Stagger Lee and The Last Oiler

In a Fox Sports article, Alex Marvez discusses ten players who may no longer be in the NFL in 2009. Here’s what Marvez said about Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Jon Runyan:

As the last active player with ties to the Houston Oilers, a chapter in NFL history will close when the Philadelphia right tackle calls it a career. That time may be drawing near. Runyan has started 188 consecutive games, which has taken a heavy physical toll (for example, a damaged ankle forces him to walk downstairs sideways). He also turned 35 on Thursday and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2009. If the sputtering Eagles (6-5-1) decide to overhaul their roster with a youth movement, one of this generation’s most aggressive linemen — just ask Michael Strahan — may not be invited back.

Marvez’s comment about Runyan’s connection with the Houston Oilers reminded me of a video series produced by the Houston Chronicle’s John McClain.

In 2007, McClain featured Oilers/Titans offensive lineman in a seven-part series called “Bruce Matthews: The Last Oiler. Matthews was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007, and McClain produced the series in anticipation of the induction. All seven videos can be found by clicking here.

You can watch the second video below. In it, Matthews discusses the infamous “Stagger Lee” play.

Older Houston Oilers fans need no explanation of “Stagger Lee,” Jerry Glanville’s disastrous formation and play call. Here’s a short recap for younger fans.

The 1987 Oilers fought its way to a 9-6 record, earned a wildcard berth, and broke a seven-year playoff drought. Houston won at home in the wildcard game against the Seattle Seahawks and played the Denver Broncos on January 10, 1988.

Here is Hubert Mizell’s description of what happened on the Oilers’ first offensive play in Denver:

There’s no joy in Glanville. In their first at-bat, the coach ordered his Houston Oilers to try an unorthodox, surrealistic play. They hoped it would catch the Denver Broncos snoozing.

Houston lined up in a three-part offense, a weird configuration with receivers split wide left and wide right behind two little walls of seemingly displaced linemen.

The stunt would’ve worked if the Oilers had field position better than their own 4-yard line. And if Mike Rozier hadn’t fumbled the football. And if Denver’s defense had simultaneously suffered six heart attacks and five strokes.

But, instead of shocking the Broncos, the Oilers shot themselves in the boot. Jerry Glanville’s trickery turned to slop, and a Sunday tone was set for Houston disaster.

Houston lost 34-10.

Not all sports memories are good ones, but I did laugh when I heard Bruce Matthews talk about “Stagger Lee.”


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