The Tennessee Titans began their history as the Houston Oilers in 1960. In their very first two years as a franchise, the Oilers won the AFL Championship. After the 1996 season, they spent two years as the Tennessee Oilers before turning into the Titans that we know today.
In their first year as the Tennessee Titans in 1999, the team made a run to the Super Bowl. They made the playoffs in four of the first five seasons. The Titans have a history of making the postseason and Mike Vrabel has them back to that trend. Tennessee has been in the playoffs in two of the last three years after missing out in eight straight seasons. The 2019 season was a magical one with an AFC Championship Game appearance against the Kansas City Chiefs. Heading into the 2020 season, they will look to ride their horse in Derrick Henry just like they did in the postseason.
Henry signed his franchise tender with the Titans for 2020 worth $10.2 million. The two sides have not come to terms on a long- term deal. On this list, Henry is the honorable-mention back. Henry has been with the Titans for four years. Over his first two, Henry was not the feature back and he scored 10 touchdowns in that span. It was not until 2018 that Henry began getting consistent carries. He took advantage with 1,059 yards and 12 touchdowns.
In 2019 Henry quickly turned into one of the best in the game. Henry notched the rushing triple crown. He led the league with 303 carries for 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also led the league with 102.7 yards per game. The Titans will eventually need to sign their star running back to a deal. If he stays in Tennessee long term, Henry could end up on this list. For now, here are the top three running backs in franchise history.
3. Eddie George
George enjoyed an incredible career at Ohio State that included a Heisman Trophy. The Oilers selected George with the 14th overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft. George burst onto the scene right away for the franchise. In his rookie season and lone campaign with Houston before the move, George rushed for 1,368 yards and eight touchdowns.
George rushed for 1,000 or more yards in seven of his eight seasons with the franchise. In 1997, he began a stretch of four straight Pro Bowl appearances with 1,399 yards and six touchdowns. George earned his only First Team All-Pro nod in 2000 when he led the league in carries with 403. George rushed for 1,509 yards and 14 touchdowns that year. He also led the league in touches with 453. The former Buckeye made a name for himself as a dynamic runner and a strong receiver out of the backfield.
During his eight years with the Oilers/Titans, George played and started in all 128 games. He did not have less than 312 carries in any season and came 51 yards away in 2001 from rushing for 1,000 yards in every season. He was a huge name during the franchise’s early days in Tennessee and a fan favorite because of the attitude he had on the field. He is still the franchise’s all time leader with 10,009 yards.
2. Chris Johnson
Johnson burst onto the scene at the NFL combine when he ran a 4.24 40-yard dash. He was selected 24th overall in the 2008 NFL Draft by the Titans. Johnson was named a Pro Bowler during his first three years in the league.
As a rookie, Johnson carried the ball 251 times for 1,228 yards and nine touchdowns. Tennessee knew that they had their running back of the future and Johnson solidified that in year two. In 2009, Johnson became the sixth NFL running back to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. He finished the year as a First Team All-Pro selection with 358 carries for 2,006 yards and 14 touchdowns. This earned him the nickname “CJ2k.” In 2010, Johnson kept his momentum going with 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Many remember the later years of Johnson’s career. After six years with the Titans, Johnson signed a two-year deal with the Jets but lasted just one. He finished his career by spending three years with the Arizona Cardinals. After leaving the Titans, Johnson did not log another 1,000-yard season and scored just five touchdowns.
As a member of the Titans, he rushed for 1,000 yards in all six years. He also eclipsed 1,400 yards from scrimmage in all six seasons, which is an incredible feat. This includes when he finished with a league-leading 2,509 yards. He is currently third on the Titans’ all time rushing list with 7,965 yards.
1. Earl Campbell
The Houston Oilers owned the first overall pick in the 1978 NFL Draft and opted for a running back out of Texas. Campbell burst onto the scene as a rookie and put together one of the best stretches of all time during his first three years in the league.
Campbell was a First Team All-Pro member during each of his first three years. He led the league in rushing yards during all three seasons and rushing touchdowns twice. In 1978, Campbell rushed for 1,450 yards and 13 touchdowns. The very next year, Campbell continued his dominance with 1,697 yards and 19 touchdowns. The 1980 season was his best statistical season as a pro. Campbell led the league with 373 carries, 1,934 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.
After a 0-6 start to the season in 1984, the Oilers decided to send Campbell to the New Orleans Saints in return for their top pick in the 1985 NFL Draft. He never saw the same success and retired following the 1985 season. All together, Campbell spent six full years with the Oilers. He rushed for over 1,000 yards five times and made the Pro Bowl in each of those seasons.
The first three years of Campbell’s career is still one of the best stretches in history. He retired as the franchise’s all time leading rusher with 8,574 yards. He is currently second on the list. Campbell is the all-time leader in rushing touchdowns with 73. In 1991, the NFL enshrined Campbell into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is highly regarded as one of the top rushers of all time and is without a doubt the top running back in Titans history.