Several factors have helped to kindle this as becoming a noteworthy schedule pairing. Here they are in no particular order, other than numeric.
1. The Titans used to be Texans. Or, more appropriately, they used to call Houston home. The Tennessee franchise began in 1960 as part of the old AFL, which became the AFC after the NFL and AFL merged in 1970. Titans’ owner Bud Adams moved the Oilers, as they were known then, from Houston to Tennessee, much like Art Modell moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore where they became the Ravens. The league awarded an expansion franchise to Cleveland a few years later and the new team was again called the Browns. I make note of this because the parallels are just too ironic not to mention. Consider the fact that Cleveland and Baltimore are in the same division, and Houston and Tennessee are in the same division, and both rivalries revolve around team owners who moved their franchises to another city, thus pleasing the populous in the city and forever aggravating the former city’s football fans. Both the new Browns and the Texans have been living in the shadows of the more successful former teams, and constantly trying to compete with a team that used to be where you are is like always trying to live up to the reputation of your big brother. It just makes for a grudge match twice a year for each rivalry’s games.
2. Tennessee starting quarterback Vince Young’s return to Houston. Young is a native of the Bayou City where he starred as a high school quarterback and still has a large following in Houston.
3. The Texans drafted Mario Williams instead of Vince Young. The game announcers for ESPN made mention of the fact that Young had wanted to be drafted by Houston, his home town, and that they thought Young was still a little upset about not being drafted by the Texans. By the way, Williams has turned out to be a great choice for Houston, although his stats are down slightly from last year. Those same ESPN announcers, Mike Turico, Ron Jaworski, and former NFL head coach John Gruden, brought up Young almost becoming a Texan at least four times last night, if my memory serves correctly. Personally, I’m a little surprised that Young could even run at all, what with Gruden’s nose so far up Young’s backside, but, I digress.
Lastly, what made last night’s game intriguing was Deja Vous All Over Again. The Texans were coming off their bye week, after playing toe-to-toe two weeks ago with the Indianapolis Colts, also from the AFC South, where the Texans and Titans reside. The Colts were, and still are, undefeated, and heavily favored over Houston. The game in Indianapolis came down to a field goal attempt by Texans placekicker Kris Brown from 49 yards away. The Colts were up 20-17 and the Texans were trying to force overtime. Sound familiar? That’s right, just like last night’s game. Brown once again was called on to attempt a 49 yard field goal to force overtime with the score 20-17, with Houston on the short end. All of us know how last night’s game ended. The exact same way the Colts game did some two weeks ago. Brown has to feel like the Bill Murray character in the movie Groundhog Day, who experienced the same day over and over again.
Kris Brown has been a reliable, steady, if not great, kicker for the Texans, and I’m not condemning or defending him here. I’m just pointing out what I feel is a hugely ironic twist for the Houston team.
I suppose this means either the Texans are cursed, snake bit, or just unlucky, or the Colts and Titans are blessed. Either way, I’m looking forward to many years of what I think is a great NFL rivalry.