The Chargers announced Thursday that the franchise will relocate from San Diego to Los Angeles.
Bruce Matthews can only hope that the Chargers handle this relocation better than his former team. Indeed, between 1996 and 1997, the Houston Oilers became the Tennessee Oilers and, ultimately, the Tennessee Titans.
“I’ll tell you what: Ours wasn’t done very well,” the Hall of Fame offensive tackle said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “Our last two seasons in Houston, we were a lame-duck team. The city knew we were moving, and so consequently, we’d have 15,000, 20,000 fans in the (stadium). This was the House of Pain, where you couldn’t hear yourself think back in the day when we were winning playoff games and stuff. And now the big crowds would come when the Steelers came to town and all their faithful came. So we had two years like that.”
It wasn’t much better when the Oilers moved, either – at least not at first.
“We go to Nashville, and we practice in Nashville and play at Memphis in the Liberty Bowl,” Matthews said. “That would be like telling Dallas, ‘Hey, Houston’s team’s going to play in Dallas for one year, but we want you to support them.’ We got no support there. The next year, we played at Vanderbilt Stadium. It was a nice college stadium, but no feel for the NFL. For four years, we had no home-field advantage. But to that point, I think that really played into 1999, when it all did come together when we were the Titans and went to the Super Bowl. I think we were a battle-tested team and had gone through so much adversity that we could take anything that came our way.”
Matthews, 55, played in the NFL for 19 seasons. He was a 14-time Pro Bowler and is the author of “Inside the NFL’s First Family: My Life of Football, Faith and Fatherhood.”
He said that the ’99 Titans team was the best he ever played on.
“I think that was the best team, and we weren’t the most talented,” he said. “I played on some of those early 90s, late-80s Oilers teams where we’d have eight or nine guys in the Pro Bowl. It was interesting because every year we would practice against the Cowboys and finish our preseason playing the fourth preseason game against them. They’re reeling off championships by then and we’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re as good, if not better, than them.’ We’d win the scrimmage and we’d win the preseason game, but they would win the world championship. But really, that ’99 team, guys like Steve McNair and Eddie George, it really was a strong nucleus.
“What I’ve learned, I think, throughout my whole football-playing career was although individual honors are great and you love to have them, it’s only the team rewards, the team success, that’s truly worthwhile,” Matthews continued. “The other stuff’s nice, but when you win together as a team, it’s a trickle-down effect (with) everyone experiencing (it). That’s why I think football is without a doubt the best sport and obviously the best team game.”