The Tennessee Titans signed cornerback Brandon Harris to a one-year contract, the team announced Friday.

Harris had nine tackles and three pass breakups in 11 games for the Titans last season. He spent the first three seasons of his career with the Houston Texans, who selected him in the second round of the 2011 draft. The Texans waived him during the final cuts of the 2014 preseason.

Harris has 42 tackles and 10 pass breakups in 42 games.


Todd McShay discusses the teams that could be interested in drafting quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota in the 2015 NFL draft.

NFL Insider Field Yates discusses Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt's comments about QB Marcus Mariota and the possibility a team will trade up to select Mariota.

So who is Amy Adams Strunk?

March, 26, 2015
Mar 26

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Who is Amy Adams Strunk?

She's a daughter of the late Bud Adams, who was owner of the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans until he died in October 2012. She's one of five family members who hold a stake in the team now.

Strunk is the one they are now putting forward to represent them, and could ultimately be designated as the controlling owner.

Beyond that?

We don't really know.

Her sister, Susie Adams Smith, was the controlling owner and we didn't strive to learn enough about her, mostly because it was her husband, Tommy Smith, that the group named team president and CEO.

He worked for Bud Adams with the team in the past and he was known, at least a bit, by many with the team as well as some in the media.

There was certainly a curiosity about Susie Adams Smith, and the rest of the family. But it was clear they would remain in the background, with Tommy as the front man.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said at the owners meetings in Phoenix on Wednesday that, “We want to ensure that the team is under the proper ownership structure, as well as making sure it is being represented properly not only in Nashville and the Tennessee market, but also at the league level.”

As ownership is sorted out, Titans fans deserve to know who is asking them to buy tickets. Who is trying to sort out what looks to be a terrible mess?

Interim president and CEO Steve Underwood agreed that fans should know who the five people with ownership stakes are.

“People in Nashville do need to know them,” said Underwood, who will arrive in Nashville Friday to resume a job he retired from in 2011.

He said the team would offer bios of them all.

Someone I know who is familiar with the family and has provided accurate characterizations in the past said of Strunk: “Does not suffer fools gladly. Genuine. Not pretentious. Very competent and capable. Does not tolerate BS. The most like her dad without his eccentricities. Good head for business and her strength is what reminds me of her dad. Tough-minded. Fair. Can hold her own in a man's world. Commands respect, not to be trifled with. I think she's cool.”

Strunk is a director of Bud Adams' other big company, KSA Industries, as well as of Associated Commercial Properties in Houston. She is co-chairperson of Bud Adams Ranches, Inc. and a limited partner in Sakdril.

Strunk founded Kenada Foxhounds, a fox hunting organization, in Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, in 1984.

“Amy Adams Strunk is the Annie Oakley of Texas: She can ride like the wind, and she's fearless,” said Lt. Col. Dennis Foster told The Chronicle of the Horse in 2009.

Strunk has three children who are in their 20s -- Tracy, Tommy and Blanche. Her husband, Bill Hunt, is a retired commercial airline pilot.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans have a new (but familiar) interim president and CEO, who will be a big factor in hiring a new one.

But while Steve Underwood takes control of the team, ownership hashes out whatever is being hashed out and the search for a new leader commences, coach Ken Whisenhunt said he's focused on football.

Will all that's unfolding have a bearing on Whisenhunt and general manager Ruston Webster?

I've spoken with Webster in the past about how to measure moves that can lead to quicker results and ensure job security is measured against long-term goals and the bigger picture.

[+] EnlargeKen Whisenhunt
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsCoach Ken Whisenhunt will certainly feel the pressure to better the Titans' record of 2-14 in the upcoming season.

He said while he thinks of his job as year to year, his obligation and goal is to be a good steward of the franchise.

But let's be realistic. Ticking clocks on the coach and general manager have been accelerated. Some factions of ownership were unhappy enough to force Tommy Smith to retire as president/CEO. And the biggest football decision Smith made was to hire Whisenhunt in 2014. Smith was also a string backer of Webster.

Smith is not a part of the ownership -- his wife is.

Do the other factions of Bud Adams' family offer the same level of support for Whisenhunt and Webster? I don't know, but I doubt it.

A new president will need to get to know the current staff. But he won't feel the strong connection that comes from hiring people.

Whisenhunt said after a 2-14 season he knew that if things didn't get a lot better, he wouldn't have a third year.

At least on a subconscious level, I think Whisenhunt and Webster will favor moves they think can help produce results faster. If Player A may be great down the line but Player B is more pro-ready at the draft, I can see them leaning toward B.

Like it or not, healthy for the organization long-term or not, "win more now" has got to be the mandate.

They are auditioning for Underwood and the person who replaces him.

The top line on the résumé they are starting to write right now will be 2015 results.

Titans searching for identity on the field

March, 25, 2015
Mar 25


ESPN Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky says the departure of president and CEO Tommy Smith creates even more uncertainty as to how the team will play on the field.

Reading the coverage of the Tennessee Titans ...

Some film study with USC defensive end Leonard Williams, who sat down with The MMQB’s Andy Benoit. Writes Benoit: “…I didn’t quite see him as the athletic freak I’d been told to expect. Sure, there are glimmers of that, but what will make Williams successful in the NFL is his capacity for employing fundamentals. He has the tools to build on this as a pro.”

What’s next for the dysfunctional family that owns the Titans, wonders David Climer of The Tennessean? “Apparently, matriarch Nancy Adams was able to maintain some degree of order within the family until her death in February 2009. After that, things fell apart.”

Don Banks of Sports Illustrated, after time with Ken Whisenhunt at the owners meetings: “Whisenhunt might have been trying his darnest to get the word out around the league that the Titans are thinking quarterback at No. 2, in order to attract a potential trade partner (hello, No. 6 Jets?). But I came away fairly well convinced that Tennessee is a long shot to take anything but a passer who can hopefully reinvigorate their franchise, their offense and their fan base. Whisenhunt talked about the ongoing process of evaluating both [Jameis] Winston and [Marcus] Mariota and then comparing their work to [Zach] Mettenberger's last season, but he kept coming back around to the value of a franchise arm at No. 2.”

Counters David Boclair of the Nashville Post: If Whisenhunt really liked Mariota for his offense, the coach wouldn’t say much of anything.

Jeff Diamond, who was Titans president and CEO during some good years for the team, sees the team at a crucial crossroads, writes Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans have seven selections in the 2015 NFL draft, which will be held April 30 to May 2 in Chicago. Here's a breakdown of the Titans selections:

First round: No. 2 overall

Second round: No. 33 overall

Third round: No. 66 overall

Fourth round: No. 100 overall

Fifth round: No. 138 overall

Sixth round: No. 176 overall

Sixth round: No. 207 overall

PHOENIX – Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin have talked so reverently about James Harrison at the NFL owners meetings you would think the outside linebacker retired.

Harrison has, in fact, done the opposite, signing a two-year contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this week.

Harrison said on social media last Saturday that he would pick between the Steelers and Tennessee Titans where Dick LeBeau is now running the defense. The five-time Pro Bowler revealed on the “Ike Taylor Show” how difficult a decision it turned out to be for him.

“I wanted to be with [LeBeau] again, to be honest with you. I am not going to sugarcoat it,” Harrison said Tuesday on TribLive Radio. “It was real hard. You know how it is with Dicky. You don’t want to let him down. You want to be loyal to him to a fault.”

Harrison said he had been in contact with LeBeau, who joined the Titans as an assistant head coach/defense last month. He promised to call LeBeau if the Steelers made him an offer.

Harrison signed a two-year, $2.75 million contract with Pittsburgh, continuing an unlikely chapter that started when the Steelers talked him out of retirement last September. He said the Titans offered him the same deal but the pull of LeBeau wasn’t quite enough to convince Harrison to turn down the Steelers.

“It wasn’t good business move to go to Tennessee because I would’ve had to uproot everything,” Harrison said. “I already had everything in Pittsburgh combined with the fact that my legacy is in Pittsburgh.”

The Steelers were happy to land Harrison given their need at outside linebacker and the value he also provides as a leader and example in the locker room.

“He’s got a unique experience and a unique story and a unique journey,” Tomlin said of Harrison. “I think that he’s a walking, talking, breathing blue-print for our young guys particularly at the position, many of which grew up watching him do it for us. I think he’s embracing that. I think he has a level of appreciation for that. I think that it’s his way of giving back to a game that’s been obviously a tremendous blessing to him.”

(For all Inside Slant posts, follow this link.)

PHOENIX -- NFL head coaches meet with the lead referee a few hours before kickoff of every game. In his first season with the Houston Texans, Bill O'Brien brought a special assistant to each meeting. Jim Bernhardt's title is director of football research, but one of his key responsibilities, O'Brien recounted Tuesday, is knowing the monstrous NFL rule book.

"He'll advise me on things that are challengeable," O'Brien said. "He's got a rule book right next to him [in the press box during games]. I don't know if he ever uses it, but he has it there for a crutch. That's what I did. I hired somebody to help with that. He's involved in a lot of things, from situations to clock management and things like that. But one of the parts of his job is the rule book."

The NFL rule book may be the most complex set of rules in American sports. The 97-page document is full of exceptions and exceptions to the exceptions, vexing fans who want simply to understand what they see on the field. If it makes you feel any better, here's a dirty little secret: Not even the coaches know all of the rules. On Tuesday, in the relaxed environment of the NFL owners meetings, a few of them admitted it.

[+] EnlargeJohn Harbaugh, Bill Vinovich
AP Photo/Steven SenneJohn Harbaugh said he took an unsportsmanlike penalty in order to get officials' "attention so they would understand what was going on." The Ravens' coach objected to a Pats subbing pattern designed to keep his team off balance.

More importantly, the half-dozen I queried supported a long-term effort to streamline and simplify the rule book -- a project headed by NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent.

"I'm all for making the rule book more coach-friendly and more user friendly," O'Brien said. "... I don't even know the challenge rules. I mean, I should. I kind of know them, but the referees will come over. They do a great job. They won't [let you make a mistake]. They're good about that, and they'll come over and say, you can challenge this, you can't challenge that. But I just think that we're all in the business of trying to get it right. If we can just get to a system where we're all on the same page with that goal, I think that will help our league and it will help the officials.

"I think the officials in this league do a really good job," he added. "I really enjoy working with the officials. But I don't know how they do it. My wife is a lawyer, and I can remember her studying for the bar, and I would equate [learning NFL rules] to studying for the bar."

The nature of football makes some complexity unavoidable, according to Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. When I mentioned Vincent's project, Tomlin smiled and said: "Good luck with that."

Tomlin added: "I think we all search for clarity and simplicity, but I don't know that that describes our game in today's time, particularly with the inclusion of some of the technological advances that have become very much part of our game. I think what we're looking for is clarity and as much as we can find that, I think that's what we aspire to. I don't know that that ends up with simplicity, and that's just the reality of it."

Tomlin said he started studying the rule book in 2001, his first year as an NFL assistant coach.

"It's been a 15-, 16-year journey for me to gain a real understanding," he said. "I'm not going to pretend that I know every crevice of the rule book. We were talking in the coaches' meeting here the other day, and the reality is that we continually have discussions during the course of games about the specifics of the rules. It's difficult to have a detailed understanding of it at all times."

Indeed, O'Brien and Denver Broncos coach Gary Kubiak all joined Tomlin in saying they routinely ask officials for rule clarifications during games. Occasionally, of course, even the referee must hustle to keep up.

"The officials have the tough job," Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "They're asked to do more and more every single year with the nuance. That's why anything we can do to keep it simpler for them, make it easier for them to identify formations and things like that, so they can do their job effectively and carry out their responsibilities, would be helpful. I know the officials want that. We should never be trying to make their job tougher."

Harbaugh's team fell victim to an unusual implementation of rules in the AFC divisional playoffs; the New England Patriots had an eligible player report as ineligible to confuse the Ravens' coverage assignments. Referee Bill Vinovich handled the twist the best he could, as we discussed at the time, but ultimately Harbaugh took a penalty to stop the game and draw Vinovich to the sideline for further discussion.

The Patriots' Bill Belichick isn't the only coach to dip into the nuances of the rule book for a potential competitive advantage. In 2008, then-Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt called for a "fair catch kick" in a game against the New York Giants.

Stay with me for a moment: If a team executes a fair catch, Rule 11, Section 4, Article 3 provides the option to attempt a free kick immediately afterward. The arrangement of players looks roughly like a kickoff with the exception of the holder. Because the defense is not on the line of scrimmage, the place-kicker presumably can line up a lower and longer kick.

Neil Rackers' 68-yard attempt was short, but there was no harm done as the half expired.

"When you're around it a long time, you understand some of the rules," said Whisenhunt, now the Tennessee Titans' coach. "There is always going to be something that comes up. Like the free kick. There's a lot of people that don't understand what a free kick is. It's a very seldom-used rule. We used it once in Arizona when I was there. Things like that are going to come up. You learn as you're in it, I guess."

Based on what Vincent has said, reorganizing NFL rules is a multiyear project. But when successful coaches acknowledge their own limited grasp of them, well, it seems pretty important. Kubiak has been an NFL player or coach for 32 years. His response to Vincent's idea? "I think it's a great idea."

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Interim Tennessee Titans president and CEO Steve Underwood said team ownership has no intention of selling the franchise.

"My sources are the five people who own the team, and to a person they all say the team is not for sale," Underwood told The Tennessean. “They tell me they are not selling. What I am being told is to find a new president to help get our club in a direction moving forward, and those are not the kinds of things that owners do when they are looking to sell.

"There have been no offers. I don't think they would listen to any offers, but no one has made any offers. The owners themselves have made themselves clear the team is not for sale. And they have made that clear to me, the team is not for sale."

Underwood also said he's spoken to coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Ruston Webster.

"I have spent the last 72 hours making sure they know understand that we are looking to them for the future in our franchise," he said. "We are expecting great things from both of them."

Underwood was appointed to the position on Friday as Tommy Smith announced he was retiring from the two roles he took on shortly after his father-in-law, Bud Adams, passed away in October 2012.

He claimed he was stretched too thin running the family's other business, KSA Industries in Houston, as well as the Titans. He also cited some health concerns.

But Wyatt reported a few days later that other factions of the family wanted Smith to leave the posts.

Amy Adams Strunk and Kenneth Adams IV are in Phoenix with Underwood for the NFL owners meetings.

Susie Adams Smith, Tommy Smith's wife who's been the controlling owner since the revised ownership was in place, is not with them.


PHOENIX -- Essentially asked the same question several different times over a 45-minute period during the AFC coaches breakfast at the NFL owners meetings Tuesday, San Diego Chargers coach Mike McCoy did not waver on the future of quarterback Philip Rivers.

"The only thing I'm worried about is this next season," McCoy said. "We can't worry about 2016 and beyond. He's under contract for this year, and we plan on Philip Rivers retiring a Charger."

Rivers, 33, is entering the final year of his contract. He's scheduled to make $15.75 million in 2015. Rivers says he intends to play out the deal, rather than enter into negotiations with the Chargers on a contract extension.

"It's not the first time a player has done this," McCoy said. "And so I'm looking forward to the 2015 season, and I think so is Philip. And so everything is all speculation right now."

Chargers general manager Tom Telesco indicated Monday that the possibility of San Diego trading Rivers is not on the team's radar.

Fueling speculation that the Chargers might be willing to move on from Rivers is the fact San Diego is scheduled to work out former University of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota in April. Mariota is projected as a top-10 pick in this year's draft.

The Tennessee Titans hold the No. 2 overall pick. Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt served as San Diego's offensive coordinator during Rivers' resurgence in 2013. And Nashville is about 100 miles from Rivers' hometown in Alabama.

(Read full post)


PHOENIX -- Let's start with what Ken Whisenhunt did not say. The Tennessee Titans' coach did not say he planned to draft Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota with the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft, and he did not say Mariota would be his starting quarterback from the start of the 2015 season.

Speaking early in the AFC coaches' breakfast at the NFL owners meetings, Whisenhunt had plenty of positive things to say about Mariota. He also said that if a team drafted a quarterback with the first or second pick of the draft, chances are that team would expect the rookie to start.

Thanks to Twitter, word got around that Whisenhunt would be drafting Mariota to be the Titans' starting quarterback. That brought a wave of reporters to Whisenhunt's table, looking for a story that wasn't there.

"I guess what I was saying -- it's amazing how it gets out -- if you draft a quarterback at No. 2, generally he's going to be your Day 1 starter," Whisenhunt said. "Because you're investing in a young guy. There's not that many first or second picks at quarterback that don't start, especially with where we are as a team."

For those hoping the Titans will trade the second pick and give another team -- the Philadelphia Eagles, for example -- a shot at Mariota, the jury is still out on that possibility. It was clear from Whisenhunt's comments he likes Mariota and has been impressed with him. Whisenhunt has spent time with Mariota both on the practice field and in the film room.

"We still have more time with him to spend," Whisenhunt said. "We did a workout with him at Oregon and had a little private workout with him. He's done a good job."

Whisenhunt said the Titans had not spent as much time with Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, but said that was in the works. The Titans will have a good feel for both quarterbacks by the time the draft rolls around.

As for Mariota, Whisenhunt didn't sound like he bought into the common complaint that Oregon's offense hasn't prepared Mariota for the NFL game.

"A lot of people said, 'He's in the spread offense and he doesn't have to do a lot,' but that's not true," Whisenhunt said. "He has to change the protections. He has to adjust his receivers. There's a lot of things going on that he has to do before the ball is snapped. And then he has to go through his reads. I learned a lot about that from spending time with him."

Whisenhunt also said he was impressed with Mariota's personality, and the way he saw his Oregon teammates interact with him.

"That was really impressive," Whisenhunt said. "His demeanor, whatever you want to say about that, the guys love him."

Join us today at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT for NFL Nation TV's Spreecast Episode 49 as we welcome in draft hopeful Brett Hundley and break down the latest in offseason league news.

Host Paul Gutierrez (San Francisco 49ers reporter) and co-hosts Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) will be joined all show by Jeremy Fowler (Cleveland Browns and ESPN senior reporter), in addition to Hundley and two other NFL Nation reporters. Wells and Gutierrez will provide updates from the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix.

Fresh off a record-setting career at UCLA, Hundley is one of the many former college players hoping to be claimed in this year's draft that begins April 30. He's regarded as one of the top quarterbacks in this year's class. He'll stop by for a few moments to discuss his pre-draft journey, and how prepared he believes he is for the NFL.

Also, Todd Archer (Dallas Cowboys reporter) will chat about Greg Hardy's recent free-agency signing in Big D, and the reaction it has sparked there.

Ben Goessling (Minnesota Vikings reporter) will fill us in on the latest in the Adrian Peterson saga. Are the words of Peterson's agent a benefit or a hindrance? Also, what was up with the camel-riding birthday celebration the embattled rusher had over the weekend?

Fowler will help close things down by discussing the latest in the Browns' quarterback soap opera, and the television show they could be featured on later this summer.

Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.

Adolpho BirchAP Photo/Tony GutierrezAdolpho Birch graduated from Vanderbilt Law School in 1991 and has 17 years of NFL connections.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A potentially strong candidate to run the Tennessee Titans as the president and CEO of the team works in New York City.

But Adolpho Birch, the NFL's senior vice president of labor policy and government affairs, grew up in Music City and attended Vanderbilt Law School.

In his current role, the league says Birch "oversees the development, administration and enforcement of the league’s critical policies respecting the integrity of the game, including those on substances of abuse, performance-enhancing drugs, gambling and criminal misconduct."

That is hardly the same as running a team. But Birch is connected in league circles, he knows Nashville and he’s smart. Those are all qualities that suggest to me he could be effective at the top of the Titans' organizational chart if he were interested and the team courted him.

The selection will ultimately be made by the interim head of the Titans, Steve Underwood, and Bud Adams’ family, which owns the team.

I don’t know if they could lure Birch. But they should give some real thought to trying.

I’ve met Birch a few times -- talking with him in a media gaggle about the slowly developing HGH policy at a scouting combine in Indianapolis, and saying hello as he spoke to a mutual friend near radio row the week of the most recent Super Bowl.

Those interactions hardly mean I know him, though I found him a smart and affable guy. I do know his résumé suggests he’s qualified for a lot of jobs beyond president and CEO of the Titans.

He’s got an undergraduate degree from Harvard and a law degree from Vanderbilt, and he became a member of the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust in July 2014.

Other notes from Birch's bio:

  • He joined the NFL in 1997, where at first he was primarily responsible for enforcing the collective bargaining agreement. He also worked to advance NFL legislative and political interests, and directed player development efforts.
  • Before joining the NFL, he worked in private practice in Houston, initially with Fulbright & Jaworski’s Antitrust/Complex Litigation and Public Law group; and later with a boutique firm specializing in labor, insurance defense and municipal finance.
  • Prior to his time in Texas, he was judicial law clerk to the Honorable Thomas A. Wiseman Jr., chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.
  • He graduated from Vanderbilt Law School in 1991 after serving on the editorial board of the Vanderbilt Law Review.
  • He graduated from Harvard with honors in government, and participated as a member of the junior varsity lacrosse and basketball teams, and was part of Kappa Alpha Psi.
  • His professional and philanthropic organization involvement includes Sports Lawyers Association, Partnership for Clean Competition, Why Not Sports, and New York City Business of Sports High School.
  • Birch graduated from Nashville’s Father Ryan High School in 1984, where he was valedictorian.
  • Birch’s father, A. A. Birch, was chief justice of Tennessee’s supreme court. He died in 2011, five years after Nashville named a new, six-story downtown courthouse after him.

Adolpho Birch's biggest public impression came in an appearance on "Mike & Mike," when he failed to effectively defend the league after its early, insufficient discipline of Ray Rice.

Commissioner Roger Goodell was just about in hiding at the time, and Birch was rolled out to take the hit on the league’s behalf. It was a terrible performance as a radio guest, but he wasn’t the guy who should have been answering the questions, either.

Birch was involved in botching the initial discipline. That certainly doesn’t go in the pro column on any candidacy. But it shouldn’t offset everything else he has done.

A team president and CEO deals with the league a lot, and Birch has 17 years of connections. Of the four people who have served as Titans president -- Adams himself, Jeff Diamond, Mike Reinfeldt and Underwood -- none were from Nashville.

It shouldn’t be a prerequisite, but it would be a compelling element in a president for a team looking to rebuild and fortify a connection with its city.

Would Birch want the Titans’ job? I don’t know. He would have to show how his experience makes him ready, ownership would have to win him over, and the pay would certainly have to be good.

If he were interested and could negotiate it with the family of Adams, Birch could have something close to final say as a decision-maker for a franchise rather than being a chief lieutenant at league headquarters.

Perhaps he’d like to come back home. Perhaps he’s ready for a new and different challenge.

At the very least, he should be on the Titans' list.