“Believe me, we will not disappoint you this year.” – Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak.
Get used to seeing that quote. That came straight from the horse’s mouth. Fans were guaranteed that they wouldn’t experience disappointment for a third consecutive season. That doesn’t include the disappointment from the two playoff-less seasons with Jeff Fisher (2009, 2010).
You know what’s disappointing? The Week 11 matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and Titans hadn’t yet started. I’m listening to a Music City Miracles podcast. The debate drifts off into whether any/all of the 2012 blowout losses were worse than a 2013 loss to a winless Jacksonville Jaguars team. Is it worse to lose 55-7 to legitimate playoff teams or lose outright to divisional rivals who have a realistic chance to go 0-16?
Fans were already debating that after nine games? That’s like debating ‘The Pear of Anguish’ or ‘The Breast Ripper’ as the more gruesome of Medieval torture devices. Both devices will result in serious injury or death. Likewise, both types of losses will result in a hot seat that gets hotter than a brazen bull. Eventually, the head coach will succumb to the heat with his job.
Here’s what the debates should’ve been: Which one of these 4-5 or 5-4 teams will visit LP Field in the AFC Wild Card matchup? Any chance at a bye week? When do playoff tickets go on sale? How would they stack up against the New England Patriots? How about that clutch finish against the Kansas City Chiefs, handing them their one and only loss?
Of course, that’s difficult when this team is underachieving to the tune of 4-5. Make that 4-6. The same exact record that Tennessee had at this point last season. They’re 1.5 games out of the AFC’s second wild-card berth. Unfortunately, that Chiefs matchup was one of several where they couldn’t seal the deal in the fourth quarter.
Let me quote what I said in the morning thoughts article:
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…
Simply put, I’m disappointed. So are most Titans enthusiasts.
Maybe you’re a Munchak believer, optimist, loyalist…whatever. With each loss, his support group gets smaller and smaller. You think me—along with a lot of other fans—are way too harsh on the third-year head coach who has represented this franchise for more than three decades. Maybe you blame all of the Titans’ shortcomings on Bud Adams and/or player personnel.
Here’s my question: what does Coach Munchak offer this team that makes them better? Over the last three seasons, why has Munchak’s presence helped this team win more games than if any other average head coach were in charge?
I’m not recommending change just for the sake of change. Other than undying loyalty, I really want to know what his supporters see in him that makes him an above-average head coach. And if he isn’t above average, then why keep him?
Munchak receives a lot of heat because he doesn’t have a fiery sideline demeanor. Fact is, there are successful coaches who keep their emotions intact (e.g. Bill Belichick). From a fan standpoint, that fiery presence is the easiest way to assess motivational skills. That doesn’t mean it’s the only way. Not having a fiery demeanor in and of itself is not enough to can him.
Each coach has his own unique approach to reaching—or attempting to reach—success. Bill Cowher and Jim Harbaugh are passionate motivators. Sean Payton and Mike McCarthy are quality play-callers who have great resumes with building quarterbacks. Tom Coughlin is a CEO who has a deep network full of connections where he can build a quality coaching staff. He’s tremendous with in-game management decisions (e.g. challenges).
What about Munchak? He’s not a play-caller. He’s nowhere near capable of creating an innovative offensive of defensive scheme. His in-game management skills are among the worst of any coach. Despite his history as a Hall of Fame offensive lineman, this offensive line has been nothing more than suspect. His coaching network appears very limited because he has spent his entire career with one organization.
Think about it. How many head coaches spend their entire career with one employer? That rarely happens. Most coaches have worked with multiple employers throughout the collegiate football and NFL ranks. This allows them to meet new people. They get new ideas. They work their way up into an elite coaching role.
Munchak doesn’t have the experience or network that other figures have. He’s entirely dependent on his other coaches. The problem is that his “other coaches” consist of an inexperienced 33-year-old offensive coordinator, a defensive coordinator who’s coming off a season when his unit surrendered a franchise-worst 471 points, a special teams coach who isn’t anywhere near as good as the last person who has fired, a linebackers coach who, just a few seasons ago, was coaching high school football…
A quality coaching staff doesn’t let that 14-0 lead get out of hand. They sweep that 2012 Colts team. They sweep that atrocious 2011 Colts team. This Titans roster is more talented than Indianapolis. Biggest differences are coaching staff and quarterback. Andrew Luck looked like a young Peyton Manning in his methodical dissection of that defense. Of course, Donald Brown looked like an All Pro.
Are you someone who thinks Munchak should get at least one more season? Do you approve of what he has done in his first seasons? Please let me have it in the comments, Twitter or Facebook. I’d love to know “the other side” from those who believe that Coach Munchak is the long-term man for this gig.