Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tennessee Titans Gamble on Chris Johnson Shows Bud Adams Forgets His Past

Chris Johnson is the best running back in the NFL today, and has been the past few seasons. He has accomplished this respect despite having virtually no help on offense besides his blockers.

Now Johnson wants to get paid like he is amongst the best in the NFL. The problem is that he plays a position where the average career doesn't last even two years. Gambling that a running back reliant on his speed can keep up his current pace after 925 carries in his first three seasons seems a bad bet to some.

Yet Johnson, the 2009 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, has gone to the Pro Bowl all three years. His $12 million contract pales in comparison to the $40 million five-year deal Minnesota Vikings star halfback Adrian Peterson has.

Why Titans owner Bud Adams has allowed Johnson to miss so much training camp is bewildering. Adams is a maverick owner known for being aggressive to help his team win.

One of the original owners to kick-start the American Football League in 1960, Adams got the AFL front page headlines on most newspapers right away. He did this by taking on the established and powerful NFL.

Billy Cannon had just won the 1959 Heisman Trophy and was at the top of everyone's list as the most desired college football player in the 1960 draft. Pete Rozelle was still the general manager of the Los Angeles Rams, but was about to assume the duties of NFL commissioner for the next 30 years.

Rozelle made it no secret the Rams, who owned the first pick of the 1960 NFL Draft, was going to select Cannon. Adams decided to go a route few saw coming.

During the 1959 Sugar Bowl, Adams found his way along the sideline. When the game ended, he approached Cannon and got him to sign an AFL contact to play with Adam's Houston Oilers. The Oilers, now named the Titans after moving to Tennessee in 1997, would win the first two AFL titles.

Rozelle was not pleased with how Adams got Cannon on his team, so he threatened legal action. Adams took the NFL to court and won. But he was not done helping stabilize the AFL. Adams was crucial in helping a struggling New York Titans franchise, now named the Jets, stay in business.

These were critical moves that gave the AFL more power and eventually force the NFL to merge the two leagues. Adams vision is big reason the AFC is in existence today.

You'd think a man that aggressive would not lollygag about and let his best player twist in the wind. Especially since the team just hired a new head coach and got rid of a quarterback who was supposed to be a star there for years.

Adams certainly hasn't lost the fire in his gut at 88-years old, as was seen in 2009 when Adams gave the bird to Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson during the Titans 41-14 victory. Old friends who started the AFL together, the playful Adams was eventually fined $250,000 for his obscene gesture.

Yet not giving Johnson a contract worthy of his skills may be the more obscene gesture that Adams has given in years. Typically overly generous and loyal to his team, Adams is not doing himself any favors by dragging on this contact dispute.

Johnson is in Titans headquarters trying to get a contact done so he can play football again. While Adams might want some clauses in the contract he eventually offers, because of the tenuous life an NFL running back lives, he should allow Johnson the opportunity to play and earn a paycheck that is along the lines of Peterson's huge contract.

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