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Texans are a popular name for pro football teams

Lots of teams used the same moniker

What’s in a name? Well, in the landscape of pro football, what is in the name Texans?

Right now, the NFL’s Houston Texans are the latest to call themselves that – make that the second Houston Texans. But in the annals of pro football history, there have been many who have called their team the “Texans.”

Of course, if you are from the State of Texas, the fact that you are a Texan is something to be proud of and brag mighty big about. So, it is only fitting that an owner would want his team to be called folks who live in the great State of Texas.

1952 Dallas Texans - National Football League

In 1952, the first-ever major league club in any sport to call the City of Dallas home was the “Dallas Texans” of the National Football League (NFL). The Texans franchise began in Boston in 1944 and was called the Boston Yanks before moving to the Polo Grounds in New York City in 1949 and renamed the New York Bulldogs. One year later, the Bulldogs became the New York Yanks after settling into Yankee Stadium.

The Yanks were horrible while the crosstown New York Football Giants were magnificent. The Yanks were mainly a traveling squad as they only had four home games and finished the 1951 season 1-9-2. They averaged 9,440 patrons per contest while the Giants averaged 29,231 for six home games. The Yanks’ best draw was 10,675 while the 5-2-1 Giants in Week 9 counted 52,515 fans against their bitter rival the 7-1-0 Cleveland Browns.

The result was that the Yanks’ owner Ted Collins had lost over $100,000, and then sold the team back to the league. With the Yanks in limbo, this allowed an unbalanced entity of 11 clubs. The NFL looked at cities like Baltimore to relocate the Yanks but instead decided upon Dallas.

Textile millionaires Giles and Connell Miller bought the club from the NFL and all of the Yanks’ assets. They renamed the team the “Dallas Texans” and attempted to bring a bold Texas swagger to home games. While college football drew very well at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, pro football did not. Plus, the Texans were horrible while their players were out-of-shape and undisciplined. After the team began the season 0-7-0, whatever fans the franchise had gained simply quit coming. The club averaged less than 10,000 per game and was losing large amounts of cash. With five games remaining the Texans could not meet payroll.

The Millers requested a $250,000 bailout from the league office but were refused. The Millers then gave up the franchise to which the league took over and then re-scheduled the remainder of games all on the road. The following season the franchise was re-located to Baltimore and renamed the “Colts.”

1960 Dallas Texans - American Football League

When the fifth pro football league that called itself the American Football League (AFL) formed in 1960, the league’s founder Lamar Hunt placed a team in his hometown of Dallas and called them the “Dallas Texans.”

Before the Texans arrived, the NFL had made a stance to not award any expansion teams as the owners liked their 12-club league with their teams so closely confined in the eastern and Midwestern states. Several men had wanted to purchase an expansion team or buy an existing NFL club, but each was refuted. So, these football owner wannabes simply started their own pro football league and called it the AFL.

With the announcement of the AFL forming, suddenly the NFL stated they would indeed be acceptable to expansion, and instantly placed a team in Dallas without any owner, players, equipment, or a stadium lease. They called this new team the “Dallas Steers” which later would be renamed the “Dallas Rangers” and then renamed the “Dallas Cowboys.”

The Texans were one of the AFL’s best teams right off while the Cowboys were one of the worst in the established NFL. Hank Stram was hired as the Texans’ head coach. In their first home game, they drew over 42,000 at the Cotton Bowl but started 2-4-0 before finishing 8-6-0. Notable players included Johnny Robinson, Abner Hayes, Cotton Davidson, and Curley Johnson. Robinson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019.

In 1962 the younger players finally jelled and the Texans went 11-3-0 and their first Western Division crown. They then defeated the defending AFL Champion Houston Oilers 20-17 to capture the AFL title. The club was bursting with All-Stars including Len Dawson, Fred Arbanas, Mel Branch, and Robinson.

As an owner, Hunt had tired of the competition with the Cowboys in the City of Dallas for fans, sponsors, and media attention and sought out a new location for the reigning league champs. He looked at New Orleans first, but the only suitable field was Tulane Stadium which was still segregated. Hunt also speculated about Miami, and Seattle, and had a trip scheduled to go look at Atlanta as a possibility. Hunt then turned his attention to Kansas City which already had a large stadium and a major league baseball team called the Athletics. With a pro baseball team intact, Hunt considered Kansas City as “major league” which none of the other possible cities he looked at for relocation had.

The mayor of Kansas City was H. Roe Bartle, whom everyone called “chief.” Bartle and the entire city went out of their way to court the Texans and bring a second major league sports franchise to the Missouri Midwest. Kansas City guaranteed Hunt 35,000 season ticket sales, 14,000 new and temporary seats added to Municipal Stadium, along with stadium lease and local sponsorship deals. “Chiefs” was chosen over Mules as the club’s new team name, one that Hunt attributed to Bartle’s efforts.

Several years later, Charlie Finley, the owner of the Kansas City Athletics asked Hunt to package a deal that would bring both the Athletics and the Chiefs to Atlanta. But Hunt loved Kansas City and the fact that it was a short trip from his home in Dallas, so he passed on Atlanta a second time.

1974 Houston Texans - World Football League

When the World Football League came onto the scene in 1974, one of the original franchises awarded was to one of the league’s organizers – San Francisco attorney Steve Arnold. The “Houston Texans” played in the Astrodome and were poorly organized and underfunded.

After starting the season 3-7-1 with home games on a Wednesday night and only averaging 18,581 in the 67,000-seat stadium, the Texans were in trouble financially. On September 19, 1974, newspapers ran the story that the club would be relocated to Shreveport, Louisiana, and would operate under league administration until the end of the maiden season. The payroll was $1.5 million and was over $200,000 in debt when Arnold quit.

QB Craig Morton, an NFL veteran, was signed for the 1975 season to a huge contract after playing out his option for the Cowboys as he had been splitting time with Roger Staubach. Morton received a six-figure signing bonus and a clause that voided the contract if the Texans ceased operations. When the franchise moved to Shreveport, Morton contended that the contract was null and void. The Cowboys then traded Morton to the Giants for the club’s number one and number two draft picks in the upcoming draft, pending legal inspection of the WFL situation. It was later ruled that the trade was valid, the Texans’ contract was not, and Morton relocated to New York.

In Shreveport, the colors remained but the team was now the “Shreveport Steamer.” For the remainder of the 1974 season and into 1975, the Steamer was operated on a “play now pay later” system. The 1974 version went 7-12-0 while the 1975 team was 5-7-0 when the league folded with games left on the schedule. The best home crowd in Shreveport was 22,012 while the worst was 8,500.

1978 Austin Texans - American Football Association

The American Football Association (AFA) operated from 1978-1983. Some claim it was a professional league while others considered it to be semi-pro. Regardless, it nestled in between the existence of the World Football League and the United States Football League. All games were on Saturday nights during the summer months and concentrated mostly in southern cities. A 12-game schedule was devised with players paid 1% of gate receipts. Ticket prices usually were $5 for adults and $3 for children. The “Austin Texans” were one of the original teams and drew around 3,200 per game.

The AFA was never financially solvent with several teams playing only a single season before folding. Oddly enough, most clubs played their home games in large NFL-caliber stadiums despite smaller crowds. The league was never able to secure a TV contract which hurt all of its member clubs. Former Giants’ QB Jerry Golsteyn played for the Orlando Americans. Washington Redskins’ great Billy Kilmer was the commissioner.

1990 Dallas Texans – Arena Football League

In 1990, the Arena Football League awarded an expansion club to Dallas, the city’s first indoor team. They were called the “Dallas Texans” and played home games at Reunion Arena, which was shared with the NBA Dallas Mavericks. The owner was H. Lanier Richey and he hired former Steelers’ great Ernie Stautner as the head coach.

The first season the team went 6-2-0 and made it to the ArenaBowl in its maiden season, only to lose 51-27 to the Detroit Drive. Stautner was named AFL Coach of the Year. Stautner parlayed that success and got a coaching gig with the Denver Broncos the following season. The Texans then hired former Cowboys’ great Drew Pearson as head coach only to go 4-6-0 for the year.

In 1992, the team was sold to Kent Kramer and Greg Gibson who fired Pearson and replaced him with John Paul Young, a former assistant coach at Texas Tech. Although the franchise finished 5-5-0, they qualified to host a home playoff game, however, the owners didn’t have enough capital and were forced to play on the road. After one playoff victory, they fell to the eventual champion in a subsequent contest. Young left the Texans and Kramer hired Jerry Trice, a longtime Arena League assistant coach, as the club’s fourth head coach in four seasons. After a 3-9-0 season, the AFL dropped the franchise for failing to meet the league’s mandatory financial requirements.

1995 San Antonio Texans – Canadian Football League

The CFL decided to expand their league in 1993. But not into other Canadian cities, but south into the USA. The league placed a team in Sacramento, California called the Sacramento Gold Miners. Former Rams great Jack Youngblood was in the front office while former Buffalo Bills head coach Kay Stephenson was tabbed as head coach. Officially, this was the first American team to play in the CFL, host a CFL contest, and record a win in the league. The following season the CFL expanded into three more American markets.

The Gold Miners played their home games in Hornet Stadium which was always a problem with less than 22,000 capacity and an abundance of temporary bleacher seats. Unable to get the city to upgrade, the franchise relocated to San Antonio, Texas instead for the 1995 season and renamed the “San Antonio Texans.”

The City of San Antonio had the Alamodome which was a 64,000 multi-use indoor facility. Now in their third season in the league and first in San Antonio, the Texans had the second-highest scoring offense in the CFL and finished 12-6-0 which sent them into the playoffs.

Their first playoff game against the Birmingham Barracudas was the only CFL playoff game ever held outside Canadian borders except Baltimore. They lost to Birmingham in the opening round, and as it turned out, would be their final game. After the 1995 season, the CFL ended the American city experiment.

The Texans averaged 15,855 patrons per game. Their owner Fred Anderson estimated he lost over $6 million during his franchise’s three-year run.

2002 Houston Texans – National Football League

When the Los Angeles Raiders’ Al Davis won his lawsuit against his other NFL owners regarding owners’ ability to move their franchise without approval from the rest of the owners, the NFL decided that club relocation was no longer a league issue but instead a team issue. Eventually, the Colts moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis, the Cleveland Browns relocated to Baltimore, the St. Louis Cardinals moved back to Phoenix, and the Houston Oilers went to Memphis then finally to Nashville. Three of these cities that lost teams would get a franchise placed in their location over the upcoming years, with Houston getting an expansion team.

NFL: APR 27 2023 Draft Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Bob McNair was the owner of the new entry, but before “Texans” was selected as the team designation, the club trademarked several names which all had either western or space themes including Colt 45’s, Hurricanes, Wranglers, Toros, Wildcats, Apollos, Challengers, Stallions, Roughriders, Bobcats, Stormcats, Energy, Roustabouts and Texians (original residents of Mexican Texas). While the Astrodome was a marvel in its time, the $352 million Reliant Stadium (now NRG Stadium) brought in the new Houston NFL team.

McNair sought out permission to use the name “Texans” once the selection process was completed. He went to Lamar Hunt to get his blessings even though Hunt no longer had a trademark on the moniker. However, McNair wanted the former owner to give his okay first. The Oilers wore Columbia blue, red, and white, and the Texans chose the colors of the state flag with a darker blue to go along with the red and white.

Since entering the NFL, the Texans have won the AFC South Division four times with as many playoff appearances and as many head coaches. The stadium has a Ring of Honor like most fields, with Andre Johnson, J.J. Watt, and founder Bob McNair as the lone members.


Did you know?

Some proposed “Texans” teams never materialized. In 2000, Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones was awarded an Arena League expansion team and considered the name “Dallas Texans”, but ultimately decided upon “Dallas Desperados” instead. After Lamar Hunt announced the move of the AFL Dallas Texans in May of 1963 for the upcoming season, he was set on calling the team the “Kansas City Texans” and keeping the franchise’s struggles intact. His thinking was that the Minneapolis Lakers had moved and kept their team’s name intact, so his football squad could do the same. His team president talked him out of the name.