Today, we’re talking about TWO helmet histories in a single article as the Tennessee Titans helmet history covers two teams (same franchise and history), with the old Houston Oilers playing a pivotal role in the evolution of one of the most ever-changing helmets in NFL history, both of today and yesterday. From 1960-1996, the team now known as the Titans played as the Houston Oilers in the NRG Astrodome, the first ever domed stadium in the world.
In 1996, after years of trying to squeeze a new stadium from the City of Houston, owner Bud Adams took off for Nashville, but not before playing in Memphis for two seasons as the stadium now known as Nissan Stadium was under construction. The Tennessee Oilers played in front of sparse crowds between 1997 and 1998 before debuting as the Titans in 1999.
1960-1998: The Houston/Tennessee Oilers
Arguably the most refreshing color in the NFL, the Oilers’ first helmet consisted of a Columbia blue shell, white oil derrick, white stripe down the middle, and gray facemask. This look held akin until 1964 when the Oilers added a red stripe outlining the white.
In 1966, the team debuted a silver helmet with a blue oil derrick outlined in white and an additional trim of red.
In 1972 the Oilers reverted back to the Columbia blue helmet. This helmet held a unique look to the white oil derrick, coloring the interior of the white derrick in red as well as the derrick’s outline, which was further trimmed in white.
In 1975, the Oilers adopted a white shell, a shell that remained the same throughout the rest of the team’s history in Houston and first nineteen seasons in Nashville until the team made a switch to navy in 2018, as pictured at the beginning of this article.
One final change was made in 1981 when the Oilers switched from a traditional gray facemask to a red facemask, which rounded out their time in Houston in 1996 and remained with them when the team briefly played in Memphis during the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
For more information regarding the old Houston Oilers’ helmets and logos, click through to Chris Creamer’s uniform blog, Sportslogos.net.
1999-Present: Tennessee Titans Era
To better connect with the City of Nashville and its Tennesseans, Bud Adams wished to change the total identity of the team he purchased back in 1960, necessitating a name change to go along with the identity swap.
A Name the Team Contest did exist in The Tennessean back in 1998, with a list of thirty possible names, including Titans. Word has it that a group of fans pushed for the name Copperheads, a ‘Very Strong Push’ according to Sports Logos founder, Chris Creamer. The proposed helmet and logo was also displayed during this time as well, a stark contrast from what the team would eventually become.
However, the Copperheads obviously didn’t come about when Bud Adams had his say in the matter.
As Nashville is known mainly for its country music, it also has a reputation for being the Athens of the South. Coupled with the fact the name Titans has a history with professional football in the United States, Adams chose the name Titans.
For the most part, the helmet remained similar to the Oilers’, except navy blue was added with the debut of a new logo, the (in)famous flaming thumbtack.
This helmet remained for the Titans’ first 19 seasons in Nashville, changing last season when owner Amy Adams Strunk completely overhauled the look, erasing much of the former uniform and helmet’s resemblance to the franchise that preceded it.
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Wrong, totally wrong. So, so totally wrong to take an iconic look like the Oilers and erase its history faster than the Telmarines erased Narnian history (sorry, I’m a big fan and couldn’t resist).
Worse yet, the current helmet resembles that of division rival, the Houston Texans, who took the Titans’ place in Houston, playing next door to the old Astrodome.
If anyone knows the Texans’ navy helmet complete with a logo that bears navy blue within a white outline, the resemblance is too much. It’s like the Titans want to look like their division rivals.
Conversely, Texans players have voiced their desire to hopefully someday don the Oilers’ throwbacks, but since the name and history resides with the Titans, so far it’s been a no-go. Players like DeShaun Watson and J.J. Watt have been the most vocal about this, such as this photo of Watson wearing a Warren Moon jersey.
What bothers me even more about this helmet is that Amy Adams (daughter of Bud) had a power play with Columbia blue, or at the very least, the modernized version called Titans’ blue. That would’ve brought back the days of old and would’ve catapulted Adams’ Titans into one of the best if not the best helmet look in the NFL.
Complete the look with Columbia blue jerseys and the Titans would’ve owned the NFL’s aesthetic department. Instead, they tried something drastic and like the division rival Jacksonville Jaguars did in 2013, failed miserably. Okay, maybe the Titans didn’t fail as bad as the Jaguars (which we’ll get to tomorrow) but man, next to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers it’s the worst look in football, with the helmet bottoming out at #32 in my rankings.
The Oilers/Titans have an interesting, but disappointing history in the uniform and helmet department. Looking to the future, it’s clear that the Titans are seeking their own unique identity away from the Oilers, and perhaps this is what motivates players from the Texans to voice support to bring the Oilers’ name, colors, and history back to Houston, even if only as throwbacks.
The Texans-Titans rivalry might be newer and underrated, but my is it bitter, and even fighting over the right to wear a uniform might just be another contribute to an already intense rivalry.