'Titans' Was Not First Choice for New Name

Transition to Tennessee originally included a different nickname, stadium layout
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The Tennessee Titans as you know – and watch – them almost never materialized.

In a segment with WGFX-FM 104.5 (The Zone) in Nashville on Tuesday, long-time Houston Chronicle reporter John McClain noted that original plans included a different nickname for the team and a different layout for the stadium on the east bank of the Cumberland River.

“The Titans were going to be the ‘Pioneers,’” McClain, who closely covered the franchise’s transition from Houston, said. “Then it got out. I think somebody in Memphis found out about it. So, [franchise founder] Bud Adams changed everything and went to Titans.”

The franchise was rebranded with the new nickname and new uniforms in 1999, the same season it began to play home games at what is known now as Nissan Stadium. The 69,143-seat venue is situated parallel to the river opposite downtown with end zones that face north and south.

“Originally, the end zone faced downtown,” McClain said. “That’s the original drawings. … And then somebody wised up and said, ‘No, let’s turn it.’ So, they turned it the way it is now, which is the way it should have been.”

The Titans went undefeated at home that first season capped by the Music City Miracle, a wild card victory over the Buffalo Bills, and eventually made the franchise’s only Super Bowl appearance.

Founded as the Houston Oilers in 1960, they moved to Nashville in 1997 and played two seasons as the Tennessee Oilers. In 1997, they played their home games at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis and in 1998 they played at Vanderbilt Stadium.

For many, though, that time – like the Pioneers and an east-west facing stadium – never really happened..

“It was like Nashville thought they got an expansion team that began in 1999 with a new name, new uniforms, new stadium,” McClain said. “It’s like those previous two years playing in Memphis and [at] Vanderbilt didn’t exist.”