NASHVILLE, Tenn. —Steve Underwood had a chance to ride off into the sunset.
He started down that road, in fact, when he retired from the Titans organization in 2011, after serving 35 years with the franchise.
When he got a call from the team's ownership group last March, however, Underwood decided to come back to work. On Monday, the interim tag was removed from his job description as he became the team's president and chief executive officer on a permanent basis.
Underwood provides stability at a time when the team begins its search for a new general manager, and head coach. On Monday, the team opted not to renew the contract of Ruston Webster while also opening a head coaching search. Mike Mularkey, who served as interim coach the final nine games of the season, is a candidate for the job.
"I have a legacy here. I had the honor of working for their father and grandfather for all those years,'' Underwood said of long-time Oilers-Titans owner Bud Adams. "When (the family) called, I was a little surprised. I had been retired for 3 ½ years. But when someone calls you and wants your help and thinks you're the right person for the job they have for you to do, that is a very redeeming kind of phone call … and that meant something to me.
"… It is hard to turn someone down who has been that much a part of your career for so many years."
Titans President/CEO Steve Underwood addresses head coach and GM search with reporters at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Donn Jones Photography)
Underwood served for four years and the team's senior executive vice president and general counsel from 2008-11 until retiring in 2011. He rejoined the Titans as interim president and CEO in March 2015.
Underwood previously served as a general counsel and in other key capacities for the franchise for a 35-year period. He's been involved in coaching searches in the past.
"I think I can say without any hesitation it is the greatest personal privilege of my career to have been asked to (remain on a permanent basis), and I am so grateful, and so humbled by being asked and very excited about continuing in that role,'' Underwood said.
"You know, these days, to be with the same organization for 35 years, it is something that is kind of rare. The NFL is a one-of-a-kind industry and I feel exceedingly blessed and honored to accept the role of president and CEO of the Tennessee Titans and Nissan Stadium."
Underwood said controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk and Kenneth Adams IV from the ownership group will be involved in the interview process for both jobs, along with himself and Vin Marino, Vice President of Football Administration.
Underwood realizes the significance of the job ahead. The Titans fired Ken Whisenhunt in November after just 23 games, and a 3-20 record in 1 ½ seasons as head coach.
The Titans finished the 2015 season with a 3-13 record, a year after finishing with a 2-14 mark.
"The three most difficult things that NFL owners do is select a head coach, a general manager and a club president, sort of in that order, and it is historically kind of a hit or miss thing,'' Underwood said. "You can look around today and see how many head coaches are being fired, and really you can look at our own franchise and see what's happened to head coaches over the last five years. It is a very difficult undertaking.
"… But it is so important and so vital that you have a quarterback, a head coach and a GM and somebody to help you navigate the waters of our business. We already have one of those pieces, at least we strongly believe that we do in Marcus (Mariota). We need to find people to surround him with that will help him mature as an NFL quarterback and lead our franchise to success."