Houston’s history with professional football dates back to 1960 when Bud Adams created the Houston Oilers as a charter member of the American Football League. First with the AFL and then in the American Football Conference following the AFL’s merger with the National Football League (NFL) in 1970, the Oilers experienced a long and successful history. The team won the affection of many Houstonians, and the Oilers became a prominent part of the city’s identity. This history and identity came to an end when Bud Adams moved the team to Nashville, Tennessee, for the 1997 football season.
The loss of the Oilers devastated Houston football fans, but the loss was short-lived. Bob McNair, a Houston businessman sought to bring a National Hockey League team to town in 1997. When the league turned him down, McNair shifted his focus to bringing professional football back to Houston. In 1998 he worked with Houston city officials and put together a plan to build a retractable-roof stadium for the potential team. He then made his presentation to the NFL.
At the March 1999 league owners’ meeting, the other thirty-one team owners, in a tally of 29 to 2, voted in favor of giving an expansion team to Los Angeles over Houston. In the agreement, though, Los Angeles received six months to put together a financial and stadium plan, as well as assemble an ownership group. When Los Angeles failed to meet the requirements, on October 6, 1999, the league owners voted unanimously to grant Houston an expansion team. In the deal, Bob McNair paid $700 million, a record for a professional sports franchise at the time.
On September 6, 2000, the team officially announced their name, the Houston Texans. Four months later the Texans hired Dom Capers as their first coach. They then worked to fill out their roster. As an expansion team, the Texans received the first pick in the 2002 draft, with which they selected David Carr, a quarterback from Fresno State University.
Playing in the new Reliant Stadium (now NRG Stadium) the Texans struggled to a record of 4–12 first season. One highlight for the team came in their very first game on September 8, 2002, when they defeated intrastate rival, the Dallas Cowboys, 19–10. The victory made the Texans the first expansion team to win their inaugural game since the Minnesota Vikings in 1961. The game also saw the team score their first touchdown, a pass from David Carr to tight end Billy Miller.
Over the next several years, the team saw their roster and record improve. In 2003 the Texans drafted Andre Johnson, a wide receiver from the University of Miami. Johnson went on to become the Texans’ all-time record holder for receptions and receiving yards. After the 2003 season, the NFL named running back Domanick Davis “Rookie of the Year.”
Following a 2–14 season in 2005, the Texans fired Dom Capers as head coach and hired Gary Kubiak in early 2006. In April of that year the Texans picked first in the NFL draft and selected Mario Williams, a defensive end from North Carolina State. Then, for the 2007 season, they traded with the Atlanta Falcons for quarterback Matt Schaub, the Texans all-time passing record holder. Led by Schaub and Johnson, the Texans experienced their best season to date, a record of 8–8. In 2008 the team achieved an identical record, before winning 9 games and losing 7 in 2009. Unfortunately, the team missed out on making the playoffs because of a tiebreaker with the New York Jets.
The team’s success continued over the next couple of years. In 2010 running back Arian Foster led the league with 1,616 rushing yards, the most ever by an undrafted player. In 2011 the Texans won the AFC South for the first time and finished with a 10–6 record. Featuring rookie defensive end, J. J. Watt, the Texans won their game in the wild-card round, before losing in the divisional round. The 2012 season saw the Texans repeat as AFC South champions (with their best regular season record to date at 12–4), win their wild-card round game, and then lose in the divisional round.
In 2013 the Texans took a significant step backwards, only winning 2 games and losing 14. The losing season resulted in the firing of Gary Kubiak and the hiring of Bill O’Brien as head coach. The poor record allowed the Texans to pick first in the NFL draft, the third time they had the selection in team history. With the pick, the Texans selected defensive end Jadeveon Clowney from the University of South Carolina.
The Texans quickly returned to their earlier successful ways, winning their division and making the playoffs after both the 2015 and 2016 seasons. At the same time, several players experienced individual success, including J. J. Watt, who won the NFL’s “Defensive Player of the Year Award” in 2012, 2014, and 2015.