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VOL. 38 | NO. 1 | Friday, January 03, 2014

Players sold on Munchak; how about ticket buyers?

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And so the wheels begin to spin for the Tennessee Titans.

After a few days, we will know the fate of Coach Mike Munchak and his staff and have our first real glimpse of what the Tommy Smith Era might be like as the franchise moves forward.

Titans players don’t have a say in the matter now, but all I talked to back the notion of Munchak coming back for the final year of his contract in 2014.

Munchak, General Manager Ruston Webster, who will assist Smith in the decision-making on the coach, and players insist the 2013 squad was much better than the 2012.

“We’re a way-better team than we were last year,” defensive end Derrick Morgan says. “Our record doesn’t show it, but we’ve had some really tough breaks.

“But God-willing, next year, we’re gonna do some really good things. … Munchak is a really great guy. He is straightforward with the players and doesn’t play any mind games. We’ve got his back, and he has our respect. Hopefully, he is here. ... But whatever happens, we’ve got his back.”

Safety Bernard Pollard, who can be a free agent, says he would like to return to Tennessee if the right moves are made in the off-season. He didn’t, of course, specify what those changes would need to be, but endorsed Munchak’s return.

“We have players everywhere at every position, and there is some tweaking that we need to do, or they need to do,” he explained. “I’m excited about the direction they want to go.

“Coach Munch is fired up. He wants to win bad. He’s not stepping out on that field,” Pollard added. “He’s coaching, he’s doing his durndest to make sure we’re in the right position but we as players, we’ve got to be professionals and go out there and play the way we’ve been coached. It just hasn’t happened like that.

“The last couple of weeks, you guys have seen it. ...We have to have players and coaches where we’re making winning calls and winning plays, and we haven’t done that in the nine games. For all of us, we’re all on the hot seat.”

The argument for Munchak no doubt will include the fact that Jake Locker was out for nine games. But that can be looked at two different ways.

There are those who are still Locker doubters who might claim that his presence wouldn’t have guaranteed the Titans the two more victories they would have needed to reach the postseason. On the other hand, it can just as easily be argued that Ryan Fitzpatrick’s propensity for turnovers might have been worth one or two losses this season.

Munchak also will point to five losses by seven points or less as a sign that the Titans are close, just a play here or a play there away from being a bona fide contender.

The 2012 edition of the Titans lost six games by 20 points or more. This year’s team had one (51-28 at Denver).

Of course, the fact two of those “close losses” this year came against AFC South dregs Jacksonville and Houston is a mark against Munchak in the evaluation process.

Munchak still sees the Titans’ glass as half full, and seems to believe a few of the right pieces here and there can catapult the team into contention as soon as next year.

“We have to make good decisions,” he says. “We’re there. There are a lot of good things going on.

“Yes, there’s disappointment. Yes, there’s things that we’re not happy with, and all those things.

“We have to have faith that we’ll do the right thing here, the organization will. This is going to be a team that’s building for success.

“I’ve been here before when we did it this way. It took us four years, and all of a sudden, we went to the Super Bowl after 8-8 and 7-9 and all of those things.”

Right now, mentioning the Titans and Super Bowl in the same sentence sounds very farfetched.

But if Munchak can convince Smith and Webster that upgrades in the right areas are all that is necessary, he just might survive to test his prognosis.

If so, then the next battle for the Titans in the off-season will be to convince a suddenly apathetic fan base to buy in one more time, despite their desires for change – even if it is just for change sake.

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

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