Should Jake Locker Injuries Mean Mike Munchak Gets 2014?
Nov 10, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker (10) at the line during warm ups prior to the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
An increasing amount of fans are tiring of the Tennessee Titans’ incompetence toward fielding a legitimate playoff contender. Barring a miraculous turnaround (and a few collapses), the Titans will finish their fifth consecutive season without a playoff appearance. Jan. 2004 was the last time that this team won a playoff game. Locals are frustrated because the main professional sports teams (Nashville Predators, Titans) keep performing at an unacceptable level.
Fans want immediate blood. One method for getting immediate blood: firing the head coach. Mike Munchak will finish his third consecutive season without a playoff appearance. His teams have failed to build off of a first season that included nine victories. In 2012, the Titans saw their win total drop to six. Expect 2013 to fall within the 6-7 win range. That’s very disappointing when one considers how down this entire conference has been.
Should fans get that satisfaction that comes with immediate blood? ESPN and Midday 180’s Paul Kuharsky makes some points about waiting until the end of the season. He claims that Munchak deserves the respect to see out the end of the season. What’s the point of firing him now unless they have an interim coach who could audition for the full-time position? Just fire him at the end of the season and, in the meantime, consider any and all coaching candidates. Don’t drag it out like when they fired Jeff Fisher in late January. That’s too late.
Munchak is running out of excuses. Denver Broncos vs Titans was supposed to provide a “measuring stick” for how close this team was to competing with the conference’s best team. After three seasons, the Titans are no closer than they were when Munchak took over in 2011. They’ve fallen further behind.
But has Munchak received a fair shot? Most of his tenure has revolved around having to win games with a pieced-together coaching staff. Bud Adams did him no favors hiring him so late into that offseason. Then there was the NFL lockout that complicated matters.
Here’s the big one: Jake Locker, Munchak’s franchise quarterback, has only made five ‘healthy’ starts. The rest of Munchak’s tenure has included a stopgap quarterback (Matt Hasselbeck) and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Locker didn’t start any games during his 2011 rookie season. In 2012, Locker suffered a Week 1 shoulder injury that affected him throughout the rest of that season (plus, he aggravated it in Week 4). After a respectable 3.5-week start to 2013, Locker injured his hip and knee. Shortly after rushing back from those injuries, he suffered a season-ending foot injury.
A full 16-game season? For Locker, that may never happen. His injury history dates back to his playing days at the University of Washington. All of his injuries have come to different body parts. It’s not just one area that’s injury prone; it’s his entire body.
Before Locker’s 2013 injury, the Titans had a 3-1 record. When Locker came back, he lost two of his next three, although his knee and hip injuries had visibly affected his performance. Had Locker never gotten injured, then this team could’ve had enough umph to turn those close losses against the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks into upsets. Win even one of those games and who knows how far that momentum carries this team—at least to the AFC’s No. 6 seed.
How does losing starting quarterbacks affect other teams? The 2010 Pittsburgh Steelers started their season without Ben Roethlisberger. Then their No. 2 quarterback got hurt. That didn’t keep them from going 3-1. Keeping the ship afloat, Roethlisberger led the team to a Super Bowl appearance.
The 2013 Green Bay Packers weren’t so fortunate. After losing Aaron Rodgers, the Packers’ 5-2 record quickly became 5-6-1. Losing one starting quarterback turned this team from a Super Bowl contender to a team who can barely beat 2-8, 3-9 teams.
Then there are teams like the Chicago Bears. Losing Jay Cutler hasn’t affected them much. Josh McCown has performed well and maybe even at a higher level than Cutler before his injury.
So how does losing starting quarterbacks affect other teams? Answer: it depends.
A well-coached team can get around it. An elite defense or ground game can keep the team above water. Unfortunately, the Titans don’t have either of these. The defense is improved, but not great. The ground game has been extraordinarily inconsistent. Add in a quarterback who tries to do too much and you got yourself a team who’s 1-5 without Locker.
Munchak hasn’t been dealt a good hand. And if I thought he brought something to the table as a head coach, I’d argue in his defense. Problem is, I don’t see what he offers.
Munchak doesn’t respond well to the media. He’s not good with in-game decisions (e.g. time management, challenges). He doesn’t call plays. His offensive line isn’t playing well. He doesn’t have the network that other coaches have who’ve been coaching with multiple organizations for decades. He’s not the CEO who can run things like Tom Coughlin.
Most important, Munchak can’t get this team to play for 60 minutes. Even worse is that they play the wrong 30-40 minutes. The Patriots get behind early but have enough time to comeback. The Titans start strong but die before the second quarter ends. That’s a huge no-no. For whatever reason, this team quits responding very early into games.
What do our readers think? Does Locker’s injuries mean that Munchak should get one last attempt to turn it around? Are Titans fans too impatient? Is there truth behind Locker’s injuries putting him in a bad situation but you don’t think Munchak would capitalize even if Locker/another quarterback were healthy?
Discuss in the comments, Twitter or Facebook.