World Football League (1974)
Born: 1973 – WFL founding franchise.
Died: September 18, 1974 – Relocated to Shreveport, LA in mid-season.
Stadium: Houston Astrodome
Owner: R. Steven Arnold
The Houston Texans were a blink-and-you-missed-’em franchise in the World Football League during the summer of 1974. The Texans played only five home games at the Astrodome before team owner R. Steven Arnold ran out of dough and unloaded the team to new investors in Shreveport, Louisiana, where the team moved in mid-season 1974. The Texans’ best crowd – announced at 31,227 on August 15, 1974 – turned out for Nickel Beer Night at the Astrodome.
The Texans made headlines on several occasions for their attempts to raid the NFL for talent. Team owner Steve Arnold initially made a run at luring away Head Coach Hank Stram of the Kansas City Chiefs with a reported 10-year, $2 million deal. Nothing came of it – besides press coverage – and Houston signed former Giants and Cowboys assistant Jim Garrett to lead the coaching staff instead. (Garrett is the father of current Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett). In April 1974, Arnold succeeded in signing Dallas Cowboys quarterback Craig Morton to a contract to join the Texans for the 1975 season after playing out his NFL option. Morton would never play a down in the WFL though – the Texans went up in smoke long before he played out the final season of his Cowboys deal.
In the Texans’ most infamous episode, Texans owner Steve Arnold interjected himself into a contract dispute between the NFL’s Houston Oilers and gargantuan defensive end John Matuszak, the #1 overall pick in the 1973 NFL Draft. Claiming to have found a loophole in his Oilers contract, Matuszak bolted across town to the Texans’ offices on August 28th, 1974 and signed a multi-year deal. He suited up for the Texans at the Astrodome that night against the New York Stars and played five downs before sheriff’s deputies showed up and served him with a restraining order on the sidelines. That marked the beginning and end of The Tooz’s WFL adventure – he was back in the NFL a month or so later, a judge having disagreed with him on the whole “loophole” thing.
Even aside from the Texans’ flirtations with Stram, Morton and Matuszak, the club was a veteran bunch, headlined by former AFL rushing champion Jim Nance and former New York Jets All-Pro wide receiver Don Maynard. Despite those two, the team was inept on offense – the Texans didn’t score their first offensive touchdown until Week Four of the 1974 season. By mid-September 1974, the team was 3-7-1 and crowds at the Astrodome dipped below 10,000 fans. Arnold relinquished the team, which was then transferred to Shreveport, Louisiana investors on September 18, 1974.
The team finished out the 1974 season as the Shreveport Steamer, to the dissatisfaction of many of the team’s players and coaches. Starting quarterback Mike Taliaferro retired rather than follow the club to Louisiana. Texans Head Coach Jim Garrett was suspended by WFL Commissioner Gary Davidson for calling Shreveport a “rinky dink” city on the eve of the move and ultimately replaced altogether. He never worked for the team in Shreveport.
The Steamer returned for the 1975 season, but folded along with the rest of the WFL on October 22, 1975, midway through the league’s second season.
==1974 Houston Texans Results==
|7/10/1974||@ Chicago Fire||L 17-0|
|7/17/1974||vs. Philadelphia Bell||W 11-0||Program|
|7/24/1974||@ Florida Blazers||L 15-3|
|7/31/1974||vs. Florida Blazers||W 7-6|
|8/7/1974||@ Portland Storm||T 15-15|
|8/15/1974||vs. Southern California Sun||18-7|
|8/21/1974||@ New York Stars||L 43-10|
|8/28/1974||vs. New York Stars||W 14-11|
|9/1/1974||@ The Hawaiians||L 33-15|
|9/7/1974||@ Memphis Southmen||L 45-0|
|9/11/1974||vs. The Hawaiians||L 24-17||Program|
Texans defensive end and headline maker John Matuszak died of a prescription drug overdose at age 39 on June 17, 1989. After his WFL adventure, Matuszak won two Super Bowls with the Oakland Raiders and became a screen actor. His most famous roles were as wildman O.W. Shaddock (basically a version of himself) in the 1979 football drama North Dallas Forty and as Sloth in The Goonies.
Texans running back Jim Nance passed on June 17, 1992 at the age of 49.