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VOL. 37 | NO. 50 | Friday, December 13, 2013

No secret Munchak needs to win out

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Despite allowing 51 points at Denver, losing five of the last seven games and media reports that he might not make it to the end of the season, Titans coach Mike Munchak remains upbeat.

-- Ap Photo/Chris Schneider

It’s amazing what can apparently pass for “breaking news” around the NFL these days.

NFL Network took it upon themselves on Sunday to tell us that Mike Munchak is coaching for his job with the Tennessee Titans.

For those of us in and around Nashville, we’ve known about that since the end of last season when owner Bud Adams, just months before his death at age 90, announced he was keeping Munchak for a third season, but warned that the coach needed to win more games in order to improve his job security.

Other “revelations” in the report indicated that the Titans might not keep Chris Johnson for 2014 and that Jake Locker’s $13 million option for 2015 won’t be picked up.

The fact that the Titans are debating on CJ’s future isn’t new, and no one expects the Titans to pay Locker such a hefty sum when he hasn’t proven he can stay healthy for a full season.

Those things will all be sorted out in due time, but for now the primary focus is on Munchak and whether or not he will return to fulfill the final year of his coaching contract.

The decision will ultimately rest in the hands of Tommy Smith, who has replaced Adams as the team’s president and CEO, but the input of general manager Ruston Webster will also weigh heavily.

To hear the fans voice their opinion, they would have fired Munchak weeks ago. But the final decision won’t be rendered until after the final three weeks of the season.

“l have a chance to talk to everybody then, and say here’s what happened, and here’s how we go forward, here’s the plan and then the decision is made,” Munchak says.

For now, his focus is simply pulling the Titans out of their two-month nosedive and perhaps put a good spin on an otherwise disappointing performance.

“I’m not worried about my job for 8-8, but we need to be 8-8 because we’ve worked so hard and that’s the best we can do. That’s our goal at this point, to win these three games and feel good about ourselves,” Munchak says. “We’re not happy at 8-8, but it’s to help this team going into next year. There’s still a lot of players playing well. We’re obviously not mathematically out of it yet as far as being officially out of the playoffs.”

When Munchak goes in for that meeting, presumably with Webster and Smith, he will no doubt offer that losing quarterback Jake Locker was a near fatal blow for the Titans this season.

He also can point to the fact that the Titans were 3-1 before Locker’s hip injury initially sent him to the sideline and the Titans reeling.

He also should mention that of the 12 teams holding the playoff positions in the NFL, 11 started the same quarterback in every game this season. Philadelphia is the exception as the Eagles may have accidentally discovered a franchise quarterback in Nick Foles, thanks to Michael Vick’s injury.

“We’ve obviously got an issue at quarterback with our quarterback getting hurt the last couple of years with Jake,” Munchak says.

“Look at any team that has lost their quarterback, and it’s hard on any team that has had to make that change. Nothing against Ryan (Fitzpatrick), but it’s different when you have to make that transition from one quarterback to the next quarterback.”

The Titans are still hopeful that Locker can return from his season-ending foot injury and put his career back on track. But his future with the Titans is in doubt, Munchak survives or not.

Whether or not Munchak gets another season, there are a couple of things he can point to as progress, despite the team’s unceremonious slide out of contention.

No. 1, the players are still buying in and playing hard for the coaching staff. Nowhere was that more evident than through the first three quarters of the Denver game, when an outmatched Titans team hung within striking distance.

No. 2, despite obvious holes on the roster, there are some pieces to build with. Young receivers like Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter, plus young linemen Chance Warmack and Brian Schwenke, give hope that the offense’s future could be bright with another off-season or two of additions.

The same can be said on defense, where players like Jurrell Casey and Zach Brown are exactly the type of players who can be cornerstones for the future.

The only question to be answered is whether that future includes Munchak and his staff.

And the final three weeks of the season could tell the answer to that.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com and is a blogger for National Football Post.

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