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Music City Moments: The Mike Munchak Era

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A look back at the Munchak era, 3 years later.

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The past couple of Throwback Thursday's have been positive moments. However, today's will be a little different. While it does not cover a specific game like the others and is not necessarily positive or negative, it is interesting to take a look at things, 3 years later:

Context: Things started to fall into place for Munchak shortly after the Vince Young fiasco, which we have already covered at length. At the end of the 2010 season, Jeff Fisher was set to remain the Titans' head coach. However, things changed in late January--both sides agreed to part ways. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, this happened in late January. This meant that the annual NFL coaching cycle was all but complete for not only all viable head coaching candidates, but the assistants that fell into place as well. As soon as Jeff Fisher left, it was reported that then-offensive line coach Mike Munchak would be the favorite for the job. This was a surprise among the fanbase, due to the fact that he'd never even been a coordinator. However, he was always a favorite among Titans brass. Given the opportunity to make a move to the coordinator level for different franchises, he remained loyal. Despite some other random, sprinkled in interviews, the Bud Adams favorite was set to get the job.

The Main Event: Unfortunately, as soon as Munchak took the head coaching job, he had his work cut out for him. First off, he had to hire assistants, including offensive and defensive coordinators. However, as previously mentioned all of the main, viable candidates were already taken, which left the cupboard dry. This forced Munchak to have to look outside of the box. On the offensive side, he went with Chris Palmer, and on the defensive side he went with Jerry Gray. The next order of business was finding a new quarterback for the team. Munchak had an old-school coaching style, so it was not a surprise that he decided to sign a veteran quarterback, while drafting a younger quarterback to sit on the bench. The team signed Matt Hasselbeck and drafted Jake Locker. While all of this was happening, the NFL lockout was going on, which made things exponentially more difficult. As soon as the lockout ended and training camp started, the Titans' best offensive player since 2008, Chris Johnson, started his training camp holdout. Not much longer, the team lost its best wide receiver in Kenny Britt. With Munchak, it was one hit after another in his first off-season as an NFL head coach. However, the team still exceeded expectations, going 9-7. Unfortunately, a loss to the winless Colts late in the season was what kept them from making the playoffs. However, things looked promising for Munchak and company going into 2012. With some key additions, they could capitalize on their solid season. Unfortunately Bud Adams mandated that the team go after Peyton Manning in free agency. This forced the team to scrap its off-season plan, which including chasing Mario Williams and/or John Abraham. In the end, they did not land Manning, and similar to the coaching situation when Munchak first started, all of the best options in free agency were no longer available. This forced the team to make a number of "panic moves" which included the signing and overpaying of Kamerion Wimbley and Steve Hutchinson. The following year, Jake Locker took over as starting quarterback after a long quarterback competition during training camp. However, the team regressed significantly. They started 1-4 and were routed by 20+ points in all of their losses. A few weeks later, the team got absolutely embarrassed by the Chicago Bears, 51-20. After a loss to the 1 win Jaguars, Chris Palmer was fired as offensive coordinator. As the end of the season approached, the offensive line fell apart. Players like Deuce Lutui, Kyle Devan, and Byron Stingly were starting. The ultimate blowout came in week 16, in a 55-7 loss. The whole season was full of blowouts in similar fashion. 7 of their 10 losses that season were by 2 touchdowns or more. They looked like they did not belong on the field with most teams on a weekly basis. By the end of the year, many were calling for Munchak to be fired. However, Bud Adams stuck with his guy, and General Manager Mike Reinfeldt was out. Since Munchak did not necessarily have a key specialty on either side of the ball, this placed much more responsibility on his coordinators. Though he fired Chris Palmer and replaced him with Dowell Loggains, he decided to keep Jerry Gray as defensive coordinator due to Gray's "weathering of the storm." This already started 2013 off on a bad note. However, later in the off-season, the team hired Gregg Williams to assist Gray. As the first off-season under new General Manager Ruston Webster began, there was a sense of optimism. They spent over $100 million in free agency acquisitions including the signings of Andy Levitre, Shonn Greene, and Sammie Lee Hill. Webster tried to make the offensive line a priority in the draft as well, spending a top 10 pick on Chance Warmack. Continuing his bold offseason, Webster traded up in the second round to draft Justin Hunter. In the third round, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Zaviar Gooden were drafted. While there was a sense of newness around the team, it turned out that all of these players would be busts. While 2013 had a promising start, things quickly fell apart. Jake Locker was injured against the Jets, and wasn't the same quarterback upon return.  A number of disappointing losses led to another sub-.500 season, and Munchak was fired.

Significance: In hindsight, it is hard to tell what was on Munchak, and what was on those around him. Looking at some of the 2013 additions, it is clear the Ruston Webster's talent evaluation was extremely poor. He also had a number of factors around him that effected him, like all of the events that took place at the beginning of his job in 2011, the Peyton Manning chase, and more. Unfortunately, the Titans have not produced a good offensive line unit since Munchak's promotion and eventual departure. Somehow, the Titans were able to hover around .500 in all of their years under Munchak. While Munchak had poor assistants, a poor general manager, and poor players, everything ultimate fell on him. Admittedly, I was one of his biggest critics. However, looking back, I think it is fair to wonder if the finger should have been pointed towards others. Since he left, the Titans have not even sniffed 6-10. Did Munchak exceed expectations and play the hand that he was dealt, or was he the bad coach that he was perceived to be during his time here? We'll never know.