When St. Louis and Tennessee kick it off today in Super Bowl XXXIV, Bud Adams of the Titans will end the longest wait by any NFL owner except Art Modell of the Baltimore Ravens. Adams has owned his franchise for 40 years and was the sole original AFL owner never to have his team play in a Super Bowl.
The first time I met Bud was in Houston, shortly after he and Lamar Hunt founded the old American Football League. Before I visited his office, the feature of which was a waterfall right in the middle of it, I asked a Houstonian who knew him well to describe Adams.
"He bought his dog a boy," was the description.
Another man, a former employee, calls him "a member of the lucky sperm club," meaning that Bud's father was K.S. "Boots" Adams, chairman of giant Phillips Petroleum. When Adams graduated from the University of Kansas, Boots gave him a present of all the company-owned Phillips-66 gas stations in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.
Back in the AFL days, he was as flamboyant as his 10-gallon hat. His team, then the Houston Oilers, appeared in the first three league championship games under three different coaches. Lou Rymkus led the Oilers over San Diego in the first title game. There were photos of Adams embracing Rymkus after the final gun.
The next season Rymkus' Oilers won their opening game then lost three in a row and finally played a tie, after which Adams fired him. Wally Lemm, one of the assistants, was elevated to head coach and led the team to a winning streak and a second AFL championship. Then Lemm wisely quit to become head coach of the NFL's St. Louis Cardinals. Pop Ivy was hired to replace Lemm and he coached the Oilers to another league championship game, only to lose in overtime to the Dallas Texans, who would become the Kansas City Chiefs a few months later.
Adams never won another league or conference championship until now. Instead he became involved in one controversy after another.
When he signed one of the all-time Oiler greats, defensive end Elvin Bethea, he included a herd of cattle as part of Bethea's bonus. The herd, it turned, comprised cows so emaciated their ribs could be counted. Adams became better known for getting into brawls than winning football games.
At one league meeting he was about to lay violent hands upon diminutive Al LoCasale, Al Davis' chief aide with the Raiders. AFL Commissioner Joe Foss stepped between them. The next year Bud got into a fight with the late Jack Gallagher, a Houston Post columnist. Davis, who had just been elected commissioner to succeed Foss, had to break it up. There were court fights, too. Super Bowl VIII was played under the threat of rain in open-air Rice Stadium while the nearby Astrodome lay empty because Adams balked at negotiating a lease for the Oilers to play there.
Adams couldn't even seem to live with success. In 1980, after Bum Phillips, Wade's father, had coached the Oilers to three consecutive double-digit victory seasons, Adams fired him.
The '90s were filled with more acrimonious battles with Houston-area officials before the frustrated Adams decided to move the team to Tennessee in 1995. After the newly named Titans qualified for their first Super Bowl last week, Adams never bothered to salute the fans of his hometown, Houston, for their support of the team over the first 37 years of the franchise.
Winfield is Buffalo's nickel
Rookie Antoine Winfield of the Bills was named the nickel back on USA Today's all-pro team. No Bills were among Pro Football Weekly's "Top 56 Players in the NFL," but two former coaches were among the publication's "greatest NFL coaches of all time." Marv Levy was No. 12 and Chuck Knox No. 13.
Green muddies waters
Part of the surprising upheaval on Minnesota's coaching staff was the result of the heavy-handed maneuvers by coach Dennis Green. That includes the resignation of defensive coordinator Foge Fazio, who quit after inside linebackers coach Tom Olivadotti was fired without Green consulting him.
Fazio then signed with Washington as its linebackers coach.
Around the league
Browns coach Chris Palmer fired five coaches after the team's first season. His old team, Jacksonville, didn't have that many coaching changes in its first five years of existence. Among the Brown casualties was Gowanda native Bob Palcic, the offensive line coach. . . . Chuck Bresnahan, the Raiders' new defensive coordinator, is the son of Tom Bresnahan, the Bills' former offensive coordinator.