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All the questions resulting from Tommy Smith's retirement


NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tommy Smith's decision to retire as president and CEO of the Tennessee Titans resulted from many factors.

One factor included the descendants of Bud Adams, who own the team, were ready for a change, according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Susie Adams Smith and Amy Adams Strunk, daughters of Bud Adams, have 33 percent ownership each of the parent company which owns the Titans. They are also co-chairpersons. The family of Adams' deceased son, Kenneth Adams III, also has one-third ownership -- his grandsons, Kenneth IV (11 percent) and Barclay Cunningham Adams (11 percent), and their mother, Susan Lewis (11 percent).

According to league sources, there was no longer a consensus among ownership that Susie Adams Smith should be the controlling owner, which contributed to Tommy Smith stepping down.

While Smith steps away, former team president and Bud Adams confidant Steve Underwood will return to Nashville to run things for the short term.

Here are some of my primary questions out of all of this, with what I know and what I think are the answers at this stage.

Is this a precursor to the team being sold?

I know a good share of Titans fans would love for the team to change hands. Jason La Canfora of CBS has repeatedly reported he has sources who says that's likely to happen as soon as this year.

I don't doubt there are plenty of sufficiently rich people who want in and would love to buy the team. But all indications I've gotten from inside the team are that the group is not having any conversations about selling.

That doesn't guarantee there isn't a faction that is curious or more. If so, that faction has done well to stay quiet.

I believe Smith and Kenneth Adams (who loves in Nashville, works for the team and would presumably be in line for a large role as he gets older) absolutely want the family to continue to own the franchise.

Presuming Smith's wife is on board with his desire and that Kenneth Adams' family agrees with him, that's at least two-thirds who continue to want in.

What's this mean for the job security of coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Ruston Webster?

the ownership group will have final say, of course, and we know a representative of the group in place has a strong affinity for the two football people.

But a new CEO/president from the outside isn't going to enter with the same affection. If he's a strong leader (and let's hope he is), then the people he inherits will have to prove themselves to him over some time. And if he ultimately feels they aren't the right guys, he certainly will hold some sway with regard to their fates.

Don't expect any immediate change. But Webster and Whisenhunt will have to have a team that shows a lot of improvement in 2015 to stay on solid footing, no matter who they reported to. Any sentimentality for them from the head of the Nashville operation presumably disappears.

Why put an interim president in place rather than stay on the job long enough to hire him yourself?

It doesn't seem to be the best path to a transfer of power. Health issues for Smith were mentioned in Wyatt's original reporting. I suspect Smith is tired and conceded that running KSA Industries, the family's Houston-based business, and the Titans was more than he could reasonably handle. And if he was feeling that way and got a push from the ownership group to vacate the roles, then he didn't want to wait any longer.

What kind of influence will Underwood be?

He's a measured lawyer who thinks things out, and rates as the smartest person who's had a strong voice with the team in my time covering the team, which dates back to 1996. I have far more faith in Underwood offering up good avenues and candidates for the president/CEO role than I would have had in Smith. In Underwood's temporary time back out of retirement, he will provide a Nashville boss for everyone with the team, can offer solid advice to the ownership group and will have a significant hand in a huge hire. That's a good development. Things will stabilize. A new person should want him to stay on for a bit after the hire to help get a clear read on the status quo.

Why make a bunch of moves on the business side of things just before vacating the role as the head of the operation?

It sure seems like it would have been smarter to let the new guy make decisions. But since the season ended and before Smith announced his retirement, the Titans forced out their top administrative guy, Don MacLachlan; fired ticket manager Marty Collins; fired director of ticket operations Tim Zenner; fired events and customer service coordinator Tracy Holliday; promoted Start Spears to chief revenue officer; hired Bob Flynn as head of facilities and game-day operations; hired Brooke Ellenberger as vice president of ticketing; hired Amber Harding as social media coordinator; promoted Brent Akers to director of team operations; and promoted Shereme Siewnarine to director of finance.

All those aren't revolutionary moves. They needed a new ticket person in place as the got to season ticket renewals.

Still, if a new head of the operation is soon to be hired, I would think it would be preferable for him not to inherit new roles and people he didn't have a hand in creating or hiring.

The team issued a statement from the organization in which the team thanked Smith. Wasn't that odd? Who is doing the talking there?

Yes, when you look at it, it's quite odd. The franchise isn't a person and doesn't speak, and "the team" offering thanks to the guy who was running the team isn't that far removed from Smith thanking himself. With no titular head of the franchise, it winds up offering comment as an entity. Which is awkward. That said, what are the people writing the statements supposed to do if they feel an obligation to thank him?