VOL. 9 | NO. 15 | Saturday, April 9, 2016
Time for Strunk to Become Titans' Most Valuable Player
By David Climer
Amy Adams Strunk
Quick question about the Titans: Who has the most to prove?
Is it Mike Mularkey, a two-time loser as a head coach?
Is it Jon Robinson, a first-time general manager?
Is it Marcus Mariota, a quarterback who missed one-fourth of his rookie season due to injury?
Certainly, these three merit considerable scrutiny as we move toward the 2016 season.
But I contend the person with the most to prove in the Titans organization will not call a play, will not make a draft pick and will not take a single snap.
It’s Amy Adams Strunk.
If ever there was a time for an owner to step up and lead a franchise out of the NFL wilderness, this is the time, and the Titans are the team.
This has been a rudderless, dysfunctional operation for too long. It’s up to Strunk, the controlling owner, to right the ship.
Early signs are somewhat encouraging.
After a slow start since taking over as the controlling owner of a five-person ownership group in March 2015, Strunk has gotten busy. In a three-day period in January, she hired Robinson as general manager and elevated Mularkey from interim head coach to permanent head coach.
Now, with those details out of the way, she is trying to build trust between the ownership group and the Titans fan base.
It’s a challenge. The franchise is a mess. The Titans have won only five games in the last two seasons. Mularkey is the fourth head coach since 2010. Robinson is the third general manager during that period.
To say the franchise has been in disarray since its last playoff appearance in 2008 is an understatement.
Beyond that, there is a disconnect between Titans ownership and Nashville.
Things became a bit strained while franchise founder Bud Adams was still alive. Since his death in October 2013, the situation has gotten worse.
Tommy Smith, the husband of Susie Adams Smith, took over as president/CEO after his father-in-law’s death. He abruptly stepped down in March 2015, with Strunk eventually succeeding her sister as controlling owner.
Amid all the chaos, Nissan Stadium has sprouted an alarming number of empty seats. It has become an easy place for fans of the visiting team to infiltrate.
On top of that, some area businesses have turned a cold shoulder when approached about sponsorships or group ticket packages.
Those are just some of the challenges facing Amy Adams Strunk.
She is a bit of a mystery to fans. Outside of standing on the sideline prior to games, her public appearances have been few and far between.
The team produced a 10-minute video in which play-by-play voice Mike Keith lobbed up a few softballs for her to answer, but that merely served as a shallow introduction. She later spoke to two groups of season-ticket holders.
To her credit, she also greeted fans on the field at Nissan Stadium at SportsFest, an event sponsored by Nashville radio station 104.5 The Zone. It’s the kind of thing neither Bud Adams nor Tommy Smith ever did.
Who, exactly, is Amy Adams Strunk?
She is one of three children born to Bud and Nancy Adams. She and her husband Bill Hunt, a retired commercial airline pilot, live in Waller, Texas, about 40 miles from downtown Houston. They have three children in their 20s – Tracy, Tommy and Blanche.
She loves the outdoors and is a horse enthusiast. In 1984, she founded Kenada Foxhounds, a fox hunting organization, in Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas.
Dennis J. Foster, executive director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association of America, once described Strunk as “the Annie Oakley of Texas.”
“She can ride like the wind and she’s fearless,” Foster says.
In short, she is well known and liked by many in and around Houston who share her love of the outdoors. But she remains largely a mystery to the fans of the NFL franchise she co-owns. She says she wants to change that.
Amy Adams Strunk with Titans President and CEO Steve Underwood at an event in mid-February for season ticket holders.
(Photo By Gary Glenn/Titansonline.com)
“It’s time for the fans to get to know me a little bit,” Strunk said in her appearance before a group of season-ticket holders in February.
“I felt like maybe I shouldn’t make an appearance until I had a plan and felt like we were turning around and could give you honest answers to the questions.”
Her biography on the official Titans website says she was “raised on football,” but her involvement in the Oilers/Titans organization was minimal until her father’s death. Even then, it was her sister, Susie Adams Smith, who was appointed as controlling owner.
In sum, she’s got a lot of catching up to do.
To her credit, Strunk took the lead in firing Ken Whisenhunt as coach at midseason last year. She also terminated Ruston Webster, whose four-year run as general manager was marked by too many bad draft picks and poor free-agency moves.
While others participated in the interview process that resulted in the hiring of Robinson and Mularkey, it was Strunk who made the final decisions.
“These men are my choices,” she says.
She is saying all the right things. In addition to her pledges to get the on-field product back up and running, Smith has insisted that she and franchise founder Bud Adams’ other heirs are close to finding resolution with the NFL about ownership issues.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said the league office and Titans owners must continue to work to “ensure the team is under the proper ownership structure.”
“All ownership is committed,” Strunk said, reiterating that the team “is not for sale.”
But some do not believe the Titans and the league are on the same page.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk recently quoted an unnamed source as saying the team’s ownership situation is “a mess” and the possibility of a sale is “still very real.”
Specifically, Florio reported the five people who own shares of the Titans have been unable to resolve the issue of who is controlling the team, moving forward.
The report indicated that some NFL owners believe Kenneth Adams IV, Bud Adams’ grandson who owns 11 percent of the team, might be inclined to push for a sale if the rest of the ownership can’t find common ground.
Steve Underwood, Titans president/CEO, dismissed the report as “unreliable and misinformed,” noting that it was based on an anonymous source.
Underwood has steadfastly insisted the team is not for sale, noting that all reports of a possible sale are based on anonymous sources.
Whether or not the franchise is or will be for sale is subject to debate.
But in the short term, it is incumbent upon Amy Adams Strunk, as controlling owner, to get the Titans back in working order.
The city deserves it.
Reach David Climer on Twitter @DavidClimer and firstname.lastname@example.org.