Monday, March 7, 2016

Franchise 9: Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans


One feature I want to make for this blog is to feature the best nine players for each franchise.  Why nine?  Because then I get to create a binder with a page for each team, of course!  To make my task a little easier, I've decided to narrow the field to Super Bowl Era players only.  First of all, it eased the selection process because I wanted to keep each team to nine players.  Trying to take a team like the Bears or Packers with all its history and whittle the greatest players to nine is a daunting task.  For some of these teams, it was hard enough to make the cuts that I did.  To double the length of the history and decide between Norm Van Brocklin and Torry Holt was beyond the scope of what I wanted for this project.  Sorry Norm, it's just easier to justify excluding you because of your time period.  Second, it makes it a bit easier to collect the cards I need without having to bust my budget on a lot of vintage.  Third, since half the teams in the NFL don't have history too far beyond the advent of the Super Bowl, it levels the field a little for the newer teams.

As is always the case with any type of ranking, there will be plenty of room for debate.  This is in no way a definitive list.  I have a soft spot in my heart for the guys in the trenches, so some may say that I have included too many offensive linemen.  Interestingly, I have found that most teams have a 5/4 split between offense and defense, or vice-versa.  I didn't intentionally try to even it out, that's just how it turned out.  This is just my opinion, and I tried to base it on both stats and status.  I've learned a little bit of football history in the process as well, and having a bit of history is one of the appeals of collecting to me.  In any case, it gave me another something to do with my cards, and that's why I did it in the first place.

The teams will be presented in no particular order; basically, I have chosen the players already and am in the process of filling in the gaps as I do not currently own a card of every player I have chosen.  I'll present each team as I complete its page.  Players are in order of position, not ranking.  I don't really care to take my nine franchise players and try to rank their greatness.  I'll just leave it as a team.

Now for what you really want to see: some cards!  Beginning with one of the weakest teams in the Super Bowl Era, the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans.


1. Steve McNair, QB (1995 Skybox Impact RC)
"Air" McNair was a top-five draft pick from a small school, which in and of itself sets him apart as a quarterback.   Fellow small-school prospect Carson Wentz can only hope his NFL future matches McNair's career.  He led the franchise to its only Super Bowl appearance, and came a Kevin Dyson yard short of winning it.  In 11 years with the team, he passed for over 27,000 yards and 136 TDs.  Tack on 36 rushing TDs and an MVP award in 2003, and McNair is arguably the most successful QB in franchise history.

2. Warren Moon, QB (2012 Topps Rookie Reprint)
If McNair was the most successful, Warren Moon was the most prolific QB in franchise history.  Moon spent 10 years with the club, passing for a franchise record 33,685 yards and 196 TDs in the famous Run 'n' Shoot offense.

3. Earl Campbell, RB (1991 Score)
For a guy I never saw play, Earl Campbell ranks pretty high on my list of all-time favorite players.  He rushed for 8,574 yards for the Oilers and was a nightmare for would-be tacklers.


4. Eddie George, RB (1996 Pinnacle RC)
Eddie George spent 10 years in Tennessee, eclipsing 10,000 rushing yards in that time.  This card is interesting to me.  Pinnacle is definitely one of my favorite brands of the 90s, and I like the gold pyramid at the bottom.  I like the inside the stadium setting of this card, but the women's restroom sign to Eddie's left is a bit weird.

5. Chris Johnson, RB (2010 Topps 1000 Yard Club)
Johnson was a tough inclusion here.  One on hand, he only spent six years with the franchise.  On the hand, he is one of only seven players in history with a 2,000 yard season.  Six years put him third on the franchise career rushing list.  But his flash-in-the-pan status almost kept him off the list.  This card was hard to resist putting in as well, because it's the 1000 Yard Club insert detailing his 2K year on the back.

6. Bruce Matthews, OL (1993 Fleer)
Matthews spent his entire 19-year career with Houston/Tennessee, logging starts at every position along the offensive line.  He was named to 14 Pro Bowls and the 7 1st-Team All-Pro teams.  He is also one of the 1st-team guards on the 1990 All-Decade Team.  I don't know why, but I love the 1993 Fleer set.  It's one that I will never complete, mainly because I don't have a big enough desire to complete it, but I have a whole stack of them.  It's a design I have long loved, with its transparent block lettering and sometimes awful centering.  I'm finding that I'm a big fan of the old Fleer, and this set is one of the best.



7. Mike Munchak, G (1991 Pinnacle)
Munchak spent all 12 of his NFL seasons with Houston.  During that time, he was named to 9 Pro Bowls and 2 1st-Team All-Pro Teams.  He is also a member of the 1980s All-Decade Team and the Hall of Fame.  To boot, he also manned the franchise as the head coach from 2011-2013.  But we won't hold that against him.  It's fitting that one of the few teams with three running backs in the Franchise 9 has two of the game's greatest offensive linemen.

8. Elvin Bethea, DE (1978 Topps)
Bethea spent 16 years with Houston, earning 8 Pro Bowl nods in that span.  According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, Bethea has a career approximate value rating, good enough for 8th on the franchise list.

9. Keith Bulluck, LB (2008 Upper Deck)
Rounding out the Houston/Tennessee Franchise 9 is Keith Bulluck.  For 10 seasons, Bulluck was the model of consistency for the team.  He may not be the sexiest pick, but ranks 3rd in franchise history in tackles, 3rd in fumbles forces, 18th in sacks, and 15th in interceptions.  He did a lot of everything for a decade, and never received the credit he deserved.

Well, there it is.  The first of 32 Franchise 9 pages.  I hope you enjoy looking as much as I have enjoyed creating the lists and will enjoy filling in the holes.

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