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!