The Titans still aren’t for sale. And the Titans keep saying it. But the Titans also continue to refuse to shed light on the issues prompting many to think that an involuntary sale could happen.
Team president Steve Underwood, who has made the local media rounds in recent days following the appointment of a new G.M. and non-interim coach, reiterated the not-for-sale position in an interview with the Tennessean while declining to discuss the issues with the ownership structure that have sparked a continuous back-and-forth with the league office since team founder Bud Adams died in October 2013.
“Those issues are between our owners and the league,” Underwood told the Tennessean. “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. We’re doing everything we need to do to fix whatever issues we have competitively. The rest of our businesses runs great. We’re on track to achieve all the goals we want to otherwise where our business operations are concerned. But we have never discussed the fixes we need to put in place where our ownership structure is concerned. We are continuing to work with the league on a daily, weekly, monthly basis and we’re going to continue to do that.”
The mere fact that the Titans and the league office are discussing issues that remain secret on a “daily, weekly, monthly” basis naturally invites speculation that: (1) at some point the discussions will end; (2) the NFL will tell the Titans what must be done to get the ownership structure in compliance; and (3) the team’s options for complying could include selling all or part of the equity in the team.
No one knows how likely those outcomes are because no one will say what the issues are. The fact that no one is talking suggests that the issues are serious and difficult to resolve, with the communications less related to negotiating fixes and more to do with arguing over whether fixes are even needed.
Until the situation is resolved, the chatter regarding a possible sale won’t go away.
“We’re working on it every day,” Underwood said. “We don’t want it to be a distraction. Sometimes the resolution of difficult problems can take a long time. I would think that at one point, the fiction writers about the sale of our team would grow tired of saying it’s going to happen and it never happening. In fact, I believe one of them at one time guaranteed it was going to be sold last year. I think the people who read him need to write for their money back because it hasn’t happened.”
Money ultimately may be the issue here, as in whether one or more of the owners has enough of it to buy out enough of the owners to allow the overall structure to comply with league rules.
“Amy [Adams Strunk] has made it abundantly clear that nothing about our ownership is going to change,” Underwood insisted. “I’m not sure how many different ways I can say that. They’re not selling. The team is not for sale. I’ve never seen a credible source cited — a name — that says the team is for sale. One of the sources of [the Titans ownership group’s] frustration and mine is that there are all these reports without a single source being cited. So from my perspective, I look at it and say, ‘Who would plant those kinds of stories that are false and erroneous?’ The leading contenders have to be people who want to buy an NFL team. But they need to look elsewhere. This team is not for sale.”
Yes, the team is not for sale. And as long as the Titans eventually persuade the NFL — after more than two years of ongoing discussions — to leave the Titans alone, the Titans won’t be for sale. But if the NFL ever says that the time for talking has ended and the moment for compliance with league rules has arrived, that will change.
It remains impossible to know whether that will ever happen because the Titans and the NFL continue to refuse to talk about the situation. Which suggests that, at some point, something other than air is going to hit the fan in Nashville.