The Floyd Reese Scorecard, Part 1: The Dismantling and Demolition of the Houston Oilers

Is Floyd Reese a collaborator or a henchman? A collaborator combines their opinions with the opinions of others to create a better synthesis. A henchman does the bidding of his master. A henchman is an enabler. They'll pat your back all the way down the escalator to hell. A collaborator knows when to fight, what to fight for, how to champion the righteous underdog, and how to manage the egos of great men. 

Is Reese a collaborator or a henchman?

For the sake of clarity, we'll begin our evaluation of Reese from the time he took over as General Manager of the Houston Oilers (1994) until the time he was fired from that position by the Tennessee Titans (2006). Reese was a full blown general manager. That means we much assess both his team's drafts and free agent acquisitions.

Reese inherited this roster and turned it into this roster. The 1993 Oilers were 12-4. The 1994 Oilers were 2-14.

His first move as general manager was to trade Warren Moon to the Vikings for a fourth round selection in 1994 and a third round selection in 1993. Moon wasn't traded because he lacked ability, he went to the Pro Bowl from 1988 to 1995, the final two with Minnesota, and then again in 1997 as a Seahawk. Moon was traded as an elaborate bit of politicking by Oilers owner Bud Adams.

Before the 1993 season he "issued a win-or-else edict" in the words of NYTimes writer Thomas George.  He was also pushing hard for a new stadium in Houston and threatening a move otherwise. The stated reason for the trade was Moon's unwillingness to take a pay cut. He accounted for $3 million of a $33 million dollar cap.  I'll spare you the whole nine yards on Adams, but, suffice to say, he's one of the most despised owners in the history of the NFL.

You might know Adams as the guy that flipped off Bills fans a couple months back. Sort of the Ur-Al Davis.

 And Reese was his point man.

The Vikings picks became Sean Jackson and Rodney Thomas. Thomas was a crappy scatback and crappier return man that played seven seasons; six with Houston/Tennessee. Jackson never played a regular season game.

The 1994 draft looked like this:

1

26

Henry Ford

DE

Arkansas

2

60

Jeremy Nunley

DE

Alabama

3

101

Malcolm Floyd

WR

Fresno State

4

119

Mike Davis

CB

Cincinnati

4

129

Sean Jackson

RB

Florida State

5

157

Roderick Lewis

TE

Arizona

5

161

Jim Reid

T

Virginia

6

187

Lee Gissendaner

--

Northwestern

6

194

Barron Wortham

LB

Texas-El Paso

7

220

Lemanski Hall

LB

Alabama

Ford started for three seasons and then served as depth in six more. He totaled 24 sacks over 10 seasons.

Nunley was waived in 1995 to make room for Marion Butts. As busts go, with injury busts reflecting least on a general manager, Nunley was the opposite of an injury bust. He couldn't play professional football.

Malcom Floyd is a successful slot receiver for the San Diego Chargers. Malcolm Floyd was a bust, shaken from the league like a cold. He had 26 receptions for 351 yards in 49 games played.

Davis was a Brown by 1995 and out of the league by 1996.

Lewis worked as a blocking tight end before the Titans decided they could do better.  He played in four seasons and then retired.

Wortham and Hall stuck around for a long time and had anonymous, mostly undistinguished careers. Hall was emergency depth. Wortham amassed 62 starts at middle linebacker. That's actually a steal of a deal for a seventh round pick.

Apart from Moon and the draft, Reese's other big move was promoting Jeff Fisher. Fisher was promoted on November 14, 1994 after the firing of head coach Jack Pardee. Fisher signed a three year extension the next day. He was the youngest coach in the league at the time, 37. I would love to call this a brilliant and brave move, but given the state of the franchise - the impending move, the 1-9 record - I think it's much more likely Fisher was promoted and signed because Houston was as unattractive a location as possible.

Fisher turned out to be a mustachioed maestro beloved by NFL fans the world over. But the process that brought him in, Pardee's firing on the 14th, Fisher's promotion and extension on the 15th, is controversial - to be kind. One of Fisher's first major moves was to discipline Webster Slaughter, then the Titans best receiver, by docking him a game check for critical comments. It probably looked like a bad move at the time, but it helped Fisher establish control over his team, and Slaughter, already 30 at the time, didn't have a particularly fruitful career after leaving in 1995.

Fisher believed his team could be a playoff contender by 1995. He was wrong.

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