NFL Nation: Bud Adams



INDIANAPOLIS -- OK, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. You’re officially on the clock.

Goodell said on multiple occasions -- starting with the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Florida, -- over the past two months that he wanted to wait to see how the legal process played out before deciding how he would discipline Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay.

Guess what? Irsay has been charged.

He was charged with one count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, a C misdemeanor, and one count of operating a vehicle with a schedule I or II controlled substance or its metabolite in the body, also a C misdemeanor.

Now all eyes, especially those of the players in the league, will shift their focus to Goodell.

This is a situation where Goodell may have to be harsher on Irsay than he may have been any other time on a front office official because his reputation is on the line with the players, who believe there’s a double standard when it comes to how Goodell disciplines.

"The NFL's Personal Conduct Policy applies to all league personnel and holds all of us accountable," Greg Aiello, the NFL’s senior vice president of communications for the NFL, said in an email. "We are reviewing the matter and will take appropriate action in accordance with the policy."

Washington Redskins safety Ryan Clark was on ESPN earlier this week and questioned Goodell’s handling of Irsay.

"When does a charge necessarily warrant the penalty? We've seen in so many cases, Roger Goodell be judge and jury when it comes to players," Clark said. "… So here we have Jim Irsay, a guy, an owner, who has history of substance abuse, who's found in a car with over $29K and prescription drugs that weren't in his name, pulled over for driving under the influence, and now we're saying we need more information? What more information do we need than these aren't your prescription pills? You're obviously under the influence. You have $29K. There would be no questions asked if this was a player."

Clark's comments could easily be directed toward how Goodell dealt with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Goodell decided to wait for the legal process to play out before he suspended Roethlisberger for six games (later reduced to four) in 2010 after he was accused, but not charged with, sexual assault.

It should be noted, though, that Goodell’s wait-and-see approach recently hasn’t been just with Irsay. He’s done the same thing with Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was arrested in February for allegedly striking his fiancée. Rice will take part in a diversion program that may allow him to avoid jail time and fully expunge his record.

Late Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams was fined $250,000 for making an obscene gesture at Buffalo fans in 2009. Goodell fined Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand $100,000 and suspended him 30 days after he pleaded guilty to driving while impaired in 2010.

Whatever punishment Goodell decides for Irsay -- fine/suspension -- the commissioner must know it has to be good enough to appease the players.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- To no surprise, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was asked Monday about what actions he may take with Jim Irsay after the Indianapolis Colts owner was arrested on suspicion of intoxicated driving last week.

And to no surprise, Goodell is waiting until the facts come out before deciding what type of discipline he plans to hand down to Irsay.

Don’t expect Goodell’s punishment to be light on Irsay. It really shouldn’t be that way for Irsay, who has a history battling pain killer addiction. Irsay faces four felony counts of possession of a controlled substance after being arrested on suspicion of intoxicated driving in the northern Indianapolis suburb of Carmel late March 16.

Ponder
Irsay
The Colts owner did the right thing by taking the first step in admitting he has a problem when he entered a rehabilitation facility on March 18. But that likely won’t change the type of punishment Goodell gives him.

Goodell can’t afford to go lightly on Irsay. Not with the players around the league keeping a close eye on what happens. You also have to take into consideration that the NFL fined late Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams $250,000 for making obscene gesture at Buffalo fans in 2009. Goodell fined Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand $100,000 and suspended him 30 days after he plead guilty to driving while impaired in 2010.

It's anybody's guess what Goodell will do with Irsay. Just don't be shocked if the NFL is harsher on him than it was on Lewand and Adams.

"We obviously will want to understand the facts before we take any steps as it relates to any potential discipline," Goodell said. "Obviously any policies or any laws that are broken, whether you're commissioner or owner or player or coach, those are subject to discipline."
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Titans general manager Ruston Webster will be the central figure in selecting the team's new head coach.

Working for a new president and CEO, Webster will have a great degree of power.

Tommy Smith took over the franchise in late October, after his father-in-law, the team’s founder and owner Bud Adams, died.

Webster and Mike Munchak went home Friday evening after returning from a meeting with Smith in Nashville and slept on it. They spoke by phone Saturday and concluded Munchak could not continue as coach.

“In the end we were not able to agree on the future or direction of the franchise and I felt it was time to make a change,” Webster said. "So we move ahead into the next phase of the Tennessee Titans and look for the next coach and for great things.”

To a follow up question about that answer, Webster said he and Smith decided.

Webster is hardly a power monger. And maybe it was just a default word choice. But I thought his use of “I” was significant here. It, and his tone through 15 minutes at a podium alone for the first time, says Webster was the key decision-maker. I believe that to be the case given Smith’s inexperience.

Now Webster will make his first coaching hire, calling on the situation he’s watched in Tampa Bay, under Rich McKay, and Seattle, the two places he worked before joining the Titans front office in 2010.

He said a person in his position will always have a list of potential coaches in case this situation arises. At least one is part of a staff in the playoffs, he said, and there could be an in-house candidate interviewed. That would almost certainly be senior assistant/defense Gregg Williams.

Two outside candidates for the job, according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, will be Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Dallas special teams coach Rich Bisaccia.

Munchak’s staff has not been told anything, and Webster intends to talk to them Monday.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Mike Munchak is an admirable, dignified and honest man. He’s been a loyal employee of the Oilers and Titans since 1982.

Munchak
But the Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive lineman is a position coach who was given the job as head coach of the Tennessee Titans because he was tight with late owner Bud Adams. He reveled in talking with Adams about the franchise’s history and glory days, and that was a big part of him getting the job. It was not because he showed some behind-the-scenes promise as a coach with no experience as a head coach or coordinator.

Now he's a former NFL head coach, fired by Adams' son-in-law, team president and CEO Tommy Smith, per a report from Chris Mortensen.

Munchak was fresh air at the start, talking about how he expected guys to know and do their jobs and preaching about how everyone on the team needed to “be a pro.”

But his team full of pros in his third season lost to a Houston team that won only twice, managed a loss to the 0-8 Jaguars and finished 7-9 after pledging a dramatic improvement following 2012’s 6-10 disaster.

This year’s team was better. It didn’t get blown out. It didn’t stop fighting. But it was not better enough.

Quarterback Jake Locker, who missed nine games this season because of injuries, has not established himself as a franchise player at the position. Munchak was fully on board with selecting Locker eighth overall in the 2011 draft.

Now a new coach will have a year to sort out what Locker is while Munchak is likely to wind up a highly coveted offensive line coach with multiple options to move to another team if he wants to. He could also be in play for the vacant head coaching job at his alma mater, Penn State.

While he maintained the respect of his players, Munchak and his staff were poor at adjusting to game circumstances that strayed from the initial plan.

In that regard he seemed like many very successful professional athletes who didn’t fare nearly as well when they became head coaches.

As an NFL offensive guard, he could formulate a plan and execute it because he was so good.

As an NFL coach he didn’t have anything close to the same advantage.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Since 1997, the Tennessee Titans franchise had a long-distance owner.

There were times when Bud Adams being roughly 800 miles away from his team was a bad thing. But more often, I’ve thought it was a good thing.

[+] EnlargeTommy Smith
AP Photo/Mark ZaleskiTitans president and CEO Tommy Smith doesn't plan to move to Nashville, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Adams was a meddler as a younger guy, and age smoothed out some of his edges. Still we’ve seen some rash, moody moves by him, even from afar. “VY is my guy” was one, a declaration that forced the hand of his GM and coach in 2006 with the third pick in the draft when Vince Young was the choice. Adams firing Mike Reinfeldt as the team’s highest-ranking employee in early 2013 with two years remaining on his contract because of his failure to successfully pursue Peyton Manning was another.

Largely, though, unless crazy stuff was going on, Adams’ people were allowed to do their work. They may have had to answer the phone a lot at times. They may have had to make periodic trips to Houston to see the boss.

But they didn’t have constant calls into Adams’ offices or knocks on their doors.

When he met the press before the Titans' loss to Arizona on Dec. 15, Smith said it was his intention to hire good people for jobs that are clear and allow them to do those jobs.

A lot of fans have not reacted well to Smith calling general manager Ruston Webster and coach Mike Munchak to Houston for meetings today, where the fate of Munchak is likely to be determined.

I expected from the start that the meeting would be in Houston and I don’t think it’s a big deal at all.

If the boss wants you to come to him, you come to him, whether it’s down the hall or down the map.

Some hands-on owners who rank as the best in the business are good resources for their teams. It’s good that Robert Kraft is at Gillette Stadium and Steve Bisciotti is at Ravens headquarters.

But in other situations, I bet good coaches and GMs wish they had more space from the boss.

Smith declined a request from Adams, his father-in-law, to move to Nashville in 2002 and take on a bigger role with the team. As a result, he lost a place on the franchise’s masthead.

He’s not moving here.

We don’t have any idea how Tommy Smith is going to be as president and CEO of the franchise.

Maybe in time we’ll say it’d be nice if he were in Nashville. But he doesn’t have to be a Nashvillian to successfully oversee the Titans.

The case for and (more) against Munchak

December, 27, 2013
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Mike MunchakJim Brown/USA TODAY SportsMike Munchak has a .091 winning percentage versus teams finishing the season with winning records.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Monday the Titans begin the process of deciding what to do with Mike Munchak, who’s under contract for one more year as head coach.

Let’s set aside all the predictions and expectations.

We know very little about how team president and CEO Tommy Smith will operate in his new role and how he will balance his family’s long-term relationship with Munchak against the results he’s produced as a head coach. We don’t know if Munchak has the backing of general manager Ruston Webster going forward.

We do know what goes into the case for him and the case against him. So let’s examine those and then delve into things I consider significant issues where I don’t see a clear counterargument in his favor:

For: The Titans are on the verge. They’ve lost six one-possession games this season. Make the jump in just half of those and they could be a 10-win playoff team.

Against: They are unable to finish games, and there is no reason to expect they find it all of a sudden under the same leadership.

For: The division is bad and there is room to get better in a hurry against rebuilding Houston and Jacksonville.

Against: The Titans are 3-8 in the division in the past two seasons and 1-4 this year heading into the finale against Houston. Tennessee lost to the Texans and Jaguars this year when it should be sweeping those teams when they are having down years. That’s the path to actually competing for the division.

For: This roster has stood firmly with Munchak. There has been no dissension. They haven’t quit on him and have been playing hard to the end. His message is working. They work hard to execute what is asked of them.

Against: Having a roster of guys committed to following a coach who’s not doing a good job is nice, but if he’s not doing a good job it doesn’t matter as much. What is asked of them isn’t right often enough. This team’s in-game adjustment to what opponents do is typically poor.

For: Smith has pledged another big offseason, and the Titans will create a spring and summer buzz much like last year’s, when they spent over $100 million on free agents and had the 10th pick in the draft.

Against: The fan base is angry and/or apathetic. The tickets are bought, in part because so many people are financially committed with PSLs. But that hasn’t meant they have showed up. A new coach and staff will also have a free-agent class and draft and that will do a lot more to get Nashville interested.

For: Though they were overmatched, the Titans stood toe-to-toe for a good while with some of the NFL’s best -- Seattle and Denver. They lost twice to the AFC South champion Colts by a combined 11 points.

Against: Munchak is 2-20 -- not a misprint -- against teams that finish the season with a winning record. Whether they are close to the caliber of those teams or not, that is a .091 winning percentage against winning teams. How can Smith endorse that?

For: They could be one player away, and we’ve seen them make a big addition and a big jump before.

Against: The odds of landing Jevon Kearse are small, and the 1998 Tennessee Oilers had more pieces in place than the 2013 Titans do.

For: They’ll move away from Chris Johnson and by doing so they’ll be in line to have the run game they expected this year. This offensive line needed time to jell. In 2014, Shonn Greene and a mid-round draft pick will be more effective.

[+] EnlargeChris Johnson
Don McPeak/USA TODAY SportsMike Munchak wanted the Titans to be a run-first team but inconsistency in the run game plagued Tennessee all season.
Against: Three years in and a Hall of Fame offensive lineman as a head coach with a Hall of Fame offensive line coach still haven’t produced a team that can run consistently. How can they possibly say, “We need more time” and get it? How did lines with injuries in Seattle and Miami manage to play well enough to win? They have to replace David Stewart at right tackle, right? Another change positions them for more excuses about needing time to jell.

For: The Titans didn’t have their starting quarterback for nine games this year. Who wins without their starting quarterback? Injuries to Greene and center Brian Schwenke also hurt.

Against: It would be a good argument if Jake Locker was a proven NFL franchise quarterback. He is not and they sold Ryan Fitzpatrick as a top-flight alternative. We know Locker has potential and is injury prone. Pinning hopes on that for 2014 seems dangerous. The Greene and Schwenke injuries should not be regarded as hugely impactful and are on par with the sort of thing every team in the league deals with.

For: He doesn’t care about the peripheral stuff; he’s not going to play the game. He just wants to coach and do things the right way.

Against: Tough for him. A head coach is a CEO and the responsibilities require more. You have to be a PR guy and a marketer. He doesn’t embrace that stuff and it hurts the franchise. You can’t play the “I just want to coach” card until you’ve proven you can win.

A few other things don’t fit as neatly in a for-and-against format and mostly qualify as arguments against his return.

I think it’s very difficult to make a case for him based on his work in the division, his record against winning teams and his inability to explain what’s wrong.

Warped thinking: Munchak endorsed a foolish onside kick approach with an unconventional, tee-less spinner that kicker Rob Bironas clearly did not like. Worse, the coach judged his team to be 1-for-3 with it rather than 0-for-3 because San Francisco bobbled the kick before recovering it. Note to Munchak: Such a kick is judged a success if, and only if, you recover it. We know it’s very difficult to do. We also know it’s ridiculous to deem one a success when the other team comes out with the ball. Lo and behold, the Titans recover a conventional, high-bounce onside kick during a furious comeback against Arizona.

Straying from his philosophy: Over and over Munchak spoke of how the 2013 Titans would be able to get the tough yard on the ground. These Titans were going to throw it when they wanted to, not when they had to. But given a chance to win the Arizona game with 10 seconds left with a two-point conversion play from the 1-yard line after a penalty, he chose overtime. The team he promised shouldn’t have even considered kicking the extra point. In sharing more about his logic a day later, he said the team hadn’t run it in an hour as it played hurry-up to overcome a big deficit. Shouldn’t a team built around the offensive line and backs be able to run for a yard whether they’d been running it or not?

Salesmanship: He’s a better salesman than he is a head coach. In memorializing Bud Adams when he died, he spoke about how he used to walk the hallways of the team’s facility on a Saturday before the game with Adams and Adams’ friends, looking at the pictures of the team’s history and telling stories. It showed me that Munchak was shrewd in how he dealt with the owner, playing right into what the owner liked and taking Adams right where Adams liked to go. It endeared him to his boss and did a lot to make him the choice when the team and Jeff Fisher parted ways. I expect he will do well selling Smith on the plan going forward. But the team gets better by adjusting the plan, not by selling the plan better to a new person at the top of the organization. Old-time Oilers memories should mean nothing now.

Lame duck: His résumé certainly doesn’t warrant an extension. That means he and his staff would be working as lame ducks in 2014. Lame-duck scenarios aren’t typically healthy. They make it hard to attract players and assistants. They make it easy for a team to tune out if and when things don’t go well.

Pondering Ruston Webster's connections

December, 24, 2013
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak said on Monday he hopes for the support of general manager Ruston Webster going forward.

We know the two have a good working relationship.

We know Webster has not offered any indication he doesn't support Munchak, but he also has not been out front banging the drum that the coach will or should be back for his fourth season in 2014.

[+] EnlargeRuston Webster
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsTitans general manager Ruston Webster will have some hefty team and personnel decisions to make once the 2013 season ends.
It's not his drum to bang.

Webster will have input, but the final decision belongs to the head of the new ownership group, team president and CEO Tommy Smith.

Webster may tell Smith he believes completely in Munchak and thinks he should be back. He also may say otherwise.

Munchak was the hire of late owner Bud Adams, and Mike Reinfeldt was general manager at the time. Reinfeldt moved up a notch in the front office to senior executive vice president and chief operating officer in 2012, and Webster was then promoted to GM.

Then Adams fired Reinfeldt after the 2012 season, largely for his failure to chase Peyton Manning as aggressively as the owner wanted him to.

Smith made it clear when he recently spoke to Nashville media that Webster is well liked and completely safe as the team’s top football executive in Nashville.

Webster is low key and hardly a power-hungry guy. But his reputation is on the line when he gives Smith his assessment. He may never have a position of more strength, and if he believes the Titans would be better served by a new coach, he will say so. And he would have a big hand in putting candidates in front of Smith.

If Webster backs Munchak, the coach stays and things don't get better, Webster’s rep gets dented, too.

I don’t know what his answer will be when Smith says, “What should we do?” But I don’t think it’s a certainty that he feels married to Munchak in the way many seem to assume.

Webster worked for the Buccaneers from 1988-05 and for the Seahawks from 2006-09.

I looked at the staffs of those teams to create a list of guys he could look to if he’s asked to provide candidates to take over for Munchak. A front-office guy isn’t always in position to get to know coaching staffs well, but Webster certainly knew many of these guys on a level where he gained some insight. Maybe no one with a previous connection would be a candidate, but usually there would be at least one guy with some prior connection in the mix.

Webster has worked with head coaches Ray Perkins, Richard Williamson, Sam Wyche, Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden and Mike Holmgren in addition to Jeff Fisher and Munchak.

It's rather amazing some of the coaches he has worked with when they were assistants with the Buccaneers and Seahawks. Eleven of them went on to be head coaches: Mike Mularkey, Herm Edwards, Rod Marinelli, Lovie Smith, Jim Caldwell, Mike Tomlin, Raheem Morris, Ray Rhodes, Jim Zorn, Jim Mora and Gus Bradley.

And he’s been with the same organization as some well known, quality assistants: Sylvester Croom (again now with the Titans), Mike Shula, David Culley, Monte Kiffin, Clyde Christensen, Rich Bisaccia, Kyle Shanahan, Bruce DeHaven and Greg Knapp.

Mularkey was one of the guys the Titans looked at when Adams wound up promoting Munchak. Mularkey flamed out in one season in Jacksonville in his second stint as a head coach, and I doubt his overbearing, controlling style would be attractive at this point.

Smith, Caldwell and Jay Gruden are on the NFL’s Career Advisory Development Panel’s list of head coaching candidates, per Peter King of The MMQB.

I’ve not talked to Webster about any of these guys. If he’s creating a list, it wouldn’t surprise me if one or more of these names are on it based on his previous experience with them.

Lovie Smith had a good run with the Bears before being fired after a 10-6 season in 2012. He’s a cool and collected coach from the Dungy tree. The issue is that he’s a defensive coach who consistently failed to develop a quarterback with the Bears and could never find the people or formula to build an offensive line that offered sufficient protection. Smith was linebackers coach in Tampa from 1996 through 2000. The Titans have severe linebacker issues.

• Current Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden was an offensive assistant with the Buccaneers in 2004-05 while Webster was also in Tampa. Gruden has passed on some head coaching interview opportunities in the recent past, but might feel ready for them now. My one big concern based of what I saw of him on "Hard Knocks" is the super complicated play calls in his offense. I like him as a candidate if he promised to scale back and simplify.

Aaron Kromer was a senior assistant with the 2005 Bucs and is now offensive coordinator and offensive line coach of the Chicago Bears. Things have gotten a lot better with the Bears offense this season, but how much of that has been because of him and how much is because of his boss, Marc Trestman? Kromer worked as an interim head coach during one stage of Sean Payton's suspension with the Saints in 2012. That was hardly a raging success. They started 0-4 and finished his six games 2-4. I’m told he’s dry publicly, but confident.

• UCLA coach Jim Mora coached defensive backs for the Seahawks in 2007 and bumped up to assistant head coach and defensive backs coach in 2008. I have no idea if he’s interested in a return to the NFL. But in three seasons as Atlanta’s head coach (2004-06) he compiled a 27-23 record. Perhaps he’ll be regarded as a guy whose second turn as a head coach after time away from working as an NFL head coach could be a lot better. It worked that way for Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick.
Eric Decker, Jason McCourty AP Photo Jason McCourty, right, and the Titans' secondary face a formidable challenge in defending Eric Decker and the Broncos' passing attack.
It seemed a little out of place, but as the Denver Broncos were about to get to work on the Tennessee Titans this week, quarterback Peyton Manning said he was going to prepare for an "unfamiliar opponent."

Granted, Manning hasn't faced a Titans team with Mike Munchak as its head coach, but he has faced Tennessee 19 times previously in his career (including a playoff game in the 1999 season), all with the Indianapolis Colts. So, while this is the Titans' first look at Manning in a Broncos uniform, the quarterback is a familiar face as Denver tries to keep its grip on home-field advantage in the postseason.

Here, ESPN.com Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky and Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold discuss Sunday's game.

Legwold: Paul, you've been around the team since it arrived in Tennessee and, before we get to the on-field matchup, how would you say the team has dealt with franchise founder Bud Adams' death earlier this season? Who is making the decisions now and who will make them in the coming offseason, both on and off the field?

Kuharsky: It was a big loss, of course, for Munchak and general manager Ruston Webster and team employees who worked for Adams for a long time. Most of the players hardly knew him, as he was not around much in his final couple of years, when his health began to fail. So there is a lot of uncertainty now. Three branches of Adams' family share control of the franchise, and Bud's son-in-law, Tommy Smith, is the team president and CEO. He's apparently been paying close attention to things in anticipation of taking over. But we know very little about how he will operate going forward. That means there is some tension, because not every team employee knows if he's secure. That starts with the struggling head coach, Munchak.

Leadership in Denver appeared to remain strong as Jack Del Rio stepped in for John Fox. How much of a boost will Fox's return give the team?

Legwold: Del Rio, the team's defensive coordinator, earned praise from everyone in the organization, including Fox and the players, for how things were handled in the head coach's absence following open-heart surgery. His return has given the team an emotional boost, because after a month away, Fox came back feeling better than he had in some time and enthusiastic to see where this season can go. It should help the Broncos avoid a late-season stumble as they try to get home-field advantage for the playoffs again. Tactically speaking, not much will change. Coordinator Adam Gase is still calling the plays on offense -- Del Rio has said that, other than being a sounding board from time to time, he left the offense solely in Gase's hands during Fox's absence. Del Rio will continue to call the defense on game day as he has all season. Overall, though, it's likely Fox's return will keep the Broncos from hitting an emotional lull over the final month of the regular season.

On the field, the Titans have seen Manning plenty over the years. How do you think Tennessee will approach things on defense and does it see some differences in the Broncos' offense compared to what it saw from the Manning-led Colts?

Kuharsky: Well, it's a relief the Titans don't see Edgerrin James, I am sure. And while Denver's pass-catchers are a remarkable bunch, I'm not sure there is a Marvin Harrison in it yet. They know blitzing Manning can be fruitless no matter what matchups they like against offensive linemen. They'll try to be unpredictable and force him to throw to a certain spot a few times. But plenty of teams have that idea and fail with it. Under Gregg Williams' influence, the Titans have used an ever-shifting front, and we know that's a popular way to play against Manning in an attempt to minimize his ability to make pre-snap reads. The front is pretty good, especially Jurrell Casey, though there is no dominant edge rusher. The secondary has been quite good. It's the linebackers, particularly in pass coverage, who seem vulnerable to me, and I don't know what the Titans will do there to prevent abuse. Bernard Pollard's been a leader whose play has matched his talk, but the Titans have kept him out of tough coverage situations and I wonder whether Manning will find ways to try to go at him.

The Titans are rooting for freezing temperatures even though they've been awful themselves in their past two frigid games. I know some all-time great quarterbacks have excelled in the cold even if they haven't loved it. How much of an issue is it for Manning at this stage of his career?

Legwold: That is the elephant in the room with the Broncos given their playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens last January. Manning threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns in that game, even though the temperature at kickoff was 13 degrees. But folks seem to remember a wobbly incompletion here and there to go with an interception to close out the Broncos' final possession. Until Manning simply cranks it up on a cold day and the Broncos get a key victory, people are going to ask him about it. He had spots in the overtime loss to New England two weeks ago -- in frigid, windy conditions -- in which he threw as well as he ever has, particularly on a sideline pass to Demaryius Thomas and a touchdown throw to tight end Jacob Tamme. It's not so much his arm that has been an issue post-surgery, it's his grip when he throws. Overall, though, the Broncos push the pace more on offense at home. Manning has terrorized defenses that have played a lot of man coverages against the Broncos' offense, including his five-touchdown game last weekend in Kansas City. The Broncos like that matchup in any weather.

Denver has some injuries on defense that have affected how it plays, especially with the run defense. Where does Chris Johnson fit in the Titans' offense these days?

Kuharsky: He's really had one big game all season. Even when he seems to get going, the Titans can't find a rhythm or a way to stick with him. This was supposed to be a run-reliant, run-dominant team. It isn't. With Ryan Fitzpatrick now the quarterback, the Titans like to put him in an empty set and let him do his thing. It's been good at times, but it doesn't do much to enhance the chances of the running game. Johnson doesn't get yards after contact. So if he doesn't find a big hole, he's not going to do a lot of damage. Watch out on a screen or little flip pass -- that's where Johnson has been more threatening.

Denver's defense has dealt with quite a few injuries and Von Miller's suspension. How's his health and how is that group playing together?

Legwold: The Broncos have yet to play the 11 starters on defense in any game this season they expected to have coming out of training camp. They never will now that defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson has been moved to injured reserve. Vickerson was a big part of the plan on early downs -- and the Chiefs tested the middle of the defense plenty this past Sunday, so the Broncos are working through some adjustments there. Champ Bailey (left foot) has played in just three games this season -- just one from start to finish -- and safety Rahim Moore is on injured reserve/designated to return. (The Broncos hope Moore will be back for the postseason.) Toss in Derek Wolfe and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie not being in the lineup against the Chiefs and the Broncos are not nearly as consistent as they were last season, when they were a top-five defense. Miller has had moments of top-shelf play since his return, but hasn't been a consistent force like he was last season.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- With the Tennessee Titans preparing to face the Denver Broncos for the first time since then-free agent Peyton Manning chose the Broncos over Tennessee, Manning's choice has been a big storyline this week.

John Glennon of The Tennessean recounts the pursuit and shows the Titans really thought they were going to get him.

I’ve heard from two reliable sources that one thing that worked against the Titans for Manning was the team's offensive coordinator at the time.

Chris Palmer’s offensive philosophy was to react, not to dictate. (Here’s a piece from Sept. 2012 I did about his options route scheme.)

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesPeyton Manning spent about eight hours with Titans executives on a plane and at the team's headquarters in March 2012.
I can see how that wouldn’t jibe with Manning. And Eli Manning worked with Palmer as quarterback coach with the Giants from 2007-09, so Peyton Manning had some extra insight into Mike Munchak’s chief offensive lieutenant.

When the Titans got their time with Manning, they met him in Knoxville for a workout, then he spent some time in Nashville. The Knoxville contingent was team president Mike Reinfeldt, general manager Ruston Webster, Munchak, Palmer, quarterback coach Dowell Loggains and strength coach Steve Watterson.

I don't want to over-interpret Manning's comments about that time, but he does tend to be very precise in what he says and does.

"I ended up working out for them in Knoxville," he said. "Like I said, I really enjoyed getting to know Dowell Loggains, really enjoyed spending some time with him. I played against Coach Munchak’s teams for many years when he was the offensive line coach. I enjoyed spending some time with him, really enjoyed that time. That was kind of a unique workout I guess, but like I said, I enjoyed the time with them."

His failure to mention Palmer is not super-telling. But after hearing from two places that Palmer was an issue, the fact that Manning left him out is open for at least a bit of interpretation.

Bear with me and trace this circular path that led to the Titans missing out on Manning, who I believe felt a pull from Munchak but a bigger pull from Broncos executive John Elway because of the obvious connection with a quarterback who won big late in a Hall of Fame career.

  1. Late Titans owner Bud Adams was late in sorting out his head-coaching search in 2011. When he parted ways with Jeff Fisher and hired Munchak after the Super Bowl, a lot of hiring had already happened around the league.
  2. As a new head coach without a large network of connections and a narrowed pool of candidates, Munchak had to turn to Palmer, an old friend, as his first coordinator.
  3. A year later, Adams told Titans brass he wanted Manning on the team.
  4. And one of the reasons Manning went elsewhere was because he didn’t feel like working with Palmer would have been the best scenario for him.

Palmer’s an innocent victim here. He’s a good man, though his philosophy is ineffective in the NFL circa 2013. Munchak fired him with five games left in 2012.

If Adams had moved more quickly in sorting things out with Fisher and getting Munchak in place, perhaps Munchak would have hired a different offensive coordinator.

If Manning was more comfortable with that coordinator, perhaps he'd be a Titan instead of a Bronco.

Further consideration of Tommy Smith

October, 30, 2013
10/30/13
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In the aftermath of Bud Adams' death last week the big question was how ownership of the Tennessee Titans would be structured.

The Titans Monday pretty much confirmed the shape of the three-way split: Adams’ daughters, Susie Adams Smith and Amy Adams Hunt, are co-chairwomen and Adams’ grandson, Kenneth Adams IV, is a director on the Titans’ board.

Smith’s husband, Tommy Smith, is president and CEO of the Titans.

The Titans will have to formally name a controlling owner for the NFL.

The big question now is how Smith will be as the head of the franchise. I encountered him only a few times with a cursory hello when he was involved with the team while I covered it in Houston for The Tennessean in 1996. He wasn’t around the team often once the team moved to Tennessee, though he was still a team executive through 2002.

The bit I knew about him then was largely from stories told by team employees. And revisiting some of that now, we shared one uncertainty: Was Smith being himself or were they seeing a son-in-law behaving in a way he thought his boss and father-in-law wanted him to?

As with most every question regarding Smith at this point, my answer is I don’t know.

We have to see how he manages the team, spends money, treats employees and takes an interest in the roster before we can piece together an opinion, and that’s going to take a while.

His last public attachment to the Titans was in 2002. He could be a completely different guy now.

The statement revealing the structure came just a day after the Houston memorial service for Adams.

Some might be critical of how quickly it came out and see it as a quick assertion of power by Smith. But questions were hovering.

And conversations I’ve had now tell me my initial reaction was on target -- that the statement was a positive.

Smith offered quick clarity about how things are shaped, reaffirmed Adams’ ultimate mission to win and reassured Nashville of the family’s commitment to the city. In several paragraphs, Smith answered a lot.

Here’s hoping it’s a sign of things to come in terms of letting us know how things work and what’s happening going forward.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- After Mike Munchak was the first-round draft pick of the Houston Oilers in 1982, he visited with owner Bud Adams. Adams was the first Texan he’d met, and had the biggest desk Munchak had ever seen.

It was the start of a 31-year-long relationship between a player, assistant coach and head coach and the owner of his franchise.

On Monday, after Adams passed away, the Titans shuffled their schedule. Munchak told players the news and made a suggestion. If they’d not read much of the team history that’s written on a giant timeline on the walls of team headquarters, it would be a good time to peruse it.

In 2011, when Adams was still in reasonably good health, he’d bring friends to Nashville for games. On Saturday afternoons, Munchak would walk with his boss and the guests through the halls, looking at pictures and telling the stories behind them.

“People think he wasn’t here, so maybe he wasn’t an active owner being here all the time” Munchak said. “But he was. For me, I walked these halls, he was always here. I had those stories with him, I had that history, I knew what was important to him. … He was here all the time, you could see him, you could feel him, it’s just his body, he wasn’t here. I think he’ll always be here.”

Munchak said he can’t remember an unpleasant conversation with Adams, who always sought to understand the rationale behind the team’s moves.

After last season’s disappointing 6-10, Adams wanted to know how the team was going to help quarterback Jake Locker.

“He got excited about it,” Munchak said. “Maybe I sold it good, maybe he liked the way I told the story. It was optimistic. Here’s how we’re going to do this and here’s how it’s going to work. He’d have a few questions …

“I thought that was my job, to excite him over what the plan was. Because he didn’t know the details of it. He didn’t know a lot of these guys’ names. He didn’t know Andy Levitre. It was our job to find the right guys. He just wanted to know how the puzzle was going to come together.”

Jeff Fisher remembers Bud Adams

October, 21, 2013
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Bud Adams often got tagged with an unfair label of being cheap.

In a guest appearance talking about his old boss, St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher told The Midday 180 radio show about Adams always saying yes to requests for player salaries.

Fisher
"You could call him and ask for $10 million to sign a key free agent because that’s the player that you need to get over the hump and he would not bat an eye,” Fisher said. “Then you could come back 20 minutes later and ask for him to sign a purchase order for laser pointers and he’ll take two months. That’s how he was. As long as you know that going in and understand that, things are OK.”

Fisher said he’s eternally grateful to Adams, his late wife Nancy and the entire Adams family for the opportunity it gave him as a head coach. He called the Oilers and Titans owner who died Monday morning “just a fascinating man.”

Adams had the foresight to see Nashville as a viable NFL market, and stuck with it even as the initial stages of the team’s relocation were shaky.

“He just basically said, ‘Go move,’” Fisher said. “And so it wasn’t easy. I’ve declined numerous opportunities to do a book on those years. It was not an easy thing. ...

“He had this vision. He said, 'Once we get the stadium in place, the team should be in position where we can make a run. And he was right."

Fisher recalled a time when they were discussing the third pick in the 1995 draft. The team had already decided on Steve McNair and the Friday night before the draft Adams was distracted.

He was a huge art collector with an emphasis on Native American art.

“He was telling me about this doll,” Fisher said. “I was trying to tell him about the first and second pick and who we thought was going to go, he was more interested in this collectible doll that he got from Chief Sitting Bull some place after Custer’s last stand.”

When Houston hosted the Super Bowl in February 2004, Fisher visited Adams in his box at the game between New England and Carolina.

“I got to go into this suite with Bud, Lamar Hunt and Ralph Wilson, they were all in there together watching the Super Bowl,” Fisher recalled. “The three original founders of the American Football Conference. If you love the game, and you studied the game and everything that took place leading to where we are now, Bud had such a heavy hand in everything.”

Hear our whole interview with Fisher, right here .

Ralph Wilson statement on Bud Adams

October, 21, 2013
10/21/13
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills released the following statement Monday afternoon from owner Ralph Wilson on the death of Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams:
I am saddened to hear the news of the passing of Bud Adams. As original AFL team owners, we all shared a common bond and a deep sense of pride in where we started in 1960 to where the NFL is today and how much our fans enjoy the game of professional football. Bud certainly played an important role in the growth and development of our game and today I am remembering with great fondness all the laughs we shared with the special memories over the years. Through it all, our teams played some of the most memorable games in AFL and NFL history. I want to extend my deepest sympathies and condolences to Bud’s daughters Susan and Amy, and family, and to all of his many friends.

Wilson is now the final surviving AFL team owner, and having owned the Bills since their inception in 1960, is the longest-tenured owner in the NFL. He turned 95 last week.

What's next for Titans ownership?

October, 21, 2013
10/21/13
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- As Bud Adams got older, with no clear-cut successor in place, the question was asked more frequently: What will happen to the franchise when he passes away?

Many of us were told that a strong plan was in place that would help the franchise to avoid the sort of tax issues that have forced some descendent of other owners to sell. The details of said plan have never been made public.

David Climer of The Tennessean has written about what happens next.
Adams had the foresight — and wealth — to establish a succession plan that keeps the NFL team in the family. Adams took that action after seeing other franchises sold due to the burden of estate taxes.

With that in mind, Adams set aside funds that would cover estate taxes on the franchise, which was valued at approximately $1.01 billion by Forbes magazine last year. Adams originally paid $25,000 for the franchise rights when he and former Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt founded the American Football League in 1959.

While details are sketchy because Adams preferred to keep personal business matters private, it is believed that the families of his three children — daughters Susie Smith and Amy Strunk and his late son Kenneth Adams III — will share ownership of the franchise equally.


Kenneth Adams IV, who you can see here, is just seven years out of the University of the South. He’s a likeable young man who’s taken a smart approach to learning his grandfather’s business. He’s an administrative assistant to the senior EVP and general counsel for the Titans, Elza Bullock.

Susie Smith’s husband, Tommy Smith, was once very involved in the organization, then had some level of falling out with Bud Adams and lost his place with the football business. He could re-emerge in some capacity eventually if the two sisters decide they want him to handle the team.

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle said today on my radio show in Nashville that he believes the two daughters and Kenneth Adams IV will each have a vote in what happens with majority rule.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- While he may always rank as a villain in Houston for moving the beloved Oilers, Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams is the man most responsible for transforming Music City into a major league city and, in turn, an “It” city.

Adams died Monday morning at the age of 90.

[+] EnlargeBud Adams
Frederick Breedon/Getty ImagesBud Adams, who died Monday at age 90, helped make Nashville a destination.
The NFL is immensely popular. Only 31 cities are part of the fraternity. Nashville didn't necessarily aspire to be part of the club. When Adams was unable to reach a deal with Houston for a new stadium he turned to Nashville, a city that was surprised to hear from him.

He never moved away from Houston, and in recent years as his health began to fail, he was an infrequent visitor to Nashville.

Nashville has grown extensively since the franchise came here in 1997, playing a season as a commuter to Memphis and then a year at Vanderbilt Stadium before what is now known as LP Field was ready for occupancy.

While covering the team for The Tennessean, I visited with Adams at his Houston office more than once, where he proudly showed off a small Native American museum he kept as part of his office and offered a club sandwich during an extensive conversation.

He reluctantly gave up the Oilers name, and the franchise was reborn in the new stadium in 1999. He gave me a "playoffs or pink slips" headline before that season with regard to the job security of coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Floyd Reese. And the Tennessee Titans responded by performing a Music City Miracle and advancing to the one and only Super Bowl in the franchise’s history.

Perhaps I overstate it because I became a Nashvillian as a result of Adams’ move, but I don’t know how different Nashville would be today from Louisville or Birmingham without Adams and the NFL.

The city is booming. There are a lot of reasons. Adams is probably the biggest.

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