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Volume 24 No. 114

Franchises

David Beckham and his business partners are preparing for a "late-January official launch of Miami’s long-awaited" MLS team, according to a front-page piece by Michelle Kaufman of the MIAMI HERALD. The team is scheduled to begin play in the '20 season, although it "may have to play in a temporary site the first season if the Overtown stadium is not completed in time." Jorge Mas, who is partnering with Beckham along with his brother, Jose, and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure, said, "I’m very excited for what we can bring the Miami soccer fan, and we’ll have some big news to announce in Miami in the near future." The team name and preliminary uniform designs would be unveiled at the formal launch, which is "expected to be attended by Beckham, his partners, and MLS Commissioner Don Garber." The Mas brothers spent two days last week "going over team structure, philosophy, branding and stadium plans with Beckham and Claure." They also met with K.C.-based Populous about the design of the stadium. Mas: "We went very detailed into fan demographic needs, sound level, canopies that retain sound, how to angle the stadium, sight lines, everything you can imagine." Mas said that there are "plans to have a fan plaza outside the stadium, and a March to the Match along the Miami River, similar to the pre-match march Sounders fans do in Seattle." Kaufman notes the current MLS entry fee is $100-150M. A source said that Beckham's group is "not paying that much," but is paying more than $25M. The Mas brothers and Claure together will be the majority owners, with Beckham and his longtime business partner Simon Fuller and SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son "holding minority stakes" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/15).

The Titans and coach Mike Mularkey this morning "mutually agreed to part ways after discussions about a contract extension crumbled," according to Jason Wolf of the Nashville TENNESSEAN. Titans Exec VP & GM Jon Robinson will "conduct a search for a new head coach." Mularkey was "entering the final year of a three-year contract," and the move is likely over whether to "keep certain assistant coaches in place." The Titans before losing to the Patriots Saturday in the AFC divisional round "finished with a 9-7 regular-season record for the second consecutive season, reached the playoffs for the first time in nine years and won a postseason game for the first time in 14 years." But the season "largely fell short of expectations, in and outside of the team’s headquarters" (TENNESSEAN.com, 1/15). NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports Robinson and Titans CEO Steve Underwood told Mularkey before the Pats game that he would receive an extension and he was "their guy." But the Titans had "planned to fire" Mularkey after Week 17 and then "after the playoff loss that never came." Rapoport writes today's firing likely was "about not bringing in" a new offensive coordinator (TWITTER.com, 1/15). ESPN's Field Yates notes the move is a "surprise, as this is a man who the players clearly respected and the team has thrown public confidence behind the last eight days" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/15).

RUMBLINGS IN THE BUILDING: ESPN’s Adam Schefter said it “has been an ongoing situation in Nashville” in terms of Mularkey’s status. Titans Controlling Owner Amy Adams Strunk came out "with a message of support about 10 days ago" in which she said Mularkey would be the coach "moving forward." Schefter: "But she really didn't commit to him for the 2018 season. There were people that had support for him and there were some people that felt the organization was better off making a change.” The “two sides had some contract extension talks last week, but ... as recently as yesterday there were discussions in the building about whether they should be making that change which superseded any talks of an extension" (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 1/15).

There is going to be a meeting between Patriots Owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady after the season to "clear the air and get through a lot of this tension they've had to deal with this season," according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. There is "tension from the Jimmy Garappolo trade and who wanted what, to Tom Brady's trainer and all of these issues they've battled through this year." Many of the issues were brought up in an ESPN.com story posted earlier this month. Kraft, Belichick and Brady are expected to continue working together "past this season," and it is "really on these guys to come together after the season, figure it out, and move forward" ("NFL GameDay Morning," NFL Network, 1/13). Kraft appeared on Boston's WBZ-CBS prior to Saturday's AFC divisional round game against the Titans and said, "When you have something good going, there’s always tension. If you have good people, there’s a lot of dynamic things going on. There is nothing that much out of the ordinary." In Boston, Steve Buckley wrote the "good times Saturday night don’t destroy the narrative that Kraft, Belichick and Brady have ... issues," as the 35-14 win "merely puts the narrative on hold." However, one thing that has been learned after 18 years of the Kraft-Belichick-Brady triumvirate working together is there has "yet to be an off-the-field distraction that can afford a ticket to get inside Gillette Stadium on Game Day" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/15). CBS Sports Network's Amy Trask said, "You don't have the sustained success ... unless you know how to run a business, and they do it spectacularly" ("That Other Pregame Show," CBSSN, 1/14).

New Texans GM Brian Gaine will have "control of personnel and football operations" as part of a five-year deal that sees him filling the role left open by Rick Smith, according to John McClain of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Gaine, who comes to the team after serving as Bills VP/Player Personnel, will report to Texans Owner Bob McNair and Vice Chair & COO Cal McNair. Gaine will "work closely" with coach Bill O'Brien and VP/Football Administration Chris Olsen. The Texans also gave O'Brien and Olsen "four-year extensions." Olsen, who "handles the salary cap and contract negotiations, was promoted" from his role as VP/Football Administration. During three seasons working under Smith before joining the Bills, Gaine was "respected by the personnel department, the coaching staff and members of the administrative side or the organization." O'Brien was "on the search committee with the McNairs," and while Gaine will have the "final say on personnel -- just as Smith did -- O'Brien will continue to have control over his coaching staff as well as who plays and doesn't play on game days" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/14). The CHRONICLE's McClain writes this "should be one of the best weeks" of O'Brien's career. He just signed an extension that "takes him through" the '22 season and got the GM he "wanted" in Gaine. O'Brien said, "Brian's a very detailed and thorough evaluator. He's a very hard worker. He's a guy the organization really believes in" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/15).

WHO'S THE BOSS? In Houston, Brian Smith wrote Bob McNair "believes in O'Brien" because that is the "true takeaway from a decision that was months in the making." It is "amazing that after 16 years of owning a pro football team, McNair is now publicly celebrating getting everyone on the same philosophical page." It is also "clearer than ever that McNair -- and, thus, the Texans -- are still learning how to win." Smith: "Who else would gift-wrap a multiyear extension after going 4-12?" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/14). 

The Broncos are forging ahead "without a stated frontrunner to succeed" Owner Pat Bowlen, creating an "outside perception that there are fissures at the top" of the organization, according to Nicki Jhabvala of the DENVER POST. Many of the details of how the Broncos plan to decide on Bowlen's successor "have remained secret out of respect for the Bowlen family and because the team is under no obligation to disclose such information." A broad plan was outlined three years ago "to find the most capable among Bowlen's seven children to succeed him." The team's ownership in October '13 was placed "in the hands of three trustees" -- team President & CEO Joe Ellis, General Counsel & Exec VP Rich Slivka and Denver attorney Mary Kelly. Ellis has "full authority to make final decisions for the team" as Controlling Owner Delegee. It was Bowlen's "desire to keep the team within the family, but if the trustees ever deem it in the best interest of the team and the trust's beneficiaries -- Bowlen's children -- to sell, they have complete authority to do so." Sources said that the three trustees sent Bowlen's children and wife a "lengthy blueprint" in February '15 that included a "list of requisites, in addition to a short list of responsibilities, for whomever will be the next controlling owner." Since Bowlen stepped down, Ellis has "remained adamant that the team will eventually be passed down to Bowlen's children." The "exact timetable for a transfer of ownership has yet to be determined." But the NFL "won't wait forever, as evidenced by its mandates and sales of other teams in the past" (DENVER POST, 1/13).

The Raptors' City Edition jersey borrows the "black and gold colourways" from rapper Drake's OVO brand and "boast the word 'NORTH' instead of Toronto or Raptors," according to Mark Daniell of the TORONTO SUN. The jersey has "six points to represent the six boroughs of Toronto." When the Raptors wear the jerseys they will "play on a redesigned court with the slogan, 'Welcome Toronto'" (TORONTOSUN.com, 1/12). SPORTSNET.ca's Dave Zarum wrote the Raptors' jerseys are "fine and certainly a departure from the teams traditional digs, but are fairly white bread compared to the recently unveiled looks" from teams like the Magic or Trail Blazers. Zarum: "Regardless of what you think of the Raptors’ new threads, we can all come together and agree that at the very least they’re not as bad as Cleveland’s" (SPORTSNET.ca, 1/12).

In Green Bay, Richard Ryman reported the Packers will not host the NFL Draft until at least '21 because the team wants to "wait for the opening of a new Brown County expo center" near Lambeau Field. The Packers "recently provided the NFL with a revised letter of interest." The team originally suggested '19 to "mark its 100th anniversary, but decided a later date would work better." Packers Dir of Public Affairs Aaron Popkey: "Titletown will be further along, we'd have the expo center; things, we think, would play favorably to a stronger application." The NFL has "not announced a site" for the '19 Draft (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 1/13).

FOR THE FANS: The Hornets next season will celebrate their 30th anniversary with a "number of festivities, including several appearances at games by former big-name players and several '80s and '90s-themed nights." It will also "include a 30th anniversary team, which will be selected via fan voting and revealed during a series of 'Classic Nights' throughout the season." The Hornets on Saturday began "selling a selection of 30th anniversary merchandise in the team store." The '19 All-Star Game will cap off the "season-long anniversary" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/13).

OFF TO A GOOD START: Fans of Overwatch League franchise Boston Uprising gathered at The Greatest Bar in Boston Thursday night to watch the team play its "first match vs. the New York Excelsior." The match occurred in L.A., but the crowd was "reminiscent of those that watch Patriots games on Sundays" (ESPN.com, 1/11). The Uprising has "utilized resources and staff from its parent company, the Kraft Group, and their sister franchises," the Patriots and Revolution, to "promote local awareness in the Boston and New England areas" (ESPN.com, 1/11).