“Believe me, we will not disappoint you this year.”
Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak is 10 games into that promise. The Titans are 4-6 with a 0-3 divisional record. For the third consecutive season, the Titans lost to the NFL’s worst team. They’ve lost five of their last six games. There are inconsistencies in many elements of their week-by-week performances. Home games are far from automatic victories. In three seasons, Munchak has a 4-11 record against AFC South teams. He’s 3-17 against teams with winning records…
Maybe Coach Munchak was right. Maybe I’m not disappointed. Maybe it’s something far beyond that. After a 30-27 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in which they squandered a 14-0 first quarter lead, there’s no reason to think “playoffs” are in this team’s future. Cue Jim Mora on that one…
Here are some observations from that Thursday Night Football letdown.
- Basically, Tennessee spots their opponents 7-plus points because they’ll always have a significant special teams gaffe or offensive turnover deep in their own territory. Whenever these plays happen, the team goes into meltdown mode. The players go in that “here we go again” routine and they just get gashed from that point forward. Munchak can’t get this team to respond after bad incidents. On the other hand, the Colts maintained their composure after falling behind 14-0.
- I said it last week and I’ll say it again: Firing Alan Lowry may end up costing Munchak his job. Brett Kern botches a punt, Devon Wylie is another kickoff returner who doesn’t know what he’s doing, and the onside-kick attempts are basically the waving of the white flag.
- Forget about touchdowns and big plays. A return specialist has two main jobs. These are controlling the football and getting it to the 20-yard-line. The Titans have had three returners. None of them can do this.
- Dowell Loggains appears much more comfortable when he calls plays for Ryan Fitzpatrick. A lot of five-wide sets. He abandons the ground game too early. He panics as soon as the Titans fall behind. That’s a testament to his inexperience and youth. He was thrown into a position that he wasn’t mature enough for at this stage of his career.
- One person who’s getting too much love: Gregg Williams. This “Gregg Williams gets credit for good defensive plays, Jerry Gray gets blamed for bad defensive plays” has gotten stale. The defense is about the same as it was when Gray coached it in 2011. This is an average defense that regresses with each week. You can do better and you can do worse. Promoting Williams based on this 2013 performance (or his late few seasons with New Orleans Saints)…no.
- It’s nice to see Middle Tennessee State University alumni Erik Walden enjoying a length NFL career. Too bad his three most memorable incidents include head-butting a helmetless Delanie Walker (how does Walden not get ejected when the referee was right in front of it?), an alleged assault on his live-in girlfriend, and Colin Kaepernick running past him all throughout that 2013 NFC Divisional playoff game because he wouldn’t contain his edge.
- Could the linebackers have played any worse? Once again, Donald Brown looks like an All Pro against Tennessee’s defense. Coby Fleener played the role of “ghost man” as nobody covered him. Akeem Ayers had another 15-yard penalty. Other than those nauseating penalties, what has he done this season? A few of Brown’s runs happened because Colin McCarthy was out of position or not aggressively attacking the hole.
- It was a sloppily officiated game for both teams. Can’t blame Munchak for not winning that challenge. How do the officials miss 14 men on the field? Why didn’t they eject Walden?
- I’ve all-but-fallen in love with Delanie Walker. He backed up his comments following the Jacksonville Jaguars fiasco with a strong performance. Very glad that he’s on this team. The Titans need more of those personalities.
- Andy Levitre with ANOTHER holding penalty during a crucial drive. He seemed to play well for the rest of the game. EDIT – Actually, I believe this was Chris Spencer. Announcer initially said Levitre (Brad Nessler kept getting things wrong all night. Easy to tell they don’t do much Titans games)
- Here’s a random thought I’ll throw out about special teams: Is it possible that losing last year’s special team captain Tim Shaw has affected the unit?
- Give credit to Fitzpatrick, who played a solid game. Too bad the effort was wasted with inept defense and special teams.
I’m not getting too much into Munchak here. I’ll save that for later today. If you’re a Munchak optimist / believer than you’re strongly encouraged to join that conversation and explain why he should get another season. What would possibly change in 2014? What is his strength that makes him an appealing head coach?
What are your thoughts? Give your takes in the comments, Twitter or Facebook.