Tennessee Titans: Bud Adams

After the NFL signed off on the 1997 move of Bud Adams’ franchise from Houston to Nashville, Adams was typically an ally of commissioners Paul Tagliabue and Roger Goodell.

Adams’ more rabble-rousing days as an NFL owner predated the start of my connection with the team in 1996.

But from then forward, he was not particularly active in league matters and the commissioner could count on his support in matters of importance.

It was my understanding that Adams had an agreement with Tagliabue, that once the league approved the relocation, the commissioner could count on Adams to back him.

Many close to the situation believed there was, at least, a tacit agreement. We’ve wondered if Tommy Smith, heading up ownership since Adams died, would also be subject to it.

Smith, Adams’ son-in-law, took over as the team’s CEO and president shortly after Adams passed away in October 2013.

In a chat with The Wake Up Zone in Nashville Wednesday morning, Smith said there was no such deal.

“That’s not true, that’s not true at all,” Smith said of the idea that Adams had such a deal. “Bud was a very loyal owner as far as the league is concerned. If he had an issue or objected to something, he would make his point known. No, there was none of that.”

Smith is still new at his job. We’re still getting a feel for how he will run the team, though early indications have been positive.

Fans seem encouraged by his purposeful talk of his dedication to reviving a franchise that had gone stale. And while I wouldn’t expect criticism from his employees, many have told me about how the vibe in team headquarters has improved under his leadership.

How he will vote on important league matters remains to be seen.

But to hear him tell it, he won’t automatically align with the commissioner on important matters because of any carry over of any pre-existing deal.
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.

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
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
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.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Forty-five minutes before the Jacksonville Jaguars-Tennessee Titans game, the interview room across from the Titans' locker room was buzzing.

The members of the Adams family who’ve taken over control of the team since the death of Bud Adams was to be introduced, make some comments and take some questions.

Alas, an accident in the ingress to the game created major traffic and prevented an on-time arrival. The even was postponed.

As the game ended, CEO and team president Tommy Smith did talk to David Climer of The Tennessean.

“I want a tough, hard-nosed football team, and that’s what we’re going to get to,” Smith told Climer. “We’ve got a lot of work to do yet. … We want to build something that wins now and in the future. We want an identity that I think we’ve sort of been lacking.”

Identity talk.

More than midway into his third season, Mike Munchak is 19-22 as a head coach, and his new boss is posing the same question that has hovered over the team for his entire tenure.

Who are they?

How the Titans have been unable to form an identity over 41 games is a great mystery, particularly after a recommitment to the run game this offseason and the revisions of the roster and playbook intended to make it happen.

It’s just the right topic from Smith considering he just watched the Titans fail to run effectively against the NFL’s worst run defense.

Smith hit the default line owners offer about the future of their coaches, saying everything would be subject to review when the season was over.

“Jacksonville was going to beat somebody,” Smith said. “Unfortunately it was us. I’m optimistic [the Titans] can regroup. This just makes the next game that much more important.”

A loss Thursday night to the Colts would drop Tennessee to 4-6 and get the Titans close to the point where the next game starts to not be so important -- because the playoff chances would become so small.

Further consideration of Tommy Smith

October, 30, 2013
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.

First word from Titans' Tommy Smith

October, 29, 2013
The Tennessee Titans just issued a statement from Tommy Smith, son-in-law of Bud Adams, who passed away last week.
We want to thank all of the friends, family and fans who have reached out to us over the past week to give their condolences and share their stories. It has been a difficult week for all of us and those conversations and letters have kept us going.

As for the Titans organization, we are moving forward with the same goals and a similar structure. As a family, we have agreed that I will be President and CEO of the Titans; and additionally Susie Adams Smith and Amy Adams Hunt will serve as Co-Chairpersons and Kenneth Adams IV will join the Titans board as a Director.

As an organization, we started the year with a plan and we will continue to work towards the goals we have laid out, including a winning season, the playoffs and ultimately building a consistent winner. Through the years, our families and I have been consistently updated on all aspects of the organization from football operations to the business side from those who run those areas and we will continue those interactions on a daily basis. We will be taking all the necessary steps, in concert with the league office, to remain in compliance with league rules in our ownership structure. That process will not be immediate, but it has begun. Until we gain that approval, we will stay out of the spotlight, but know that we are directing the organization and staying informed of daily activities. The continuity and knowledge I have gained in decades of being involved with the team will aid our organization during this transition.

We want our fans to know that we have the best interest of the franchise in mind and we share both Bud’s passion for the game and his commitment to the city of Nashville and the Mid-South Region. We are excited for what lies ahead for this franchise and our fans.

Nothing in there is a surprise, though the prevailing wisdom was that the family might stay quiet and not even announce details about the official structure.

Titans fans should be encouraged that Smith and the three families decided to communicate with them in this fashion.

The popular question concerns what degree of change we will see.

I don't expect anything quick or drastic. The rest of the season could change things, but coach Mike Munchak, general manager Ruston Webster and the team's top non-football executive, Don MacLachlan, all appear to be in good standing with Smith.

Munchak was one of two people to give eulogies at Adams' memorial in Houston on Monday. That's hardly a role the family would hand someone it was thinking of firing from his prominent role with the patriarch's team.

RTC: Remembering Bud Adams

October, 29, 2013
Reading the coverage of the Tennessee Titans…

Mourners remembered Titans owner Bud Adams at a memorial service in Houston, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Longtime NFL executive Joe Browne on Adams: "He was one of the brightest, most competitive visionaries in all of professional sports." A piece on the funeral from Michael Graczyk of AP.

At the pause for the bye week, John Glennon of The Tennessean graded the Titans by position.

To which I say: The offensive line and running backs each got a D-plus. For a team that spent the offseason rebuilding the interior line and talking of a dedication to better blocking and better running, the poor performance is a big part of 3-4.

A look at the viable contenders for the second AFC Wild Card spot right now, with Glennon.

Kenny Britt can see the benefits of staying and can see the benefits of being traded away, according to Glennon.

A rested team feels ready to get back to work, says Teresa Walker of AP. "Everything we plan to do this season is still out there," cornerback Jason McCourty said.

RTC: What's next for the Titans?

October, 25, 2013
Reading the coverage of the Tennessee Titans…

Looking at the big questions about Titans’ ownership after the death of Bud Adams, with Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

While Adams' two daughters and the family of his deceased son each get a third of the team, a controlling owner will have to be determined. The expectation is that Susie Smith will be that person and then her husband, Tommy Smith, will control the team.

Per Wyatt: “Even before Adams’ death, family members, including Smith, had been in communication with team officials in recent months, so that won’t be a dramatic change.”

To which I say: As Wyatt points out, the league will want to check things out and it will take some time before things are official. I agree that big changes at the top won’t come quickly, if they come at all. But there are rumblings that Smith could start being more hands on in the middle of November.

Memorial info for Bud Adams

October, 24, 2013
The Tennessee Titans announced memorial arrangements for late owner Bud Adams, who passed away on Monday.

The memorial service will be held Monday at 1 p.m. CT at the Second Baptist Church, 6400 Woodway Drive in Houston.

Visitation will be the evening before from 4-7 p.m. at George H. Lewis and Sons, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston.

There will be no memorial held in Nashville. While we should respect the family’s wishes, I know there are many in Music City who would have liked a chance to pay tribute to Adams here.
Reading the coverage of the Tennessee Titans...

The Titans' steady approach and long-term commitment to Jake Locker is a smart approach, days David Boclair of the Nashville Post. “Based on what’s happening around the league at the moment, there’s nothing to suggest that waffling on who plays that position would be better.”

To which I say: I agree, and this is an area where the Titans do not get enough credit. It’s nice to land a guy who’s great from Day 1. But if you don’t and want to develop a guy, then you’ve got to commit and give him time.

On WFAN in New York, Terry Bradshaw said Rob Bironas better be good to Rachel Bradshaw. The Titans kicker is dating the Hall of Famer quarterback’s daughter.

Tennessean columnist Gail Kerr remembering a visit with Bud Adams.