What are the best moments for each NFL franchise? Yahoo Sports provides our opinion, which you are free to disagree with (and we’re sure you will).
5. Mariota’s hope
April 30, 2015 could well go down as one of the most important days in Tennessee Titans history. The Titans hadn’t had a truly franchise-level quarterback since Steve McNair departed, so when Tennessee found itself with the second pick in the 2015 NFL draft, the need was obvious, as were the two Heisman-winning targets: Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took Winston, and that left Tennessee with exactly the kind of franchise-altering player it had craved for a decade. (In his first season, Mariota became the first player since 1983 to run, pass and receive touchdowns in the same season.) Mariota has missed time all three of his seasons so far with injuries, but when he’s healthy, he’s a transcendent quarterback, mobile and aware. The Titans have begun adding receivers to complement his skills, and he’s on a trajectory to become one of the league’s best.
4. Signing Warren Moon
Despite a strong college résumé and being named the Rose Bowl MVP, Warren Moon found no takers in the 1978 NFL draft. So he went to Canada and helped the Edmonton Eskimos win five straight championships. That was enough to interest the NFL at last, and the Oilers won the right to sign him. Moon struggled until Jerry Glanville, he of the everybody-go-long-and-get-open ethos, unleashed him. In 1987, Moon led the Oilers to their first winning season since 1980, and two years later, he became the highest-paid player in the NFL when he signed a five-year, $10 million contract. Moon retired in the top five all-time in yards, touchdowns, attempts and completions, and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. A nine-time Pro Bowler, Moon remains one of the iconic members of the Oilers/Texans franchise — even if it took the NFL a little while to realize how good he could be.
3. Drafting The Cannon
Billy Cannon was as heralded a college ballplayer as the country had ever seen, and in 1960, both the NFL and the upstart AFL wanted the Heisman Trophy-winning running back from LSU on their rosters. The Los Angeles Rams selected Cannon with the first pick of the draft, while the AFL’s brand-new Houston Oilers tabbed him with their “territorial” pick, designed to keep star players close to home. Cannon signed with the Rams first, then signed with the Oilers a couple months later. The NFL tried to argue its contract took priority, but a judge ruled the Rams and their general manager – a gentleman named Pete Rozelle – took advantage of Cannon’s naivete. So Cannon went to the Oilers, helping establish the team and the league as viable competitors to the NFL. Ten years later, the Oilers, along with several other AFL teams, were full-fledged members of the NFL.
2. Luv Ya Blue
The city of Houston hadn’t had much to cheer about in the 18 years the Oilers had been in existence. Then came a rookie named Earl Campbell, legs the size of tree trunks propelling him like a downhill locomotive. Campbell stomped on the AFC that 1978 season, but it wasn’t until a “Monday Night Football” game against the Dolphins on Nov. 20, that the nation learned his name. As Howard Cosell exalted and a sold-out Astrodome waved blue pom-poms, Campbell broke off an 81-yard run that killed Miami’s last hope of a comeback win, and cemented that year’s Oilers team as one of the favorites in Houston history. Campbell and head coach Bum Phillips would lead the previously hapless Oilers to three straight playoff appearances.
1. Music City Miracle
It’s somehow fitting and appropriate that the Tennessee Titans recorded the greatest play in NFL postseason history against the Buffalo Bills, since it was the Bills who victimized the Titans – then known as the Oilers – seven years earlier in the infamous Frank Reich-led Comeback. But the Titans couldn’t care less about that history when they prepared to receive the final kick in the 2000 wild card game, down 16-15 with just 16 seconds remaining. The kick landed in the hands of fullback Lorenzo Neal, who pitched it to tight end Frank Wycheck. Wycheck then pivoted 90 degrees and threw the ball across the field to wide receiver Kevin Dyson. The play was called “Home Run Throwback,” and the Titans practiced it regularly — except that neither the regular passer nor the regular receiver were on the field, having been injured earlier. Dyson had never even practiced the play before, but then-Titans coach Jeff Fisher sketched it out for him on the sideline just prior to kickoff, and it worked flawlessly (that is, if you are of the belief that Wycheck’s throw was a lateral, not a forward pass). With nothing but green grass ahead of him, Dyson raced 75 yards. He briefly considered going out of bounds in field goal range, but since the play fooled almost the entire Bills defense, Dyson plowed ahead and scored a game-winning touchdown that remains the greatest moment in franchise history.