Amy Adams Strunk

Fallout From Titans’ Mike Mularkey Firing

Mike Mularkey‘s season-ending press conference played a role in his firing. The Titans had announced their two-year head coach would be back in 2018 and given him a contract extension, but reversed course and fired him on Monday morning.

Jon Robinson said that decision was made Monday morning and added Mularkey’s comments Sunday played a role in this ouster (Twitter links via Jim Wyatt of Titans.com and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). Mularkey did not appear ready to make changes to his offensive staff, and it’s clear Robinson felt they were probably necessary.

Tennessee’s GM made clear Marcus Mariota‘s development will be the “highest priority,” per longtime NFL reporter Paul Kuharsky (Twitter link). Mariota regressed from 2016-17 despite steering the Titans to the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons and giving the franchise its first postseason win since the 2003 campaign. The former Heisman Trophy winner and No. 2 overall pick threw for a career-low 13 touchdown passes — after firing 26 in 2016 — and a career-high 15 interceptions. DeMarco Murray‘s yards-per-carry figure also plummeted by nearly a yard for a Titans offense that ranked 18th in DVOA.

While Robinson made it clear all of Mularkey’s assistants were under contract (Twitter link via Terry McCormick of TitansInsider.com) it’s likely some (if not most) will be searching for new jobs soon. Kuharsky tweets Robinson and team president Steve Underwood informed Mularkey of his firing, not controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk.

Mularkey’s stubbornness regarding tailoring his scheme to Mariota’s talents helped do him in as Titans HC, Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com writes. Mularkey wanted to bring back his offensive staff, Wolfe reports.

The Titans are planning to interview Mike Vrabel and Steve Wilks, and hiring a defensive coach would represent a first since Jeff Fisher. A Josh McDaniels pursuit may have broken down in part because of timing, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe tweets.

Latest On Titans’ Ownership

The NFL has had concerns about Titans ownership since the 2013 passing of franchise founder Bud Adams, who bequeathed equal parts of the team to daughter Amy Adams Strunk and two other heirs. That left the franchise without a true controlling owner (though Strunk has taken the reins), which led the league to hit Strunk with a six-figure fine last year when the Titans remained in violation of NFL rules.

Amy Adams Strunk

The Titans still haven’t rectified their ownership situation, and now one of Strunk’s fellow heirs, sister Susie Adams Smith, is selling her share of the team’s parent company, Houston-based KSA industries. That stake includes her one-third ownership of the Titans. Forbes values Smith’s piece of the team at approximately $660MM, writes Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg.

Smith’s decision to sell “will not impact team operations in any way,” announced Strunk, who added that “I will continue to serve as the controlling owner of the Titans. The remaining two-thirds of the team controlled by myself, Kenneth Adams IV, Barclay Adams and Susan Lewis is not and has never been for sale.”

While Strunk is confident in how the Titans are currently operating, Smith’s move to relinquish her share only complicates an already complex situation, a source told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. There’s an “impasse” among the three Adams families, per Florio, who notes that the league’s desire continues to be for one faction to have clear control over the franchise. Therefore, with Smith soon exiting the picture in favor of an outside party, the league could make an aggressive push for the Titans to finally solve their ownership situation, according to Florio.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Titans’ Ownership, Bon Jovi

Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk insisted Tuesday that the franchise isn’t for sale, but her desire to keep the team could become irrelevant, writes Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.

When Strunk’s father, franchise founder Bud Adams, died in 2013, he left equal parts of the franchise to Strunk and two other heirs. The Titans are devoid of a true controlling owner as a result, and the NFL is going to force the franchise to rectify that at some point, according to Florio, who adds that an eventual sale is possible. The league has already penalized Strunk with a six-figure fine this year on account of the Titans’ failure to comply with its ownership rules.

Jon Bon Jovi

In the event the Titans do go on the block, rock star Jon Bon Jovi would reportedly be a candidate to serve as part of a new ownership group. Bon Jovi refuted that possibility Wednesday, however.

“Let me dispel the rumors right now,” he told John Carucci of the Associated Press. “I wake up to these headlines with my name on them and they’re just not true. I want to make it perfectly clear that the team is not for sale, nor has it ever been, and I respect and admire (late franchise founder) Bud Adams’ legacy. End of story, I wish them all the success in the world.”

While Bon Jovi claims the Titans don’t interest him, Florio expresses skepticism, and Carucci writes that the 54-year-old does want to own an NFL team. That nearly came to fruition when a group including Bon Jovi bid $1 billion on the then-rudderless Bills in 2014, but they fell short of Terry Pegula’s winning offer of $1.4 billion.

“I love the NFL, and I did in fact try to buy the Buffalo Bills, but this has nothing to do with that. All I’m doing – I’m in the music business. End of story,” Bon Jovi declared.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Amy Adams Strunk: Titans “Not For Sale”

Rock star Jon Bon Jovi is reportedly interested in purchasing the Titans. There’s just one problem: Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk doesn’t plan to sell the franchise, she told Tom Pelissero of USA Today.

“The team is not for sale,” she said. “I don’t know how many different ways to say it. Haven’t talked to Bon Jovi or anybody else for that matter, and it’s not for sale.”

Amy Adams StrunkThe 54-year-old Bon Jovi previously showed serious interest in buying the Bills in the wake of founder Ralph Wilson’s death in 2014. A group including Bon Jovi reportedly offered more than $1 billion for the Bills when the club was on the market, but they fell short of current owner Terry Pegula’s $1.4 billion winning bid.

Strunk took the Titans’ reins the next year – in 2015. That was two years after her father, franchise founder Bud Adams, died.

“It’s part of our heritage – my dad’s legacy. We’re not going anywhere,” she declared.

Adams’ heirs, including Strunk, have come under fire from the NFL because, in the league’s opinion, the organization still hasn’t put together a sufficient succession plan since Adams’ death. The league has already hit Strunk with a six-figure fine this year as a result. More punishment is possible in the future if the Titans don’t comply with the league, but Strunk isn’t worried.

“It’s going to get worked out,” she told Pelissero.

Titans president and CEO Steve Underwood added that the franchise has “had a conversation going on with the league now for over two years, and we expect to continue that discussion.”

Strunk lives in Houston, the team’s former home, but she spends two weeks a month in Nashville and insists she’s “involved.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Titans Ownership May Face More Discipline

Long the target of NFL scrutiny due to an insufficient succession plan after Bud Adams’ death, the Titans have incurred punishment from the league this offseason and could be set for more NFL discipline.

The NFL already hit owner Amy Adams Strunk with a six-figure fine this year, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reports, and the franchise remains non-compliant regarding its ownership.

Adams Strunk maintains she will not sell the team, although that is not the universal feeling among Bud Adams’ heirs, but the Titans have not offered a satisfactory plan to satisfy the league. No additional fines are on the table as of now, per La Canfora, but the league continues to monitor this situation and would impose more financial penalties in the future if necessary since this doesn’t appear to be letting up anytime soon.

The Titans could well end up back on the market, per La Canfora, with Jon Bon Jovi residing as a “keenly interested” suitor after a failed bid to buy the Bills. Additionally, Peyton Manning may view the Titans as the one team he would consider owning a portion of and concurrently serve in a presidential-type role, La Canfora reports.

After playing at Tennessee, Manning has long been connected with the Titans — as both a player and a potential executive. The recently retired quarterback revealed the team was his second choice when he decided to sign with the Broncos in 2012.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Titans’ Ownership

Commissioner Roger Goodell wants each of the NFL’s 32 franchises to have a singular owner representing it, but the Titans haven’t been in compliance since the death of franchise founder Bud Adams in 2013. They’re in the process of fixing that, however, writes John Glennon of The Tennessean. Amy Adams Strunk currently controls 33 percent of the Titans (the other two-thirds belong to fellow heirs of Bud Adams) and should soon be in position to represent the club, according to a statement issued Friday by team president and CEO Steve Underwood.

“We are confident that the next time we meet with the Commissioner, he will be satisfied that Amy Adams Strunk has exactly what he said she needs — local operating control and full authority to represent the Titans in league decisions.”

Underwood’s statement came in response to comments Goodell made Friday during his state of the league address.

“We have ownership policies, the ownership policies are lengthy, but essentially they require a single owner, to represent the club locally, but also at the league level,” he said. “We work on the basis of 32 individual owners, each having a vote. When league matters come up, whatever they may be, we work on a vote of 24 of the 32. It’s a very important principle to owners and their partners.”

Goodell added that the league has “to continue to work with the Tennessee ownership group to see how that’s going to conform with our policies. We’ll be meeting with our finance committee in the next few weeks. That’s a subject we’ll be discussing.”

Titans Rumors: Ownership, Cap, Coach

Titans president and CEO Steve Underwood spoke on issues the NFL and the organization are having since owner Bud Adams died in Oct. 2013. Although Underwood refuted the notion the Titans are for sale, he did confirm the league and the team are engaged in dialogue regarding ownership status, according to The Tennesseean’s John Glennon.

The league has never once indicated to us that they are attempting to force the sale. I’ve never heard those words used. I think they’re continuing to work with us on trying to resolve the ownership issues, and in the meantime, none of those things are affecting the operation of the club,” Underwood told the paper.

Roger Goodell has expressed issues with the Titans’ ownership structure, which consists of controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk, Barclay Cunningham Adams, Kenneth Adams and Susie Adams Smith. But Underwood denied to expand on what kind of concerns the league has with the post-Bud Adams Titans brass.

Those issues are between our owners and the league,” Underwood said. “They don’t have anything to do with the business we conduct here, trying to put a winning product on the football field and run our football team from day to day. They’re not affecting that. … Amy has made it abundantly clear that nothing about our ownership is going to change. I’m not sure how many different ways I can say that. They’re not selling. The team is not for sale.”

Underwood told Glennon the league’s issues with the group have been ongoing since Oilers/Titans founder Bud Adams’ death, and Glennon asserts Adams Strunk’s absence at the NFL relocation meetings in her native Houston furthered this speculation. Underwood, who represented the Titans in Houston, said Adams Strunk was devoting her time to finding a new GM and coach.

Here is some more Titans-related news.

  • The end to these discussions between the NFL and the Titans will involve the league telling the franchise what needs to happen to comply and could produce a demand for the ownership to sell all or part of the equity in the team, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio writes.
  • Underwood confirmed to Glennon the issue of ownership came up often when the Titans were interviewing head-coaching candidates. “Many of the candidates asked these same questions and I offered them the same reassurance I’m offering now. The team isn’t for sale. It’s never been for sale.”
  • All 10 of the candidates who interviewed for the team’s GM and coach jobs said the primary attraction for the position was Marcus Mariota, Underwood said. “We asked every one of those men what appealed to them about the idea of working here. The first answer we got from all 10 of them was Mariota. That’s a true story, not an exaggeration. The second thing was having the first pick in the draft. The third top-10 quarterback the Titans tabbed in the past nine years after Vince Young and Jake Locker, the 22-year-old Mariota won three of the 12 starts he made before suffering a season-ending injury, throwing for 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
  • The Titans’ $40.62MM of cap space ranks seventh in the NFL this offseason, and Underwood identified receiving and offensive line help as the two key issues the team must address. “We’ve got plenty of cap room available and our owner is going to be willing to spend money. [Adams Strunk’s] made that clear to me and to our head coach. I do think we’ll spend money to improve our roster. … We do need to find better protection for Marcus and more weapons to capitalize on his strengths as a quarterback. Those are all areas (new GM Jon Robinson) and Mike (Mularkey) have identified as additions we need to make.” Prior to drafting Mariota, Tennessee took wideouts (Kendall Wright) or linemen (Chance Warmack, Taylor Lewan) in the first round, while signing Andy Levitre to a lucrative deal.

Titans Leaning Toward Mike Mularkey?

Despite going 2-7 in his most recent head-coaching audition, Mike Mularkey appears to be the clear favorite to become the Titans’ next full-time head coach, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports.

The PFT reporter hears it would be a “massive upset” if the Titans don’t retain Mularkey, who replaced Ken Whisenhunt after seven games last season. This goes along with NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reporting earlier today the Tennessee job is Mularkey’s “to lose.”

Owner Amy Adams Strunk developed a strong relationship with Mularkey, per Florio, last season and prefers the 54-year-old coach keep the job. Recent GM candidates Chris Ballard and Chris Polian did not share Strunk’s views on Mularkey’s potential, so they were not hired, Florio reports.

New GM Jon Robinson reportedly did agree to consider keeping Mularkey, who Florio notes will be offered a short-term deal with a salary on the low end of the head-coaching earnings scale.

Rapoport points out the Titans could make this official today. The team’s also interviewed Doug Marrone and
Teryl Austin
and is set to meet with Titans DC Ray Horton today.

Mularkey carries an 18-39 coaching record and would be a rare third-try head coach without a playoff berth on his resume. His best season came with the Bills, when they went 9-7 in 2004. Mularkey’s Buffalo tenure lasted just two years, and his Jaguars stint, in 2012, produced a 2-14 mark.

Mularkey joined the Titans as their tight ends coach in 2014 before being elevated to assistant head coach prior to the 2015 season’s outset.

The Titans have gone 5-27 the past two seasons.

Photo courtesy USA Today Sports Images

Titans CEO On GM Search, Coaching Search

The latest on the Titans as they seek a new GM to replace Ruston Webster and examine their head coaching job, which may or may not be filled by interim coach Mike Mularkey:

  • Titans CEO Steve Underwood says that over a dozen candidates – names people “would know” – have asked about interviewing for the team’s GM job, Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com tweets. He added that the club has multiple in-house candidates for both the team’s coaching gig and the GM vacancy (link).
  • Underwood says the Titans will not consider a head coach/GM in one role, a la Chip Kelly (Twitter link via Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com).
  • Underwood said he has 14 GM finalists but he may not interview all of them, McCormick tweets.
  • The CEO said there were 155 coaching candidates after Ken Whisenhunt was fired and he’s trimming that list down now (link).
  • The CEO said that Amy Adams Strunk and Kenneth Adams will join him in the interview process, along with Vin Marino, Jim Wyatt of The Tenneseean tweets.
  • The team has never been for sale and is not for sale now, Underwood claims (link).