NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- There are at least eight reasons not to believe new ownership would solve all that is wrong with the woeful Tennessee Titans.
Eight other NFL teams with relatively recent ownership changes still have plenty of issues.
I understand why so many want the team out of the hands of the heirs of Bud Adams, and I would not be averse to new blood for the Titans at the very top level. Certainly it's possible things get better in such a scenario.
But it's too simplistic to presume the new filthy rich person who would replace the old filthy rich people would fare better.
Longtime Tennessean columnist David Climer, who is retiring at the end of the week, took a strong parting shot when he offered his analysis of why the team needs to be sold.
"The Titans are a rudderless ship," Climer wrote, "captained by three separate-but-equal ownership entities that either don’t care about what’s going on or are incapable of fixing it."
It’s reasonable to look at the team, the slow progress, and the interim status of CEO/president Steve Underwood and reach that conclusion.
But I do think, in devil’s-advocate style, two points are important in the team’s defense:
1) While the silence of controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk is frustrating, the conclusion that it reflects disinterest is a leap.
Maybe it does. But people in the building, who certainly have cause to support their boss, repeatedly tell me she is engaged.
She took over the role in March. We know little about her. I pieced this together about her early on.
The Titans quietly put a short bio online not too long ago.
So her NFL resume is seven months long. She was not involved with the team prior to that. As she took over to lead a fractured, three-way division of ownership that’s split into five pieces, she found a way to get things calmed down after her brother-in-law, Tommy Smith, did so poorly out front.
Presumably knowing no one in NFL circles, she and the family convinced Underwood to come out of retirement to repair and lead the franchise.
While the likable Underwood inherited a mess, the cleanup is lagging. I know and like many of the people trying to fix things. But the organization has not offered an update, and what we see doesn’t suggest the pace, on the field and off, is anywhere close to satisfactory.
Because we’re not hearing from Strunk, the widespread perception is that she is disinterested.
Maybe she is. Maybe she isn’t.
Can we agree that we don’t know? Can we allow for the possibility that she’s wary of cameras, looks at other owners and doesn’t think getting in front of a microphone will help, and is actually trying to set the team on a better course behind the scenes?
You’ll say I’m in the Titans pocket for saying so, but the narrative that she’s doing nothing is too easy. We don't see it or hear it so we presume she's uninterested without really knowing. We can't stand the mystery, so we conclude. Her lieutenants are not serving her well in terms of public perception by not allowing for some degree of reporting that could show us the deal.
She’s the controlling owner because of who her father was. Crush her for that if you like, but please acknowledge that’s the case for a large group of pro sports owners.
2) New ownership is not automatically better ownership. See the Browns.
Cleveland came to hate Art Modell, who packed the franchise up and took it to Baltimore. Al Lerner owned the replacement, expansion team for three lousy seasons. His son Randy took over in 2002 after Al Lerner died. And Randy Lerner sold to Jimmy Haslam.
Haslam was highly regarded as he took over the team. He’s a guy that a strong segment of Nashvillians and Tennesseans wanted to see buy the Titans from Adams. He got another opportunity to get into the NFL and he took it.
But his Browns have had all the same, dysfunctional issues under their new Knoxville, Tennessee-based owner. Likewise, ownership changes in Jacksonville, Buffalo, Oakland, Minnesota, St. Louis and Miami haven't yielded big results. (Though some of those teams have recently beaten Tennessee.)
I understand the desire for change. Anyone following the Titans is done being patient. They want to hear the plan and they want to see it in action.
The Titans would be wise to offer some of that to placate the fan base. The more we ask to hear from him, the less inclined Underwood seems to speak.
If the franchise was sold, a new owner would surely offer all of that and there would be a new enthusiasm.
Remember, though, there was a new enthusiasm when Ken Whisenhunt was hired as the Titans coach, too. A new person doesn’t automatically mean a more successful person.
One final point: The Titans would have a price tag of around $2 billion. A year ago, the Washington Post said of the top 400 billionaires in the country, seven lived in Tennessee. Even in a new ownership group, where the lead person wouldn’t have to have that level of wealth, there is nothing close to a guarantee that the person at the top of it would be local.