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Titans owner Bud Adams dies at the age of 90

By Josh Katzowitz | NFL Writer

Bud Adams was one of the original AFL owners with the Houston Oilers. (USATSI)
Bud Adams was one of the original AFL owners with the Houston Oilers. (USATSI)

Titans owner Bud Adams, who helped start the AFL and then landed in the NFL with the Houston Oilers before moving his team to Tennessee, has died at the age of 90, the team has confirmed. According to the Titans, Adams "passed away peacefully from natural causes at his home this morning in Houston."

Adams' career had been long and colorful, and his impact on the league has been immense.

"Bud Adams played an pivotal role in the growth of pro football as a pioneer and innovator," commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "As a founding owner of the American Football League that began play in 1960, Bud saw the potential of pro football and brought the game to new cities and new heights of popularity, first in Houston and then in Nashville. He was a brilliant entrepreneur with a terrific sense of humor that helped lighten many a tense meeting. His commitment to the best interests of the game and league was unwavering, and his personal along with the team's impact in community relations and philanthropy set a standard for the NFL. Bud was truly a gift to the NFL. We extend our deepest sympathy to his daughters Susan and Amy, and the entire family."

While Adams tried to buy an NFL team in the late 1950s, he -- along with future Dallas Texans and Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt -- was denied access in his attempt to procure the Chicago Cardinals. But Hunt approached him and convinced him that they should start a new league to compete against the established NFL.

Adams, who made his money in the oil business, agreed, and the two helped establish the American Football League.

The two were part of the original AFL owners who were dubbed "The Foolish Club" because it seemed as though they were spending huge amounts of money to start what was basically an unwinnable battle against the NFL.

Adams and the rest of the owners eventually were vindicated when the AFL forced the NFL to merge -- it should be noted that then-AFL commissioner Al Davis didn't want a deal with the NFL, because he thought the AFL had the potential to drive the NFL out of business (and at that point in the mid- to late-1960s, the AFL appeared to be winning the battle).

After winning the first two AFL titles in 1960 and 1961, the Oilers fell into a long slump that included back-to-back one-win seasons in 1972 and 1973. But Adams hired Sid Gillman and Bum Phillips to take over, and from 1978-80, the Oilers returned to the postseason, much to the love of the city of Houston.

But when Adams didn't get a stadium deal that would replace the Astrodome, he moved the team to Tennessee, leaving a bitter city that, in some ways, has not forgiven Adams.

Adams also was involved in recent controversy when he had to apologize for flipping the bird to the crowd in a 2009 game after the Titans beat the Bills.

It remains to be seen whether Adams will garner enough interest to reach the Pro Football Hall of Fame, though Adams said in September that he would love to be considered -- for the record, Bills owner Ralph Wilson, who's now the last AFL owner still alive, was inducted in 2009. Adams is currently one of the nominees for the class of 2014.

"Besides the playoffs, one thing I would like to accomplish is to be considered in the Pro Football Hall of Fame," he said. "... 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."

Adams' death comes just three days after the death of former Oilers coach Bum Phillips.

"He meant a great deal to this franchise, the NFL and the city of Houston, and he was instrumental to the Oilers during the Luv Ya Blue era,” Adams said in a statement after Phillips' death. “Growing up in Texas and working his way up through the Texas football ranks, he was a natural match for our team. Those were such magical years, and his leadership and personality helped our team rise to the top.”

As good as some of his teams were, though, neither the Oilers nor the Titans have ever won a Super Bowl title, something Adams desperately wanted.

“I'd like to wear (a ring) that says, ‘Super Bowl champions' on there. … I'll keep my fingers crossed,'' Adams said in a 2009 interview. “But at my age I just take it one day, one game at a time. You can't build your hopes up.”

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