Why Did the Houston Oilers Change Their Name to the Houston Texans? (Full Explanation)

Last Updated on October 1, 2023 by Alex PT

The Houston Oilers did not change their name to the Houston Texans. The Houston Oilers relocated to Tennessee in 1997 and changed their name to the Tennessee Oilers, and later the Tennessee Titans. The Houston Texans were awarded as an expansion franchise in 1999 and began play in 2002.

Overview of Houston Oilers and Houston Texans

AspectsHouston OilersHouston Texans
Years Active1959-19962002-Present
LocationHouston, TexasHouston, Texas
Reason for Name ChangeTeam RelocationNew Team Initiation
LegacyRetained by Tennessee TitansEstablishing Own Identity

A Brief History of the Houston Oilers

The Houston Oilers were a professional American football team that played in Houston, Texas, from 1960 to 1996. They were founded in 1959 as a charter member of the American Football League (AFL).

The Oilers won the first two AFL Championships and joined the NFL as part of the AFL–NFL merger in 1970. The team played their home games at the Astrodome for their first 35 years, from 1960 to 1964 and 1967 to 1996. In 1997, the team moved east to Tennessee and became the Tennessee Titans

The Oilers didn’t change their name to the Houston Texans but left Tennessee and became the Titans, making the city of Houston without an NFL team. The current Houston Texans were founded by a different owner and became the league’s newest team.

When the Oilers moved to Tennessee in the late ’90s, it was after much of a fruitless loan saga as the Houston politicians refused to help Bud Adams, who wanted to build a new fitting stadium in Houston. Luckily for Bud, he found the required funding in Nashville and moved the Oilers to Tennessee, where their name changed to the Titans.

The franchise based in Houston, known as the Texans, was a team created as an expansion team for several years. When Houston politicians realized their earlier mistake, they agreed to build a stadium fully financed by taxpayers’ money.

The bad blood between the Oilers and Houston Texans has been intense since. This has been aided by the NFL rule allowing one color helmet. This enables the Titans to do their throwback Oilers uniform, including the iconic Derrick on their helmet, in a slated game against the Texans.

Why Did the Houston Oilers Move to Tennessee?

Why did Houston’s Oilers move to Tennessee

1. Financial Concerns:

The main driver behind the Oilers’ move was financial concerns. The team had been struggling with low attendance at games, which was affecting their revenue stream. The owner, Bud Adams, was convinced that a move to a new city could revive the team’s finances.

2. Lack of State-of-the-art Stadium:

Secondly, the lack of a state-of-the-art stadium played a significant role in the move. The Houston Oilers were sharing the antiquated Astrodome with the Houston Astros. Despite repeated requests from Adams to the city for a new exclusive football stadium, nothing came of it.

3. Nashville’s Aggressive Bid:

Tennessee’s aggressive bid to bring the Oilers to their state was a significant factor. The city of Nashville offered a lucrative deal that included a new $292 million stadium funded by public money, which was an offer too good to resist.

4. Limited Local Support:

The Oilers also suffered from limited local support in Houston. Bud Adams was often criticized for his management style, and several of his actions had alienated the fans.

5. Market Potential:

Lastly, the potential market opportunities in Tennessee proved more enticing. The state did not have a National Football League franchise at the time, providing the Oilers with a fresh, untapped fan base.

Finally, the Houston Oilers’ move to Tennessee was influenced by a combination of economic issues, stadium woes, a more attractive offer from Nashville, limited local support in Houston, and the lure of a new market. 

The Beginning Days of the Houston Texans

The Houston Texans franchise was first established in 2002. The team’s name was originally the Houston Oilers, but the new owner, Bob MacNair, changed it to the Houston Texans before the start of their inaugural season in 2002. The change reflected the city’s more diverse population and culture. Bob McNair was so loved in Houston. He was a successful, down-to-earth businessman who made it happen.

The reason for the name change has been a source of speculation and debate ever since. Some believe it was simply a marketing ploy to appeal to a broader audience, while others think it was done out of respect for the city’s history and culture.

Whatever the reason, the name change has been a success. The Houston Texans are among the most popular teams in the NFL, and their fans are some of the most passionate in all sports.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Gretzky Own Shares in the Oilers?

Following the bankruptcy of the Phoenix Coyotes in September 2009, Gretzky resigned from his position as head coach and relinquished his ownership share. In October 2016, he became the new partner and vice-chairman of Oilers Entertainment Group.

Can Houston Get the Oilers’ Name Back?

There are no such lawsuits to keep the Oilers franchise and history in Houston, meaning that the trademark does not belong to the city. In return, the days of Earl Campbell and Warren Moon jerseys will remain in the past and won’t be worn at NRG Stadium any time soon.

How Did the Titans Get Their Name?

The committee chose Titans, citing the desire to have a nickname that reflected leadership, strength, and other heroic qualities. It has always been known to come from early Greek mythology, and the fact that Nashville is known as the ‘Athens of the South’ makes the Titan’s name suitable and appropriate.

What Year Did the Oilers Change Their Name?

In 1997, the Oilers became the first team in the NFL  to regard Tennessee as home when the franchise relocated to the Volunteer State. Two years later, in 1999, the franchise dropped the nickname Oilers and became the Titans.


The Oilers didn’t change their name to Texans, but the Houston Oilers moved to Tennessee and became the Tennessee Oilers (later changed their names to the Titans). Houston acquired another franchise that became the Texans (it is worthy of note that the Tennessee team was still going by the Oilers name at that time).

After doing some research, it appears that the most likely reason the Oilers changed their name to the Texans was due to a change in ownership. The new owner, Bob McNair, wanted a name that would reflect the city of Houston and its southern roots. Another possibility is that McNair wanted to start fresh with a new name and identity for the team. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that the name change was not made lightly or without thoughtfulness.

Reference 1: https://sport-net.org/why-did-houston-change-from-oilers-to-texans-2/

Reference 2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Houston_Oilers

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