For a franchise that has over 60 years of storied history, it’s hard to name the No. 1 guy ever to don their uniform. For the Tennessee Titans and their prior days as the Houston Oilers, the debate would come down to just a handful of names. If an excerpt from Warren Moon‘s Hall of Fame induction speech is any indication, it sounds pretty convincing, coming from his own mouth, for those who didn’t have the honor to see him play. Moon said, “I started wearing No. 1 in college because I always wanted to be the number one guy. I always wanted to remind my teammates that I’m the man who can get it done.”
Moon in the CFL
Leading up to the 1978 NFL Draft, some NFL scouts questioned University of Washington quarterback, Moon and the way he played the position. His success was rolling out of the pocket as opposed to a drop back and pass style. Teams were unsure if this style would translate and be successful in the NFL. Ironically, in the current state of the NFL, many quarterbacks can’t survive without it.
Also by the late 1970s, only one African American quarterback, James Harris, had achieved any measurable success in the NFL, so unless Moon would be willing to play a different position, they weren’t willing to waste a pick in their eyes.
Moon, confident in his abilities, decided to avoid the NFL after going undrafted and signed with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League. All he did north of the United States, was lead the Eskimos to an unprecedented five consecutive Grey Cup victories, which is the CFL equivalent of the Super Bowl.
Moon in the NFL
Moon returned to the United States in 1984 to play for the Houston Oilers. Through the next 17 NFL seasons, he tallied almost 50,000 passing yards. Moon set a team record with 3,338 yards passing in his first year with the Oilers, a mark he would break four more times.
In 1986, the Oilers installed the run-and-shoot offense. Moon’s quarterback skills, which were deemed detrimental for an NFL quarterback, finally became apparent to all, especially the doubters. The offense allowed Moon’s strong arm, running skills, and big play ability, to finally be on display for the masses.
In 1990, Moon led the league with 4,689 passing yards, attempts (584), completions (362), and touchdowns (33). He also tied Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino‘s record with nine 300 yard games in a season. The following year 1991, he again led the league in passing yards 4,690. At the time, he joined only Hall of Fame quarterbacks Marino and Dan Fouts to post back-to-back 4,000-yard seasons. Moon also established new NFL records that season with 655 attempts and 404 completions. The signal-caller was selected to six Pro Bowls in his 10 seasons in Houston.
Moon and the Oilers were on the losing end of one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history, which is referred to as The Comeback. When the Buffalo Bills and backup quarterback Frank Reich, in a playoff game, came back from a halftime deficit of 35-3 to defeat the Oilers 41-38 in overtime.
1993: “The Comeback” Frank Reich leads the Buffalo Bills to a 41-38 OT victory over the Houston Oilers in the AFC wild card. At the start of the 3rd, it was 35-3, but the Bills cut the deficit to four points in a span of only six minutes and 52 seconds.https://t.co/qQ558tqDtg pic.twitter.com/1n4zF9MUgY— Twisted History (@twistedhistory) January 3, 2021
Continued Success Elsewhere
Moon was traded to the Vikings before the 1994 season. In his Minnesota debut season, he passed for 4,264 yards and led the team to the playoffs. In his second season, he again passed for more than 4,200 yards. He was selected to a pair of Pro Bowls, in his three seasons with the Vikings.
Moon signed with the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent in 1997. He set franchise records for completions (313) and yards passing (3,678) and earned his ninth Pro Bowl selection. After injuries plagued his second season in Seattle, he joined the Kansas City Chiefs and spent two seasons as their backup before retiring.
Despite spending his first six professional seasons in the CFL, at the front of his retirement, Moon ranked third all-time in NFL passing yardage and fourth in touchdown passes.
Once a Titan or Oiler, Always a Titan
Although he had success before and after his decade as an Oiler, Moon and his baby blue No. 1 jersey will also leave him among the best players to ever wear a uniform for this franchise. The team retired Moon’s jersey in their Ring of Honor in 2006, the same year he became the first black quarterback to be inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If he’s not the No. 1 one guy you think of when you think of the Tennessee Titans and their predecessor Houston Oilers, he’s got to be in the top three.
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