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Mike Munchak made another head-scratching move with the removal of Alan Lowry Friday. As a head coach, you're often only as successful as the people around you. Have the Titans improved their staff?
Before I begin, I want to get this out of the way right off the bat. This post is not meant to be interpreted as "The Titans shouldn't have fired Jeff Fisher." He needed to be relieved of his duties here.
Now that that's done, let's talk about Jeff Fisher!
I have great deal of respect for him as a coach and think he's one of the best coaches in the league. I'm aware that most of us here don't subscribe to his plan for success (read: run-heavy), but that shouldn't overshadow what he has accomplished.
I didn't write that just to fill my yearly quota of Jeff Fisher love, but rather to indicate why I want to use Jeff Fisher as an example. Consider his coaching staff in 2010. I'll include the list of coordinators and a few other notables.
OC: Mike Heimerdinger
DC: Chuck Cecil
OL: Mike Munchak
DL: Jim Washburn
LB: Dave McGinnis
ST: Alan Lowry
Offensive Quality Control: Dowell Loggains (entering his first year)
Fisher surrounded himself with a strong supporting cast. Mike Munchak was a great OL coach; one of the best in the league. We had one of the top defensive line coaches and Dave McGinnis was a former head coach. Everyone knows how much I respected Alan Lowry's work. Before people rip up Chuck Cecil, they should consider that he's better than what we have now and that the prior defensive coordinators include Jim Schwartz and Greg Williams. For the most part Fisher did a good job finding DCs.
So now we can get back to why I wanted to write this post. Good head coaches surround themselves with good assistants. This seems to be an under-emphasized point by the media. For instance I don't know a great deal about Rob Chudzinski, but if he brings Norv Turner in as OC then you'd have to feel he's off to a strong start. Fisher knew that to be successful you need the right guys around you and plenty of other coaches in the league do too. Why do people like to pluck coaches from the Belichick tree? Why is Greg Roman interviewing for possible head coaching gigs?
Just like identifying what players work best for your team, a head coach must also identify and hire good assistants. This becomes even more crucial when you hire an offensive line coach to run the team. If Munchak had brought in two great coordinators then I'd think more highly of his work. Let's look at his coaching staff now:
HC: Mike Munchak
OC: Dowell Loggains (until I'm told otherwise) and previously Chris Palmer
DC: Jerry Gray
OL: Bruce Matthews
DL: Tracy Rocker
LB: Vacant, formerly Frank Bush's spot
ST: Vacant, formerly Alan Lowry's spot
Some of these guys have certainly helped the team in the past two years, but I'd argue we are weaker at every single one of those coaching spots. Part of that isn't Munchak's fault. Jim Washburn had a long time to build up his reputation as one of the best and for all we know Rocker may go on to a long and storied career in the NFL. He just hasn't had the time to really prove himself. The point remains however that if I had to choose between the two for an upcoming season, I would certainly choose Jim Washburn.
Let's look at the two big hires he's made. Chris Palmer was a bad one; that was easily predicted from the start. Defensively, we have a coordinator who is really only good at stopping Ryan Tannehill and Mark Sanchez. On a personal level I'm sure Mike Munchak is a great guy and his Oilers-Titans story is certainly something this franchise respects. On a professional level if he wants to remain employed much longer he is going to have to put smart people around him and I'm not sure he's capable of doing so.
Most recently Munchak just fired Alan Lowry, someone who I hold in high regard. Maybe Munch is just doing what he wanted to do in 2010 but convinced himself to hold off on. I won't pretend to know the logic behind the move but at first blush I clearly don't think it's a wise one.
Once again I'll reiterate that this isn't meant to say we should have kept all or any of the 2010 coaches following Fisher's dismissal. We needed new voices in many of those spots. There's just that lingering feeling that not only did we hire a bad head coach but that the overall staff was greatly weakened as well. That's often what happens when you make the wrong move with the top spot.
In fairness to Mike Munchak, maybe the new guys he brings in will have a great impact on the team and the Titans will have a great season. Things look pretty gloomy at the moment but maybe he'll prove us all wrong.
Bud Adams said that Munchak needed the right guys around him to be successful and has been given the opportunity to alter the staff however he sees fit. Right now though he has chosen to surround himself with poor assistants and that is certainly a fatal flaw.
Your move, Coach.