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The Houston Oilers of the late 80's and early 90's?


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#1 Ness

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 11:53 PM

I was wondering if I could get some insight on the Houston Oilers of the late eighties and early nineties during their playoff run. I was just a little too young to marvel at how instrumental their offense was, the Run N' Shoot. Some people now and days have called it a gimmick that eventually phased out of the league (at least the way Houston used it). This team made seven straight playoff trips, but never advanced past the divisional round which is downright shocking to me. I haven't managed to get a hold of all of the originally broadcasted games that the Oilers played in the playoffs during that span, so I'm not sure if their defenses failed them the majority of the time, their offense collapsed, or maybe they just played great teams. Obviously there is the 1992 comeback against the Bills, and I believe a playoff game in Denver during the 1991 season if I recall where Elway had one of his comeback games. It just seemed like this offense would be able to go the distance at least once out of those seven seasons. I've even been inclined to put some stock into the theory that the franchise fell under the curse of the "dome team" moniker. For those of you that witnessed this time period I would be interested in hearing your thoughts. Thanks.

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#2 97Den98

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 04:27 PM

Against the Bills in 92, the special teams started the breakdown. First, after Bubba McDowell's INT to make the score 35-3 in the third quarter, Al Del Greco and the special teams coach decided to squib the kick. However, it only went 10 yards or so, and it was fielded by one of the up men. That gave the Bills great field position, and after Eddie Robinson almost intercepted Reich, the Bills went down to score and make it 35-10.

After that TD, Bruce Dehaven called for a surprise onside, and Buffalo recovered. They went down and scored again, and the comeback was on.

I also remember a Houston player fumbling a punt against Buffalo with two minutes to go in their 1988 divisional matchup. The Oilers were only down 17-10, and would have had a chance to go down and tie it.

As for what happened against Elway, I have seen Houston fans argue about how the Oilers went in some type of prevent on that final drive, and didn't stay aggressive. Also, there was a holding call during that drive that should have been called on Denver, but wasn't.

#3 Rupert Patrick

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 05:48 PM

The Oilers also ended the string with one of the biggest single season collapses in Pro Football history, perhaps the biggest ever, going from 12-4 and the number two seed in the AFC in 1993 to 2-14 and the worst record in the NFL in 1994. The Oilers dropped 10 games in the standings between 1993 and 1994, not even the 2010-2011 Colts decreased that much, they only decreased by eight games from ten wins to two. The Oilers did not recover from losing Warren Moon to the Vikings, but they learned the hard way that you just can't replace Moon with Billy Joe Tolliver, Bucky Richardson and Cody Carlson. Attendance and local interest in the Oilers dropped, and helped grease the rails for Bud Adams to bolt for Tennessee a couple years later. A couple good things came out of the collapse of the Oilers, such as picking up Steve McNair with the third pick in the 1995 draft (he was a very good QB who solved the Oilers/Titans QB problems for 11 seasons), and Jeff Fisher replacing Pardee as head coach, although it took a couple years to retool and rebuild the team.

#4 BD Sullivan

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 06:53 PM

This doesn't necessarily pertain to their playoff woes from then, but during the Jerry Glanville era, his ego got way out of control. With his Johnny Cash-like (i.e. all black) wardrobe and his tired stunt of leaving tickets for celebrities (both living and dead.) Both Chuck Noll and Sam Wyche couldn't stand him, with Noll (among others) accusing Glanville of having a team full of cheap-shot artists.

#5 Ness

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 12:14 AM

I just thought it had something to do with their offense being figured out, but the more and more I've researched it seems like it was more so on the defense of all things, which I suppose Houston wasn't known for back in those days. Or rather, their offense was so prolific it overshadowed their defense. They certainly scored a decent amount of points in their playoff games I believe. I can't remember if their offense was ever just completely shut down in the post season.

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#6 Reaser

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 02:30 AM

I just thought it had something to do with their offense being figured out, but the more and more I've researched it seems like it was more so on the defense of all things, which I suppose Houston wasn't known for back in those days. Or rather, their offense was so prolific it overshadowed their defense. They certainly scored a decent amount of points in their playoff games I believe. I can't remember if their offense was ever just completely shut down in the post season.


Going reverse order here;

In '93 Buddy Ryan had problems with the offense all season, that they would pass when they were up instead of working on (running down) the clock. Or instead of taking a knee before half they would throw, a turnover in that scenario is what led to the Ryan-Gilbride incident if my memory is holding up. That was the last game of the season, so they headed into the playoffs with that. Of course they ran into Montana in the divisional round, who owned the 4th quarter, so that didn't help either. I think the '93 team was the best of the Oilers teams during this playoff streak.

'92, another good Oilers team (not necessary "great"/Super Bowl caliber)...obviously had the historic collapse which 97Den98 went into. I don't really like what ifs, but had they won, I wouldn't have bet that they would have won their next game anyways, didn't have the feel of a AFC Championship appearance team.

'91, I was surprised they even beat the Jets. I think the Jets blew that game more than the Oilers won (but that's just my opinion of course.)...then "The Drive II" happened the next week.

The rest of the years, the AFC wasn't particularly strong, and the Oilers weren't much more than an average playoff team, kind of just there to make up the numbers.

As for the holding that wasn't called against Denver, perhaps football justice - if the football justice system moves as slow as our countries, then four years later makes sense time wise, ha - for Fredd Young's interception being ruled incomplete in the '87 Wild Card game...

For the R&S itself, there was plenty of criticisms during that time, from gimmick offense, to they threw too much, not built for the playoffs, and various excuses that the offense didn't help the defense (most of these came towards the end of the Oilers run...)

I've always found it to be a fascinating offense, I've gone through Mouse Davis' playbook, and one of my best friends and former HS teammate played at Portland State when Glanville coached there (with Davis running the offense)...

As a kid (and still I guess) for some reason the most interesting thing to me was always the over-exaggerated drop, with the first step away from center by the QB's getting extra depth. I've always wanted to ask a R&S coach about that (tried to have my friend ask Davis but he played safety and said he never talked to coaches on the offensive side of the ball.) Reggie Slack and Doug Pederson both really over did it with the NY/NJ Knights, to a lesser extent but still noticeable Moon and Commander Cody did it with the Oilers, Ware with the Lions also, Kramer seemed to do it normal while still having the same look, just seemed like his drop was more natural.

Always found it odd, seems like it would limit accuracy on any hots because no one can throw instantly with their legs spread that far apart (for the ones that over-stepped) not to mention some of the time on that first step QB's were turning back towards defense (concerned more with first step than looking downfield? For an offense that's all about QB and WR seeing the same thing?) ... Plus the quick plant and throw, seems like you would always be falling back or off balance lean to whatever side you were throwing to...obviously part of it was the quick passing and that most of the time they were dropping slightly left or right (half-roll.) Offense wasn't/isn't really setup for a conventional straight back 3-step drop but that first step has always been of interest, had forgot about it until this thread. I don't remember Jeff George doing it with the Falcons however, I mean same drop, but without the exaggerated first step...
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#7 97Den98

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 04:47 AM

'92, another good Oilers team (not necessary "great"/Super Bowl caliber)...obviously had the historic collapse which 97Den98 went into. I don't really like what ifs, but had they won, I wouldn't have bet that they would have won their next game anyways, didn't have the feel of a AFC Championship appearance team.


I think that the Oilers would have defeated Pittsburgh the next week. That Steeler team wasn't quite ready for primetime. However, do the Oilers defeat the Dolphins in Miami? I don't know. I do know that Miami looked bad when they played the Bills, but Buffalo had their number. Their win over the Dolphins in the 92 AFC Title game would be the sixth of eight wins(in a nine-game span) that they would get in Miami from 1987 to 1994.

#8 nicefellow31

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 08:48 AM

One thing I always remember about that game in Denver when Elway drove the Broncos to victory, was that there was a 4th and long on that final drive. Elway scrambled and at the last minute completed a pass for a 1st Down. During the replay, you could see Warren Moon in the background angrily slam a cup of water to the ground as if saying "you got to be kidding me." That stood out to me because Moon was a guy who usually kept his emotions in check.

#9 conace21

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 09:17 AM

The 1993 Oilers looked to be done early in the season, as they started 1-4. Warren Moon was turning the ball over in bunches, and he looked finished. (He only played another 7 seasons.) But then, everything clicked. Moon rediscovered his mojo, Gary Brown emerged as a 1,000 yard back, and Ryan's defense knocked people around. The team also had to overcome its share of distractions. T David Williams missed a game after his wife gave birth on Saturday night; the team docked him a week's pay (I think) but then returned the money after heavy media attention. DT Jeff Alm killed himself suddenly after a car accident where his best friend was killed. And of course there was Ryan throwing the punch at Gilbride.
In the playoffs, though , the Oilers were overcome by Montana magic producing three 4th quarter touchdowns, and a strong KC defense. Moon was sacked nine times and fumbled five times. PFR says that four of the sacks were by DB's Albert Lewis and Bennie Thompson, indicating that maybe the offensive line wasn't entirely to blame. This game reinforced some notions about the run and shoot. It could not protect a lead (Oilers led KC 10-0 at the half) nor could it protect the QB. In the offseason, Moon was traded and I believe they dismantled the run and shoot. Houston went 2-14, Moon went to the playoffs in Minnesota , as usual.

The 1992 Oilers WC game is the most infamous. I am a Bills fan, but I will say the Oilers had a few bad calls go against them. Don Bebee catching a TD after steppimg out of bounds was one, and an uncalled defensive holding penalty on a Nate Odomes int in OT was the most costly. Mostly, I remember how dominant Moon was in the first half, and how ordinary he looked after halftime. Bill Walsh's offense was predicated on pass pass pass to build up a lead and set up the running game to finish it off. The Oilers were never able to do that (in the postseason at least.)

#10 Ness

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 11:50 AM

Wasn't Moon benched at one point in the 1993 season? I'm guessing earlier in the year for not playing well.

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#11 conace21

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 01:52 PM

Wasn't Moon benched at one point in the 1993 season? I'm guessing earlier in the year for not playing well.

Yes, he was benched against Buffalo, a 35-7 loss where Moon was intercepted three times and I think he had at least one fumble. Cody Carlson took over and started the next week against NE. Moon was apparently inserted in the end quarter and held the job for the rest of the year. (Carlson played the season finale, but I'm guessing that game had no bearing on the playoff seeding.)

#12 Ness

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 02:11 PM

I see they went on an 11 game winning streak to finish 12-4 that season. I didn't know it was on that ridiculous of a winning spree. Too bad it ended against Kansas City at home, an opponent that they had shut out in the first couple of weeks of the season 30-0. I'll have to see if I can get my hands on that game. I'm starting to think that even if Houston advanced to an AFC Championship game they would have never made it to the Super Bowl. Maybe they just weren't really that good in the playoffs because of the decision making they implored in terms of game management more so than mistakes made by their own players.

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#13 JWL

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 07:46 PM

Yes, he was benched against Buffalo, a 35-7 loss where Moon was intercepted three times and I think he had at least one fumble. Cody Carlson took over and started the next week against NE. Moon was apparently inserted in the end quarter and held the job for the rest of the year. (Carlson played the season finale, but I'm guessing that game had no bearing on the playoff seeding.)

Yeah, it was a meaningless game for Houston. It sure was meaningful for their opponent, though. With a playoff spot on the line, the Jets played rotten football. They lost 0-24. After the game my mom asked if Boomer Esiason was pregnant. I am fairly certain there was a lot of cursing from my father. Heck, he was ranting and raving last night during the 4th quarter of the 4th preseason game.


During that season the Jets played three consecutive games with no touchdowns. One was played in a Massachusetts monsoon, one was a blustery day in New Jersey and the other was a fair day in RFK.

The defense was alright but the offense was awful down the stretch.

I attended the Bengals game and the fans were not thrilled even though the Jets won. Scores down the stretch starting with that game-
17-12
6-0
6-9
3-0
7-28
14-16
0-24

Imagine scoring 15 points in a 3-game span and winning two of them?

Bruce Coslet came under great scrutiny for refusing to hire an offensive coordinator and then got fired.

As for the Oilers, they did not properly run the ball or play good enough defense in the postseason.

Ness- The game you might want to consider looking for is the 1-3-88 game vs Seattle. That is a forgotten thriller.

#14 lastcat3

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 08:49 PM

What were the main differences between the run and shoot offenses back in the early 90's and the spread offenses that are so common now.

The run and shoot still split out in three or four receiver sets so they were still trying to spead out the defense. So what made the run and shoot fade away while the spread is really here to stay it looks like? Or are the run and shoot and the spread for the most part the same offense?

#15 JWL

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 09:00 PM

What were the main differences between the run and shoot offenses back in the early 90's and the spread offenses that are so common now.

The run and shoot still split out in three or four receiver sets so they were still trying to spead out the defense. So what made the run and shoot fade away while the spread is really here to stay it looks like? Or are the run and shoot and the spread for the most part the same offense?

Spread is a generic term whereas the Run 'n' Shoot is a specific type of spread offense.

Now we see a lot of college spread offenses with the quarterback in the shotgun formation. In the RnS the QB was under center usually. A lot of times a guy like Warren Moon would take a 3-step drop and fire the ball. In the RnS the receivers ran routes based on the coverage. In other spread offenses the receivers are coached to run specific routes.

#16 Reaser

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 09:21 PM

Now we see a lot of college spread offenses with the quarterback in the shotgun formation. In the RnS the QB was under center usually. A lot of times a guy like Warren Moon would take a 3-step drop and fire the ball. In the RnS the receivers ran routes based on the coverage.


Mouse Davis, in his last stop at Portland State had the team in shotgun majority of the time, June Jones obviously the same with Hawaii and SMU...

one of the differences, besides under center to shotgun, that I've noticed from late 80's/early 90's R&S to now is they don't motion as much, sometimes seems not at all, which they used mostly to see zone/man obviously, but it's something I've noticed and wondered about.

edit to add: Most offenses referred to as "the spread" at the college level the run game is usually based off the read option...The Run and Shoot is a passing offense where the base run play is a draw.
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#17 conace21

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 09:40 PM

Mouse Davis, in his last stop at Portland State had the team in shotgun majority of the time, June Jones obviously the same with Hawaii and SMU...

one of the differences, besides under center to shotgun, that I've noticed from late 80's/early 90's R&S to now is they don't motion as much, sometimes seems not at all, which they used mostly to see zone/man obviously, but it's something I've noticed and wondered about.


A RnS offense featured the consistent use of 4 WR's and 1 RB. I don't think the Oilers even had a TE on the roster. I don't know what they did in goal-line offense.

#18 Reaser

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 09:48 PM

A RnS offense featured the consistent use of 4 WR's and 1 RB. I don't think the Oilers even had a TE on the roster. I don't know what they did in goal-line offense.


That got coverage with the Lions in the early 90's, when they were kept talking about adding a TE (to help with the run game presumably) and moving away from pure R&S.
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#19 Ness

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 11:09 PM

Spread is a generic term whereas the Run 'n' Shoot is a specific type of spread offense.

Now we see a lot of college spread offenses with the quarterback in the shotgun formation. In the RnS the QB was under center usually. A lot of times a guy like Warren Moon would take a 3-step drop and fire the ball. In the RnS the receivers ran routes based on the coverage. In other spread offenses the receivers are coached to run specific routes.

I think the New York Giants use a type of spread offense in their passing game with nuances to the Run N' Shoot. At least in terms of their receivers needing to make the same or similar reads as their quarterback. Of course they also use a lot of tight end sets like most offenses in the league now. I don't think the Oilers did this that often and probably didn't leave many in to block for Moon I would imagine. The Giants running game is far more conventional now and days as well. The Run N' Shoot definitely seems to be a unique offense in the NFL that had a brief stint.

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#20 BD Sullivan

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 11:41 PM

I recall Buddy Ryan had no use for the Run-n-Shoot, derisively referring to it as the "Chuck-n-Duck."

The Oilers undoubtedly became enamored with the Run-n-Shoot based on the success of their USFL counterparts, the Gamblers--i.e. Jim Kelly threw for over 5,000 yards in one season. They really adopted it when they hired former Gamblers HC Jack Pardee, who between those two jobs turned Andre Ware into a Heisman winner for the Houston Cougars.