Perhaps the most tumultuous period in Titans history is nearly over. Mike Munchak is officially in and is laying down the law big time. We're all mostly familiar with his latest hirings and the general consensus is that this is a solid coaching staff. Thing is, I really don't get it.
Far be it for me to tell you all what to think, but it seems to me as though there were a whole lot of knee-jerk reactions around here during the hire-frenzy of the past few months. There's nothing wrong with that, I'm guilty too. I passed judgment very quickly on guys like Palmer and Gray without first carefully considering the facts and tidbits of pertinent stats or numbers that could give me a good idea based of what type of coaches they were. This lead to me formulating opinions based purely on speculation and without much basis. Essentially, I was being a dismissive reader when faced with new information and now that the smoke has cleared, I think that I've got a better idea of what we're working with here.
I was talking with hal earlier about the recent additions and I think that we both agreed that this coaching staff could've been planned out and assembled in a way that would not only have brought more excitement, but more importantly, in a way that wasn't so...thoroughly underwhelming. Allow me to explain myself.
First off, let me clarify something. Just because I'm not totally sold on one any of these guys doesn't mean that I can't be won over easily. In fact, I've never wanted to be more wrong in my entire life. If these guys prove me wrong and come in to do a bang up job of things, you better believe that I'll be the happiest guy on the planet. That being said, I am not thrilled at the moment about the state of the staff.
I'll start off with Dave Ragone, mostly because he has the hardest job in the planet; replacing our pal, Fred Youknowhatitis Graves. Oh, and because I'm totally baffled as to why he was given the job in the first place. Step 1: Hire unsuccessful pro quarterback to coach mediocre group of pro receivers. Step 2: ?. Step 3: PROFIT?? Maybe, but this hire came from way out of left-field. Whoever saw this coming deserves a medal or something. I mean, he sort of played QB for the Texans for about three years before taking his talents to Europe and quarterbacking Berlin and finally landing with St. Louis for about half a year only to retire.
Ragone's brief and puzzling coaching career began when he accepted the QB coach position with the Hartford Colonials of the UFL which somehow qualifies him to be a wide receivers coach in the NFL. Speculation suggests that Ragone has been brought in specifically because he's a good offensive mind, but I've yet to see the evidence of that. Seemingly his only redeeming quality is the fact that he was a pretty awesome college QB and made the All-American list three times. Ragone, I've got my eye on you.
Next, we have new offensive line coach Bruce Matthews. Honestly, I couldn't be happier with this. Maybe it's the sentimentalist in me, but seeing Bruce back in Nashville just makes me confident about the future of our offensive line. He'll have the opportunity to work with a group of guys desperate for a leader after the departure of Kevin Mawae and, like most of the rest of the team, in need of a lesson in discipline and organization.
Also; Munchak stole him from Houston. What more could you possibly want?
The new running backs coach is Jim Skipper. In almost complete contrast to our pal Ragone up there, Skipper has just about the easiest job in the NFL in coaching a group that includes the most talented back in the league. I'm fairly certain that Johnson doesn't need much work, but I really hope that Skipper works well with Ringer in the off season, I see a lot of potential in him and it would go a long way towards preserving CJ's career if Javon could be trusted with a larger workload.
To sum it up, Skipper's got a long history of developing running backs and 20+ years of experience, the hire was a no-brainer and I expect big things from him.
Frank Bush, the new linebackers coach, is another carryover from Munchak's glory days on the Oilers in the closing years of the 80's. I don't really know what to think here. He was the coordinator for perhaps the worst pass defense in NFL history last year and yet, by some sort of
divine intervention, he has a job coaching what was probably the weakest unit of our team.
I get the impression that he's got some sort of reputation for being able to coach linebackers at a very high level despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary (see: 2010 Houston Texans). 1995 was his first year in the league as a linebacker coach and he did a fairly decent job at it. One of his players, Bill Romanowski, made the only two Pro-Bowl appearances of his career with Bush at the head of the unit, so make of that what you will. His next stint was in Arizona in 2004-2006 under the Dennis Green regime. These were some bad, bad defensive teams, however, Bush did get the opportunity to work with rookie linebacker Karlos Dansby who has blossomed into one of the league's better players at the position.He served as a main defensive assistant to Gary Kubiak whose defenses were the main reason the Texans have still never made the playoffs. In 2009, he was promoted to defensive coordinator and promptly stunk up the joint, leading to his firing this off season.
Maybe it's just me, but does anybody else get the feeling that this guy is surviving only on his past Oiler connections? There seems to be a theme here.
Tracy Rocker rounds out the list of positional coaches and has the almost impossible task of replacing the great Jim Washburn. Washburn was always known for getting the best out of his players and it wouldn't be a stretch to say that he was the only coach Albert Haynesworth would play for. Needless to say, Rocker has got some immense shoes to fill. I'm somewhat skeptical at this point for some reason, but his list of players coached includes Nick Fairly and Jamal Anderson, one of which is now making a bid to become the number one overall pick. Here's an interesting tidbit: Rocker's 2006 unit was the most adept line in the SEC (and 21st in the country) at taking down the ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage. Most of that credit goes to the defensive coordinator, but remember that their technique doesn't just come naturally; Rocker is working with these guys every day. All in all, I'm actually very satisfied with this hire.
Probably the best hire of this off-season was Jerry Gray at defensive coordinator. This was one of the ex-Oilers that I did end up liking and I think he's got some real staying power if past performance is any type of indicator. Gray was originally the defensive backs coach for the Titans in 1999 and when Gregg Williams left to coach Buffalo, Gray was hired to be the defensive coordinator. This is the type of past performance I'm talking about: Gray was the mastermind behind some of the best defenses in football for a run of about three years prior to leaving for Washington to coach defensive backs.
However, Gray gets an asterisk in my book. When I looked at the roster, I noticed that he had some serious talent on that side of the ball. I still believe that no matter who is coaching the defense, great players will generally find ways to succeed, so should the majority of our credit be going to Gray or his players? It's up for debate, but that's where I stand on the issue. Gray was also another guy who Munchak swooped in to grab at the last second, only this time it was from the University of Texas.
Finally, you have Chris Palmer, the ever-unpopular pick at offensive coordinator. When Palmer was first hired, my reaction was one of anger and shock. While most of the anger has faded to a mere bitter aftertaste, the shock is still pretty much there. Why, after trying to go with a more youthful approach to the coaching staff all off-season, do you pick up Palmer, a mostly unsuccessful coordinator who spent last year in the UFL? I won't hate on him because he's old though. Hell, if he can get this offense to maximum potential then I'll praise his name and sacrifice a goat in his honor, but what does he offer at this point? Obviously, I was expecting more from Munchak, I really thought he'd bring in someone better.
So anyways, that's the list of coaches and coordinators hired in the first house-cleaning operation in Titans history. Out with the old, in with the new and all that. But why all the excitement? There's nothing on this list that makes me say "Wow! Now we have the coaching staff to win the Super Bowl!" I understand that this is a time of transition and with that transition comes a lot of hope for the future of this team, but perhaps we should temper our expectations a little bit for 2011? Be honest; how many of you were clamoring for Mike Munchak, Jerry Gray, and Chris Palmer when the team was collapsing on itself in week 11 against Washington? Like I discussed earlier with rothbard and hal, the path to head coach is one that should be paved with success as a coordinator. This shows that the coach in question is capable of at least handling a single unit, whether that unit be offensive or defensive, even special teams coordinators are preferable to position coaches in my opinion. I think that rising through the ranks of the several levels of the coaching ladder is extremely important and that the jump from position coach to head coach in one year is too much for most men to handle. It's not like there haven't been successes, but I get the feeling that it's very much a hit-or-miss process with very little gray area.
The good news is that we've cut ties with Fisher and the rest of the old guard. I think that there's something to be said for trying something new, especially when doing the same thing over and over again has gotten you nowhere in nearly a decade.