to replace the oil derrick on the throwbacks, but how about this: We can use the tower instead of the flaming thumbtack on the regular uniforms. It would provide a visual link to the franchise’s Oilers heritage while simultaneously eliminating one of the league’s worst helmet logos. A win-win!
The 90s era Oilers uniforms are so great. Tennessee should’ve just remained the Oilers and kept the uniforms. If we can have the Utah Jazz, who really cares? Probably one of the “lost” uniforms I miss the most.
Given what the NY Jets franchise has become/what they are wearing now, I’d support them going back to their time as the Titans…let’s restore Tennessee Oilers identity.
They should have left the Oilers name in Houston like the Browns did when they moved to Baltimore, and the Texans should now be the Oilers. I’m not consistent on this, since I’m good with some keeping their names after a move, like the Raiders. It’s way too late now, but names like the Jazz and Lakers, that are associated with the area, should have also been left when those teams moved.
If I was NBA commissioner, here’s my first move: Utah returns its name to NOLA. Memphis passes its name to Utah and picks a new name that makes sense. And Toronto goes with the name they should have chosen in the first place. Thus, we’d have the New Orleans Jazz…the Utah Grizzlies…Memphis Blues…and Toronto Huskies.
Great Salt Lakers
Utah as the lakers or the raptors are just too perfect, the LA franchise could definitely be the grizzlies since they are prominent in CA (there’s even one on the flag). Memphis Blues is great as well. But all in all this is just perfectionism. The Lakers are LA, the Jazz are Utah, the Blues wouldn’t be chosen because of the existing hockey team and the california grizzlies would have too much overlap with the Fresno grizzlies minor league baseball team.
One slight problem, the Utah Grizzlies name is already in use, in minor league hockey, since 1995, first with the IHL/AHL franchise that shut down in 2005 and resurfaced as the Lake Erie (later Cleveland) Monsters in 2007, and the current ECHL franchise that relocated from Lexington in 2005 to fill the void left by the former team.
This is actually to Dave (I didn’t see a reply button with his comment. As far as being unable to use “Blues” for Memphis because it’s already being used by another team in another league, I don’t see why you couldn’t do it. There’s already the New York Rangers (NHL) and the Texas Rangers (MLB) as well as the New York Jets (NFL); the Winnipeg Jets (NHL). In the cases Arizona Cardinals (NFL) and St. Louis Cardinals (MLB) and the San Francisco Giants (MLB)and the New York (should be New Jersey) Giants (NFL), those are different stories as both Cardinals teams used to be in St. Louis and both Giants teams used to be in New York, back in the days when baseball and football teams in some cities shared a name (and seasons didn’t overlap as much).
This one is for Michael (same issue with no reply button). I agree that there are professional dupes in existence and it isn’t a problem for anyone, but I do feel like we are in an age of branding hyper-awareness where a team would choose to avoid a duplicate name simply to keep the franchise (brand) as unique as possible to maximize their market. And again I agree that I really wouldn’t be a problem, but I’m not a franchise owner worried that one dope might not buy a hat or can coozie because they’re confused or have some problem with the “other” blues. I don’t know if that’s a real consideration that would cancel out a name option but it seems like it would be nowadays.
Great idea. The only flaw in this plan is the fact that there’s already a Utah Grizzlies in the ECHL (minor league hockey).
Oops. Sorry for posting what was already said. Turns out the comments weren’t current because I opened the article 8 hours ago and just now finished it.
Let’s not forget that the OKC Whatever They Are’s gave up the Supersonics when they made that traitorous move.
The Titans wearing Oilers uniforms is trolling two cities. If I were a Tennessee fan/taxpayer I don’t want me team wearing another city’s uniforms. If I were a Houston fan, I would not want to see my city’s history worn by the city that took it.
Titans fan from Nashville here! I have never met a Titans fan that doesn’t absolutely love and take pride in the history of the Oilers and their evolution into the Titans. I personally have been wanting Oilers throwbacks for I don’t even know how long. A lot of us too love the idea of sticking it to the Texans fans because of the rivalry between us, so I can promise you that us wearing throwbacks next season will not be a slap in the face to Tennessee fans.
Interesting, I haven’t heard enough opinions from the fans who actually live in the cities teams have moved to to be swayed by the, “That’s not what we call them, don’t go back to it,” argument.
Yes, because THAT’S what you should be worried about as a fan/taxpayer, what uniforms your city’s team is wearing. Not how you’re getting fleeced by billionaires for a new stadium to replace a 25-year-old stadium.
You’d have to ask fans/taxpayers in Indianapolis, Kansas City, Arizona and Las Vegas how they feel about their teams wearing “another city’s uniforms.”
Kenn: I don’t necessarily agree with William’s original comment, but ridiculing someone for caring about uniforms — or for thinking other people should care about uniforms — is not cool. You can make your points wihtout doing that, right? Right.
It was gross when the Oilers (or any team) relocated in the first place.
It was extra gross (and lazy, and disrespectful to both Houston and Tennessee) when they (or any team) kept the name and colors.
And it’s doubly extra gross when they (or any team) tries to cash in on a legacy and community they abandoned.
It’s not honoring anything, it’s a slap in the face (especially if they do wear these *against* Houston). If you don’t care enough to commit to a town (and a name), then you shouldn’t get to keep any connection to it when you leave. If we have to accept relocations as a reality of the American sports business model, then at least the Browns model should be (and should always have been) the standard procedure.
I really don’t enjoy it when teams wear the uniforms from the city the team was ripped from. I find it patronizing and insulting. Paul is right, it’s a good history lesson, however that’s the only thing. As much as it’s fun to see Whalers uniforms in action, it must really hurt for fans who care. I know for me seeing the Grizzlies wear Vancouver uniforms, and the Nationals wear Expos uniforms is painful.
I think a big part of this is that we continuously think of these teams as ‘franchises’ rather than clubs or teams. When we insist on calling them franchises then it’s just like a Burger King and it devalues their true meaning to a community. And as long as they’re just a franchise and not a (football)(basketball)(hockey)(baseball) club, then they can claim the history of another city.
Honestly with so many throwbacks I think this is starting to monetize nostalgia. A team with a tenuous connection to another teams history is going to wear their uniforms to profit in some way, keep that in mind!
Add another Expos fan to the list!
I guess all teams that left have had a messy divorce, but the Expos’ was particularly long and painful. They were owned Jeffrey Loria, MLB got involved when Loria wanted the Marlins instead, and the team moved. They had been trading any good player the team had for multiple seasons and even played some games in Puerto Rico. In a nutshell, we got screwed over multiple times.
Seeing them go was hearthbreaking, but more importantly, a lot of fans felt betrayed by MLB. This is why I was surprised to see the Nats wera the Expos’ uni.
The Nordiques had a similar story, but somehow it feels different. The RR jersey the Avs wear don’t bother me as much. They kinda grew on me, I guess…
As an original Oilers fan from the 80s and 90s and not a native to either Texas or Tennessee, I just want the uniform back. I appreciate the history of franchises, but I’d have to agree with Jerry Seinfeld. When it comes down to it, we cheer for the clothes.
With the recent news about the NHL expanding to Houston I’ve been salivating for an NHL Team in Houston Oilers colors.
There’s been chitchat on the internet that Houston and Atlanta (!) are getting expansion franchises
I like to see a team relocate (like, say…the Coyotes) to Houston, but would rather they not rebrand themselves as the Aeros.
The Colorado Avalanche could (and should!) bring back the baby blue and red the franchise was born in:
Quite a few of my fellow fans don’t really like those, too much red. Red is the Habs’ color most of them said! That’s how bad this rivalry was!
There were even some upset fans when they added a red outline to their numbers :
That would make for a gorgeous hockey uni. Bummer that they couldn’t simply be the Oilers (a la the Rockies) not only because the titans ownership would probably make a huge stink but because the Edmonton oilers exist. They might even be hesitant to be the drillers because a minor league baseball team already has that name and it seems like we are for the most part in a “no new repeats” era of franchise naming, and also being the baby blue and red Houston “oil related name” with an oil related logo might also raise the ire of the titans owners
As a lifelong Browns fan, I can assure you that if Baltimore ripped our unis, colors and heritage and then tried to “honor” it by wearing it against Cleveland, all of Cleveland would show up ready for a street fight! Don’t do it, Tennessee…it’s a bad look. Houston should get their name, colors, logos and heritage back.
Didn’t the NFL retire the Oilers name and colours once they left for Tennessee? So even if the Texans wanted, they wouldn’t be allowed? I’m sure it’s something like that.
This is what I understand the situation is.
Also, the city of Cleveland sued and that’s why the Browns named stayed in Cleveland. Houston did not sue to keep the Oilers name(though there’s more to it then that), and the Titans still own all the name and likeness and is free to do with it what they will.
I will be exercising my free will to not purchase any Oilers themed attire.
Apologies to the Houston Oilers fans. Yes, leaving the Oilers identity/history in Houston would’ve been ideal. I just want those lovely uniforms back.
When Houston got an expansion team for the 2002 season, Bob McNair asked Bud Adams for permission to use the Oilers name, but Adams said no. Too bad. I don’t know why Cleveland got to keep the Browns name, but Houston couldn’t keep the Oilers name. It’s a shame.
As I recall, Modell was pretty much forced to leave our history, name, and colors here.
First, the City of Cleveland was going to sue him for breaking his stadium lease and possibly for other reasons. He agreed to leave our identity here as part of an agreement to settle that lawsuit.
Second, the move was very unpopular everywhere but Baltimore (remember that jackass governor Parris Glendening braying about doing to us what Irsay did to Baltimore?). Modell was widely vilifed (and rightfully so) and probably ashamed of what he did. He was certainly uncomfortable about it. Leaving our identity with us seemed like an attempt to salvage something of his reputation.
And anecdotally, there was quite a difference between Houston’s and Cleveland’s reaction to losing their teams. People in Cleveland were outraged and held all sorts of rallies, protests, letter-writing campaigns, etc. Conversely, my sister and her husband lived in Houston at the time (still do) and she said that there wasn’t much of an uproar when the Oilers left. She said a rally drew only 300 people. So take that for what it’s worth.
As it turned out, Baltimore won two Super Bowls and we’re still at squadoosh. The Ravens ended up with one of the ugliest uniforms in all of sports, we we have one of the best. Modell wound up losing his team anyway, and he’s been blacklisted from the Hall of Fame. Good.
And all this happened because the idiot NFL in 1995 gave an expansion franchise to Jacksonville instead of Baltimore.
Finally, I completely agree with Greg G above. If Baltimore had ever tried to “honor” the Browns by wearing the brown and orange, there would be a riot.
Not that I’m still bitter or anything.
Don’t forget that Modell was on (or maybe even headed up) the expansion committee that shocked the world and awarded the expansion team to a split Jacksonville group that didn’t even show up for their presentation to the league. Modell, who was in deep, personal debt, was well aware of Baltimore’s dangling of a $75M “relocation payment” which just about covered his personal debt. Cleveland voted the next day overwhelmingly to build him a stadium, but he couldn’t wait for that (and necessarily turn it down), so off he went. That the other owners didn’t shut him down, give Baltimore a team, and let Modell fend for himself is a crime. Him leaving Cleveland their name, colors, and history was a tiny price to pay. Had Cleveland hung on in the courts, the league would have had nightmare on its hands.
Good points, Christopher. I seem to recall that the league moved quickly to avoid that nightmare by promising Cleveland an expansion team in a couple years. So the city took the deal and let Modell leave, and we built our new stadium on the site of the old one. And today, the Ratbirds are on a par with the hated Steelers as teams we really, really want to beat.
Ralph Wilson of the Buffalo Bills was one owner who condemned the move at the time and supported the city.
It’s funny that in a league where owners virtually print their own money, the inept Modell went broke twice.
Wasn’t the bulk of Modell’s personal debt from renovations/refurbishment of Cleveland Stadium he paid for, because the city wouldn’t? From what I read back in the day, the city never thought he would or could leave, so they weren’t exactly acting in good faith throughout that period.
Actually what happened was Modell saw a chance to take advantage of the city of Cleveland when it went broke in the 70’s. He paid them $1 for Municipal Stadium, thinking it a bargain and he’d get rich, and promised he’d pay for the upkeep. He did rake in some cash, charging the Indians rent and keeping all the parking and concessions money (which is a large reason the Indians were irrelevant for 20 more years. But the stadium was already 40 years old and falling apart. His brilliant business move turned quickly into a nightmare for him. In spite of this “bad faith” move on Modell’s part, the city did have a new Browns stadium on the ballot, which everyone knew would pass. That’s why Modell had to announce the move the day before, and also hope that bad feelings would cause Clevelanders to vote it down. Of course, they didn’t, which meant he had now “bad-faithed” Cleveland three times.
I say we do this when TN plays Houston: have BOTH teams wear Oilers throwbacks. One can wear the Earl Campbell era unis with white lids, while the other can wear an AFL version with either the blue or silver lids. Oilers V. Oilers would be awesome.
Oooh — now *that’s* a good idea!
Hey how bout that – I live about two minutes from that WSM tower.. I keep waiting for it to fall over.
Given that the Titans played in Memphis their first season in Tennessee, maybe just designate the uniforms the Memphis Oilers throwbacks?
I Luv that the Titans will be throwing back to their history…what a treat it will be to see them celebrate their time as the Oilers (I wish they had retained the name instead of taking one that wasn´t ´theirs´) . I´d love to see ´72-´74 uniforms reappear at some point but as long as it´s not anything from their flirtation with silver helmets, I´m satisfied.
Houston NFL need not adopt any aspect of Oilers branding, nor do they have any claim to it. They have had a great visual program their entire franchise history…over 20 years!…ample time to build/establish their own identity. They already laid claim to abandoned football history when they went with Texans…a name that they needed KC´s OK to use (though I love when they don their Texans throwbacks!) and one that has been recycled many times over.
See the Carolina Hurricanes wearing Whalers throwbacks. Cool to see as a uni enthusiast but sort of an F U to Hartford
This is a situation where Goodell needs to get Houston and Tennessee ownership in a room and say to Amy Adams-Strunk “Look, how much will it take to get the old colors released so the Texans can use them?”
Let Tennessee keep the name and history, let Houston get the colors.
If I was any member of the Texans organization i’d be sort of bummed that the fan base seems to have the attitude of “we like the Texans fine but only until the oilers is available again”. It’s like if I told my wife “I love you but if my ex-girlfriend is ever single again, you and the kids are moving out because I’m gonna go after it!”
I guess it’s the same thing that happened with charlotte and New Orleans but damn, it’s out of your hands, Houston. You’re the Texans.
Should just make these the primary uniform but with a different helmet. Create a less ostentatious “T” logo for the helmet and use the Oilers uniforms. Maybe throw Titans and small letters above the number idk. But yeah, one of the many 70s/80s/90s era unis that need to come back permanently as a primary (along with the Cardinals, Jets & Eagles kelly greens, Washington Football Team era etc).
As a Winnipeg Jets fan, count me with the gang that thinks the team identity belongs to the city and not to the team.
Cleveland cut a deal when the Browns left and I don’t think anyone today would say that the Ravens should wear Browns throwbacks as a history lesson.
Winnipeg got lucky that the Coyotes ended up in league ownership and got the name back.
The Pelicans did the right thing and gave (sold) the name back to Charlotte. IMO every other team with a dormant nickname in their big box of IP should do the same thing and let the city that’s tied to identity use it if they want as either a temporary throwback or a permanent change.
I love that lede photo. The uniforms, helmet styles, face masks. It all looks so good!
The Senior Oil would make a great gift for those of us who, despite our best efforts, are getting old as dirt.
I’ve been fortunate to make a handful of really good friends via Uni Watch. I sure wish Jimmy Lonetti would make that list some day. Top notch stuff. Consistently.
So if they are wearing Oilers throwbacks, does that mean the red helmet is one-and-done or is the blue helmet getting retired?
I think you’re getting the Texans confused with the Titans.
I heard that the Texans are looking at a refresh/redesign with their uniforms and adding powder blue was an option. Maybe the Titans are going throwback to further claim that color (although the Texans could go powder blue and orange).
As for the Jags uniform history, how can you forget one of the ugliest in history – the preseason ones with illegible numbers?
Should the Texans switch to orange and (Columbia) blue, it would be yet another aspect of Kansas City Chiefs history that they’d be helping themselves to:
I’d like to think that the majority Texans fans feel the franchise has a good identity with a solid color scheme and sharp neo-classic uniform options…while a small number of both fans and non-fans want them to have an inferiority complex.
Its a wonder there aren’t some asking for the Oiler name to be extincted….
Am I the only one to make the connection between the can of the day (Senior Oil) and the topic of Titans-Oilers? Also, how old does one need to be to start using Senior Oil?
I decided to go down the rabbit hole on the Wilson jersey logos by checking out the ever-trusty GUD.
Manufacturer logos show up on jerseys only in 1988 with a couple of Champion-supplied teams; Wilson and Russell join in with a couple of teams in 1989. In 1990 half the league had a supplier logo (MacGregor joins Champion, Wilson and Russell). By 1992 all teams except the Rams have a supplier logo; the Rams finally have their supplier’s logo in 1993.
In 1994 Wilson equipped 7 teams: Broncos, Oilers, Colts, Chiefs Dolphins, 49ers and Seahawks; all use the W logo on both jerseys and pants; the W logo is done in team colors.
In 1995 Wilson equipped 8 teams: Broncos, Oilers, Colts, Jaguars, Chiefs, Dolphins, 49ers and Seahawks. For whatever reason Wilson changed to using the red & black “Wilson Staff” shield logo for that season; all 8 teams used the Wilson Staff logo on their jerseys. However the 49ers and Seahawks continued to use the W logo on their pants (in team colors); the other 6 used the Wilson Staff logo on their pants to match the jerseys.
In 1996 Wilson equipped 6 teams: Oilers, Colts, Chiefs, Dolphins, Seahawks and Buccaneers. The Oilers, Colts, Chiefs, Dolphins and Buccaneers use the W logo on both jerseys and pants – but the W logo is rendered in gold outlined in white (on colors) or a team color (on white). The Seahawks are the exception – they consistently have a mixture team color W logos, gold W logos, and the Wilson Staff logos.
In 1997 Wilson equipped 9 teams: Cardinals, Bills, Bengals, Colts, Seahawks, Rams, Buccaneers, Oilers, and Redskins. All teams use the W logo in team colors.
In 1998 Wilson ceases to be an NFL supplier.
Inconsistencies would be basically individual players using older jerseys – if a player had the Wilson Staff logo in 1996 or 1997 they were still wearing a 1995 jersey. Similarly a player with a gold W logo in 1997 would still be wearing a 1996 jersey. The exception being the Seahawks in 1996 – they seemed to be a complete grab-bag with some players wearing 1994, 1995, and 1996 jerseys mixed mixed and matched with pants from other years (still don’t know why they and the 49ers didn’t have the Wilson Staff logo on their pants in 1995).
And finally I don’t know if Wilson was actually still making the uniforms themselves by this point in the 1990s or if they, like everyone but Champion and Russell, were contracting with Ripon (the renamed Medalist/Sand-Knit factory) to make them.
I don’t know if Apex One outsourced or if they were in-house.
Leave the Oilers legacy alone. Texans are Texans, Titans are Titans and they should play in their actual uniforms. Reviving the Oilers identity for a game against its former city is awkward and painful for a lot of Houston fans, even though I understand the Titans fans rooting for it: the Oilers identity is a huge improvement over waht the Titans are currently wearing.
Or do as has been stated above: both teams playing in Oilers uniforms as the ultimate hommage and get it over with.
I understand when the Oilers moved to Tennessee that their logo, colors, and history went with them, but I just feel like it’s so wrong that they’d wear the Oilers throwbacks – against Houston no less!
As a Browns fan I know what it’s like to lose your team to another city, see them change names, then get a shitty expansion team as a replacement. Cleveland was able to secure the name, logo, history, etc but if we had to watch the “Browns” of Baltimore play the Cleveland “Municipals” I would be losing my shit.
The Oilers need to belong to Houston, the Titans should carry on as if they’re an expansion team, and if ANYONE wears Oilers uniforms it should be the Texans .
I think you make a fantastic point… I just don’t agree. Enough sports franchises have kept their team identities (new and old with them to their new cities) It has happened a lot. I offer you the LA Lakers. Nuff said. Why is any different with Tennessee? If the new Houston owners really wanted the Oilers name they could have figured some kind of agreement to do it… they didn’t… lets stop holding that against Tennessee and just enjoy the throwbacks when we see them!
Though I am a Cowboys fan, there is something very nice about the baby blue and red on the OIlers helmet. Maybe that combo is why I like the baby blue that Ole Miss wears with red accents.