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Titans-Rams Flashback: Bidding Battle & Super Bowl

Posted Nov 1, 2013

The Titans/Oilers franchise has only encountered the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams franchise on the field 10 times in the regular season, but the organizations have gone head-to-head in two of the biggest battles in the history of football.

Titans/Oilers founder K.S. "Bud" Adams, Jr. made sure that he won a bidding war to sign Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon. Adams sent team representative Adrian Burk to the Sugar Bowl to sign Cannon immediately on the field after the game.
A year later, Adams and Cannon celebrated their first of two straight AFL titles (below).

This flashback will take brief looks at a bidding battle in 1960 and the clash for a title in Super Bowl XXXIV.  

Upon co-founding the American Football League with Lamar Hunt, Houston Oilers founder K.S. “Bud” Adams, Jr. knew the upstart league needed to land marquee players to compete with the interest in the longer-established National Football League.

Adams devoted much of his effort, energy and financial resources into making sure the Heisman Trophy winner played for him. The Oilers selected Cannon in the first AFL Draft on Nov. 22, 1959, eight days before the L.A. Rams picked him with the top overall spot in the NFL Draft.

Adams outbid the Rams by doubling the amount they offered Cannon and even included his wife’s Cadillac to sweeten the deal. Adams sent Oilers general counsel and former NFL QB Adrian Burk to the Sugar Bowl to sign Cannon on the field immediately after the game (Jan. 1, 1960) as soon as he was eligible to sign. Adams and the Oilers won a court battle to preserve the legitimacy of the contract.

Cannon helped the Oilers win the first two AFL Championships and won MVP honors in both games, helping the AFL gain traction that eventually forced a merger between the leagues.

The Rams relocated from Los Angeles to St. Louis in 1995, and the Oilers moved to Tennessee in 1997. Because they were in opposite conferences, the teams only met eight times from 1973 through the 1999 season (when Tennessee began playing as the Titans) but met in January 2000 with the Lombardi Trophy on the line.

The Rams prevailed in that contest 23-16 in one of the wildest and most exciting finishes in football history.

The Titans scored 16 straight points in the second half to tie the game with 2:12 remaining on two short touchdowns by Eddie George and a 43-yard field goal by Al Del Greco. The Rams answered, however, with a 73-yard touchdown pass from Kurt Warner to Isaac Bruce on the following play from scrimmage.

That set the stage for a remarkable comeback attempt, with Steve McNair and the Titans getting the ball at their own 12-yard line with 1:48 remaining and moving 78 yards in 1:43 with elusive scrambling and five pass completions by McNair to move to the St. Louis 10 with five seconds left.

McNair found Kevin Dyson for a completion but St. Louis linebacker Mike Jones made a solid tackle to keep Dyson from stretching the ball across the goal line one yard shy. Click here to download the gamebook.

Given the significance in franchise history of those clashes, it’s almost fitting that the Rams are the Titans’ first opponent since the passing of Bud Adams (Jan. 23, 1923-Oct. 21, 2013).

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