This article may be a little premature, with 5 games left to play in the season, but I believe the calls for a coaching change at this point are as well. So without seeing the season finish out, I will go ahead and attempt to provide Mike Munchak's defense for him.
The detractors have been numerous and loud over the past two weeks after an inexplicable loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, only to gain volume after a close home loss to the Indianapolis Colts at home on a Thursday night. The case against Mike Munchak as a head coach is pretty simple.
- Current overall record: 20-23
- Current Division record for 2013: 0-3
- Perennially loses to inferior teams. In 2011 the Titans lost to the then winless Colts. In 2012 they lost to the 1-win Jacksonville Jaguars while coming off a bye week. This year the Titans handed the Jaguars their first win of the season as well.
- He's not animated enough and therefor the payers are also not motivated.
- The offensive line has continued to be a detriment to the team, even though he has attempted to overhaul it and should be his specialty.
Overall, the Titans have been a reflection of mediocrity that the fans are tired of. Time to move on, find something or someone that works and get to the playoffs.
As a prelude to defending Mike Munchak's tenure as the Titans head coach, I urge those that didn't previously read this article to do so. The concept of quick turn around teams in the NFL and sustained success is more myth than anything. While a couple of teams may be cited as examples, the reality is that the majority of teams that have had sustained success have built there programs over time.
The Defense (Preaching Patience)
1) This team is much improved from last year.
- The Titans lost by 21, 28, 24, 23, 6, 31, 5, 14, 4, and 48 points last year. Absolute blowouts. They set a franchise record for points allowed on defense and couldn't hardly get a first down on offense.
- The Titans have lost by 6 (in OT), 9, 7, 14, 2, and 3 so far this year. They've been in every game they've played this year with the exception of the 49ers and had a chance to win each of them. The offense and defense both have improved in almost every statistical category as well.
2) The Titans lost their starting quarterback.
Say what you will about Jake Locker, but the Titans were 3-1 before Locker's first injury and 4-2 under him as a starter this year. They've gone 1-6 with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center in the meantime.
The Green Bay Packers have lost 3 straight before resigning Matt Flynn to rally the team to a tie game in overtime without Aaron Rodgers. It's hard enough to win in a league built for parity, but it's really hard to win without your starting quarterback. There's barely enough quarterbacks to fulfill the 32 starting slots available, let alone have a winning #2 without your team missing a beat.
As close as the games have been, even without Locker, it reinforces how much better the team is than previously. We see time and time again that teams without their starting quarterbacks turn south quickly. Are you really going to blame everything on Mike Munchak playing with a back up quarterback who's turnovers could be credited for at least a couple of the team's losses?
3) Mike Munchak makes changes.
All too often we see coaches stick to what they think should work in the face of opposition. They become stubborn to a fault and stick with game plans or personnel that is obviously not performing well.
Munchak isn't afraid to make changes when needed, without being skittish and over reactionary. He's new to the job of being a head coach and he's adapting quickly. His first year was a shotgun marriage, assembling a coaching staff late, and in the year of the lockout. The next year was obviously a disappointment as he overestimated both the staff as well as the roster from the year before. So what did he do? He went out and hired new coaches that he felt would best serve the team and the identity he wanted to build. He also overhauled the roster and acquired the players he thought would best serve the team.
Even during this third year, he hasn't been too hesitant to make necessary changes as a lot of coaches would. Between firing Chris Palmer, cutting Darius Reynaud, benching Rob Turner and making Kenny Britt the water boy, Munchak has proven that he's willing to make whatever changes are necessary to win. He's not too proud to budge off a previous stance, a trait that is rare but beneficial to survival in an ever changing league.
Who Else Are You Going To Get
Making changes for changes sake can often lead to disaster. Take a look at the majority of the teams in the league, and the number of teams of that have shuffled through numbers of coaches to no avail. I'm not saying you should be afraid of change, but people are quick to assume a new coach with a new system will automatically lead to success.
So who are you going to get? This years hottest college coach that wants to make the jump? Maybe Gruden will come out of retirement (I'll believe it when I see it). It's not like there is an automatic answer to the question.
If the Titans were in their third straight year of being a disaster, then great, make a change regardless of who it is. But in this case it could be worse, a lot worse. I would rather give Munchak the chance to finish what he started with his quarterback as well.
Let me make a point that I am not okay with mediocrity. I am not endorsing the idea that "losing by less" is okay or something to strive for. I am saying that I see definitive progress and that Munchak should be given the opportunity to see that progress through. Obviously he would have to make the next step again next year and continue to improve without plateauing.
And yes, I am giving credit to Munchak for digging out of the hole that he himself dug in the first place. But isn't that what you want him to do? Make the necessary changes when something isn't working?
The difference between the best and worst teams in the league aren't as big as many would like to make it out to be. Obviously the goal of every franchise is to win a Superbowl. Making the playoffs and being a contender every year is awfully nice though, and something Titans fans would settle for right now. This is just a reminder that the 3 last teams to win the Superbowl had records of 10-6 or 9-7 for that season.
This team has not given up on each other or the coach. In a league built for parity, I think it takes time to develop a foundation for a winning organization. Scrapping everything every three years is not the answer.