Hall of Fame offensive tackle Bruce Matthews talks his new book "Inside the NFL's First Family" (1:32), why Howie Long wrote the foreword (6:54), his son Jake trying to block his nephew Clay III (14:53), experiencing the "Music City Miracle" and "The Tackle" as a member of the 1999 Titans (18:58) and the Oilers' tumultuous 1990s move from Houston to Tennessee (24:49).
Bruce Matthews played 19 seasons (1983-2001) with one NFL franchise. But that franchise had three different names: the Houston Oilers, Tennessee Oilers and Tennessee Titans.
Matthews, now 55, resides in Houston. He remembers the move from Houston to Tennessee and the unnecessary frustrations that came with the five-year transition. The franchise played in four stadiums in three cities in front of as little as 17,071 home fans during that half-decade. At one point, players were traveling three hours for home games. Despite this hassle, the Titans came out of the rubble with the Music City Miracle and a trip to Super Bowl XXXIV. Matthews ended up being a Hall of Fame offensive tackle.
Appearing on ThePostGame Podcast on Super Bowl Radio Row in Houston, Matthews recounted the move, portrayed his excitement for son and Falcons offensive tackle Jake Matthews' first Super Bowl and gave a peek into his new book, Inside the NFL's First Family: My Life of Football, Faith, and Fatherhood. Here are some highlights:
ThePostGame: We're in Houston right now. You were part of the team when they moved from Houston to Tennessee. You see a lot of teams moving right now -- LA is the destination. How difficult is it to move as a player?
BRUCE MATTHEWS: Our owner, Bud Adams, had a blueprint for how to not relocate a franchise. It was so poorly handled and it's only been really through these last few weeks, since the Chargers moved, a lot of people have asked me about my experience and I kind of revisited my feelings on that, and sure enough it was a complete botch job. We announced in '95 the team was going to relocate to Tennessee. We play '95 and '96 as a lame-duck franchise here in Houston, so we go from the "House of Pain," 55,000, 60,000 screaming, fanatical fans to 15,000, 20,000. The only time we'd have big draws is when we'd play the Steelers, because they always traveled well, so those two years are terrible. We aren't very good. We finally move in '97, become the Tennessee Oilers for two years. We play in Memphis the first year, three hours west of Nashville, which is terrible. Our families, when they came to the games, would bus early in the morning, and then would bus back to Nashville after the game. And then in '98, we play in Nashville, in Vanderbilt Stadium, a nice little college stadium, so it was a very frustrating process, and I know, because we lived in Houston in the offseason, it's hard to rip that team from the fabric of the society because it's become some a big part of the culture. And I see people to this day, yeah, they tried to embrace the Titans, but that isn't their team. They were huge Oilers fans. They talk affectionately about spending time with their dad growing up, and their dad has long since passed away. They've tried to embrace the Titans -- that ain't happening. They've tried to embrace the Texans. Yeah, a little bit. And it's just gone forever. I feel so much for the fans of the Chargers and St. Louis, even though I grew up in LA when the fans were there and I felt bad for them when they moved to St. Louis. I feel just as bad for St. Louis fans now that they've lost them. Even the Raiders had conversations. I don't know. It hurts me a little bit, especially from an emotional standpoint because I know as a kid growing up how important NFL football was to me, and to have it taken from you, it's gotta be tough.
TPG: A '99 Tennessee Titan just said he felt bad for St. Louis.
MATTHEWS: Oh yeah. Well, no. (Laughs). Only in 2017.
TPG: That's a good clarification. And do you still live in Houston now?
MATTHEWS: Yeah, Sugar Land.
TPG: How often do you get recognized on the street?
MATTHEWS: It's typically the diehards. It's funny. If I do a speaking engagement or something, I'll always ask the young kids, "Hey, you remember the Oilers?" "Oh yeah, yeah." Quit lying. You ain't old enough to remember the Oilers. It's amazing how many kids that weren't old enough to see the Oilers. It's been 20 years now. They've been told by their parents and grandparents. In a sense, they do remember them even if they didn't see them in person.
TPG: They probably have the throwback jerseys. I'm walking around Houston and the powder blue Oilers jerseys are all around.
MATTHEWS: Yeah, I love that. The Titans still have the Oilers' history. The history of the Oilers needs to be in Houston. Bob McNair, the owner of the Texans, he was an Oilers' season-ticket holder. He'd do it right. But sitting in a warehouse up in Nashvillle, it isn't right.
TPG: What's a worse name for a team, the Tennessee Oilers or the Utah Jazz?
MATTHEWS: Tennessee Oilers. Most people don't even remember that.
TPG: It would've been two years?
MATTHEWS: Two years. Two stellar 8-8 campaigns, but the one thing I will say about those four years, in '99 when it all came together, in hindsight, you could see the effect that those four years of hardship on this team had in developing the core group of that Titans' team, whether it was Eddie George, Steve McNair, I saw Blaine Bishop over here, Frank Wycheck. Those were guys who had been through the crap, and we finally saw the light at least for one season.
Matthews is the son of former NFL offensive lineman Clay Matthews Sr. and the brother of former NFL linebacker Clay Matthews Jr. His son, Kevin, was an NFL center, and sons Jake and Mike currently play for the Falcons and Browns, respectively. Nephew Clay III plays for the Packers and nephew Casey is currently a free agent. Jake, an offensive tackle, and Clay III, a linebacker, met in the NFC Championship Game and for Bruce, it brought back old memories of playing against his brother.
TPG: Did you see a moment where maybe Jake blocked Clay in that NFC Championship Game?
MATTHEWS: Oh yeah, he watched him a bunch of times, but it was only when watching the film that I noticed something. At the end of the game, the Falcons had the game well in hand, and they ran a crack sweep and it was a walk-in and I didn't notice until I watched the tape of the game. It was on the two-yard-line and they sealed the edge and the back went in unscathed. As Jake was just running in the end zone celebrating, Clay came up behind him and jacked him in the back and Jake went over and hit him and it reminded me of when I played my brother. We played like 23 times. We had occasions were he'd come up and hit me and the official we be like, hey you two break it up. Nah, nah. That's my brother it's cool. It's a neat thing that not many people get to do.
Matthews' book, Inside the NFL's First Family: My Life of Football, Faith, and Fatherhood, which came out in January was written with James Lund. Howie Long provides the foreword.
— Pro Football HOF (@ProFootballHOF) January 3, 2017