VOL. 9 | NO. 6 | Saturday, February 6, 2016
Equality of Partners a Problem for Titan Owners
By Terry McCormick | Special to The Memphis News
It’s the question that won’t go away – will the Tennessee Titans be sold. On the day the Titans formally introduced Jon Robinson as general manager and Mike Mularkey as head coach, team president Steve Underwood admitted that the NFL is not happy with the team’s ownership structure, which is split evenly among Bud Adams’ heirs.
As is already known, Amy Adams Strunk and Susie Adams Smith were each left a third of the franchise by their late father, with the other third split among the wife and two sons of Bud’s deceased son, Kenneth Adams III.
One of those, of course, is Kenneth Adams IV, who has been the most visible of anyone in the ownership group, despite having just an 11 percent stake in the franchise.
Last week, a report emerged from ProFootballTalk.com that sought to explain the rub between the league’s bylaws and the way the Titans ownership group is currently set up.
That report indicated the way Adams left things in his will – splitting things into even thirds among his children (and their heirs in the case of his late son) – is simply not acceptable under NFL bylaws, which state that one person must be in control of the franchise.
The Titans have sought to remedy that by placing Strunk at the helm of the team. But that might only be a Band-Aid covering a deeper wound.
As we have already seen once, Strunk’s place as the team’s controlling owner is only as steady as her ability to co-exist with the other heirs. Initially, Smith was regarded as the team’s controlling owner and her husband, Tommy, was installed as team president after Bud Adams’ death.
Smith went about hiring Ken Whisenhunt and making several cosmetic changes around St. Thomas Sports Park while further wrecking the franchise and helping it descend to its current depth.
But once the other two factions of the family gathered and decided Smith’s running of the team was insufficient, a family coup – for lack of a better term – took place, and Strunk took the reins, with long-time family confidante Steve Underwood as team president.
With no one in the ownership group able to act on the team’s behalf without the blessings of at least one of the other factions, it’s no wonder the NFL views the Titans ownership as a house of cards.
What happens if any two sides of the family decide to gang up on the third side in the next family squabble regarding the team? This underlying possibility can’t be comforting to folks in the league office.
Underwood certainly has the family and team interests at heart, and at least has some level of relationship with the other owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell as the two sides try to sort out the future of the Titans with or without the Adams family in the picture.
There have been reports and speculation that the whole situation could end up in litigation with the Titans against the league regarding how the team is structured.
The team also could be sold, something Underwood went out of his way again to vehemently deny just a couple of weeks ago.
And that only leads to more guesses and rumors that a for sale sign will eventually be placed on the franchise.
Do I believe the Titans are for sale? No, not yet.
Do I believe a sale can or will happen? Let’s just say that the sale chatter emanating from league circles could be the NFL itself trying to force the issue.
Super Bowl prediction
As the NFL celebrates a half century of Super Bowls this week, a stark contrast of the league’s past is going up against what many believe will be its future.
Peyton Manning, long one of the league’s staples, is as old school as it gets, a tireless student of the game who has become an icon stretching far beyond the bounds of a football field and into the general public consciousness.
Manning has upheld the shield for 18 years and is to the point that, after so many commercials and Saturday Night Live bits, we all feel like we know him on some level.
Contrast that with the in-your-face on-field persona of Carolina’s Cam Newton, who is often Superman in cleats and doesn’t mind letting you know that once he gets to the end zone.
Newton is no doubt part of the new generation of athletes that bring as much flash and pizzazz to the table as they do talent.
And in case you haven’t noticed, Newton’s talents are considerable, so much so that he just might be the best football player on the planet right now.
It’s disappointing that some see Newton’s style as a race issue. To me, it’s really more of a generational thing.
There is the old-school way of doing things, which Manning perfectly fits, and new way.
And like more and more modern athletes – from NBA stars to skateboarders and X Gamers – Newton doesn’t shy away from the spotlight. Instead, he craves it.
As we reflect on the game and now 50 years of Super Bowl, Sunday’s quarterback matchup between Manning and Newton is a contrast of “act like you’ve been there before” vs. “the game is supposed to fun.”
It’s the throwback vs. the flavor of the moment. And yes, we have been here before. Johnny Unitas vs. Joe Namath in Super Bowl III, for example.
At any rate, the past meets the future Sunday in Santa Clara, and the NFL should be promoting Super Bowl 50 just that way.
Despite Newton’s meteoric ascent, we’re going nostalgic.
Manning rides off into the sunset with the Lombardi Trophy. Broncos 24, Panthers 20.
Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com