Why Bud Adams isn't a Hall of Famer

September, 12, 2013
9/12/13
5:52
PM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams is a Hall of Fame candidate who has a case and some support.

But the crowd in front of the 90-year old Adams and voters’ understandable propensity to elect players ahead of contributors is likely to keep him out despite the case several voters make for him.

[+] EnlargeBud Adams
Wade Payne/AP PhotoTitans owner Bud Adams believes he belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Adams told Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean:
“Besides the playoffs, one thing I would like to accomplish is to be considered in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I realize there may be some hard feelings about me moving the team to Nashville, but I truly feel my body of work …

“I don’t like tooting my own horn. But at my age, and now being the senior NFL owner, there is no one from back in those days than can really speak up for me now. I really feel this year could be a year I get serious consideration after 53 years. I’m sure hoping that’s the case.”

No, you can’t write the history of Pro Football without him. His part in the creation of the AFL and its ultimate combination with the NFL was crucial.

But history didn’t stop then, and his contributions to NFL in the 43 years since the merger didn’t do anything to build on those big contributions and don’t warrant a bronze bust in my eyes.

A good argument on Adams’ behalf is that if Ralph Wilson is in the Hall, Adams should be. The logical counter argument is that Wilson doesn’t necessarily belong there, and you can’t put the next guy in because the last guy got in.

Here are some nuts-and-bolts of a case against Adams:

  • He couldn’t build or maintain a relationship or partnership with Houston mayor Bob Lanier. That created a scenario where he had to break the hearts of a very good AFL/NFL market and move. (That move, I point out in the interest of full disclosure, was very good for my career.) Houston ultimately got an expansion franchise and the stadium Adams so desired. Had he been better at political relationships, the Oilers might still exist and perhaps Nashville would have been an expansion market.
  • In exchange for the league paving his way to Nashville, Adams basically agreed to be a "yes man" for commissioner Paul Tagliabue, and now Roger Goodell, in perpetuity. That means Adams has been a follower since 1996, not any sort of leader during a crucial era in league growth.
  • His best football moves also amount to ancient history. His most recent fingerprints on the franchise were the drafting of Vince Young (a major setback for a team that’s not fully recovered, still) and the foolish firing of beloved Oilers coach Bum Phillips.

Another event shouldn’t leave much of a mark. But in the Internet, cable TV age, it showed the degree of his disconnect that an inability to control himself left an indelible, negative imagine behind. On Nov. 15, 2009, after a regular-season win against the Buffalo Bills, he celebrated from his box by extended two middle fingers toward the visiting team. That was without purpose, cost him a $250,000 fine, and is the first thing that comes to mind for some when his name comes up.

Is that stuff bad enough to offset the strong part of his resume and his strong role in the early history of the AFL, and the AFL and NFL combining forces?

Four of five Hall of Fame voters who Wyatt talked to make a compelling case for Adams, despite it all.

I’m glad it’s colleagues and not me deciding.

But I’ll have no beef if they put a player in ahead of him, again.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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