Strunk has Provided Long-Missing Ownership Stability

BY DAVID CLIMER, Nashville Sports Correspondent

Since becoming controlling owner of the Titans in March 2015, it has become customary for Amy Adams Strunk to spend a half-hour or so on the sideline visiting with coaches and players prior to games.

Amy Adams Strunk stepped in as controlling owner of the Titans in March 2015. Many NFL observers saw the ownership group as rudderless before that move.

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

On Saturday, she should take a bow.

Despite the disheartening loss at Jacksonville last Saturday and the subsequent elimination from the playoff picture, this season has been a pleasant surprise. Four months ago, 8-8 looked like a reach. That’s how low you set the bar after 2-14 and 3-13 seasons the last two years.

Give Strunk some credit. She hasn’t thrown a pass or made a tackle, but she has had a positive impact on the team. And it’s been a long time since we could say that about Titans ownership.

Those on the inside say Strunk had major input on the hiring of Jon Robinson as general manager last January. She also made the call to install Mike Mularkey as permanent head coach, removing the “interim” label.

The trickle-down effects of those two moves have given the Titans a fresh start. Finally, there is optimism as things move forward.

It’s no secret that I’ve been critical of Titans ownership for years – with good reason. As franchise founder Bud Adams got older, he fell out of touch with things. His most notable act in his later years was the double-bird salute to Buffalo fans after a Titans victory in 2009.

At one point, I opined – correctly, I believe – that Bud and the Titans had replaced Al Davis and the Raiders as the most incompetent owner/organization combination in the NFL.

When Bud died in October 2013, the franchise was bequeathed to Bud’s children – one-third to each of his daughters, Amy Adams Strunk and Susie Adams Smith, and the other third to the heirs of his deceased son, Kenneth S. Adams III.

Initially, Susie Adams Smith was appointed controlling owner and her husband, Tommy Smith, became president and CEO of the organization. It was a disaster. Smith hired Ken Whisenhunt as coach. As Bill Parcells told us, you are what your record says you are. Well, Whisenhunt was 3-20 as Titans coach.

When Smith stepped down to focus on the family’s business interests in Houston, Strunk stepped forward. And the Titans are better for it.

Strunk is not the prototypical NFL owner because there is no such template.

NFL owners come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. Jerry Jones of the Cowboys is a spotlight-seeker. Robert Kraft of the Patriots is not. The Steelers have been handed down from Rooney to Rooney, with none of them calling attention to himself.

When Bud Adams was in his ownership heyday, he had a flair for the dramatic. None of his heirs who now comprise the Titans ownership group want to cause much of a stir. Outside of those game-day appearances on the sideline, Strunk is seldom seen and rarely heard.

There have been growing pains.

In the summer of 2015, the Titans announced that Nissan USA had acquired naming rights for the stadium. Strunk did not speak at the subsequent news conference, which was odd since the business relationship between the Titans and Nissan is so important. Instead, Kenneth Adams IV, a grandson of Bud Adams who owns 11.1 percent of the team, took the podium at the announcement.

Some, including Paul Kuharsky of and me, wrote at the time that Kenneth Adams IV might be on his way to becoming the face of the franchise. After all, he is the only member of the ownership group who lives in the Nashville area and who maintains regular office hours at the Titans facility.

But after Kenneth Adams got so much local and national attention for how well he handled things at the Nissan announcement, Strunk made it a point to become more visible. It was as if she wanted to make it clear that she was in the lead role among the ownership group.

Let’s be clear: The ownership situation is far from ideal. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said on more than one occasion that it is an issue.

Beyond that, I sincerely believe that there will come a time when some members of the ownership group want to sell their shares and cash out. What happens then?

But from the way she has acted, it appears that Strunk is in this for the long haul.

She seems to be enjoying herself in the role of controlling owner. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the team is finally winning some games.

After the stunning last-second win amid frigid conditions at Kansas City two weeks ago, the Titans released a video of the post-game celebration in the locker room. There, a beaming Strunk addressed the team.

“I just want to tell y’all how proud I am of you,” she said.

She’s even done a couple of things to address criticism of being a non-resident owner.

Last May, she bought a 5,300-square-foot house in Green Hills for $1.25 million. It is unclear how much time she spends at the house since her primary residence remains in Houston. But if nothing else, paying property tax in Davidson County is a step in the right direction.

Things haven’t always gone smoothly. Remember, Strunk was controlling owner in 2015 when the Titans went 3-13. But it was her call to bring back Steve Underwood to oversee the day-to-day operations of the organization, a position he holds to this day.

She fired Whisenhunt midway through the 2015 season and removed Ruston Webster as general manager after that season.

Her hire of Robinson looks like a turning point for this franchise. The remaking of the roster is his handiwork. He has an eye for talent and a gift for deal-making.

Robinson acquired running back DeMarco Murray for a song – swapping positions with Philadelphia in the fourth round of the 2016 draft.

He traded the No. 1 overall pick to the Rams for a bevy of picks in the 2016 and ’17 drafts. Robinson then positioned the Titans to select Jack Conklin, who has been a fixture at right tackle since training camp.

As we move into a new year, there is renewed interest in the Titans. Before the loss at Jacksonville, the Titans were the talk of the town – and for all the right reasons.

Amy Adams Strunk deserves some credit for that.

Reach David Climer at and on Twitter @DavidClimer.