Mike Munchak will be back as Titans coach for another year. Chief operating officer Mike Reinfeldt is out after the franchise’s second 6-10 season in three years.
Munchak announced owner Bud Adams’ decision at his news conference Monday. The coach said Adams, who turns 90 on Wednesday, understands the challenges the Titans faced when Munchak took over in February 2011. Munchak said he knows his boss for 30 years wants a championship and realizes what the Titans faced in deciding to keep him for the third year on his four-year contract.
”He felt that move (firing the coach) right now wasn’t the right move to make so hopefully I’ll prove him right,” Munchak said.
Adams put his team on notice after a 51-20 loss to Chicago on Nov. 4 and said after a 55-7 embarrassment in Green Bay on Dec. 23 he wanted answers from his front office and head coach on what went wrong this season. The Titans routed Jacksonville 38-20 for their second win in three games to finish the schedule.
The Titans went from 9-7 in Munchak’s debut season in 2011 to 6-10 after turning the offense over to Jake Locker, the No. 8 draft pick in 2011. They reeled off six losses by at least 21 points or more while giving up a franchise record 471 points – worst in the NFL.
Tennessee has not reached the playoffs since 2008 and last won a postseason game in January 2004. Asked if Adams has given him a mandate of playoffs or else in 2013, Munchak, who will be meeting with the owner and general manager Ruston Webster later this week, had a quick answer.
”Not yet,” Munchak said.
Reinfeldt, a former Houston Oilers player for Adams, was promoted to chief operating officer and senior executive vice president in January after five seasons as general manager.
Munchak pointed out the NFL lockout wiped out free agency before his first season. Adams ordered the Titans to chase Peyton Manning in March, a wasted move that left Tennessee with little to choose from in free agency. The Titans wound up signing Kamerion Wimbley, whose six sacks did little to boost the pass rush.
That leaves Tennessee eager for free agency and an infusion of veterans to help a roster that was the franchise’s youngest on opening day since 2006. The Titans need help at safety, the defensive line and the offensive line. They also will draft at Nos. 10 and 39 to add more youth.
”So we’re going to have a chance to add some players,” Munchak said. ”We have some money to do so.”
Tennessee jumped deep into rebuilding mode in August with the decision to start Locker over veteran Matt Hasselbeck. The Titans suffered through the growing pains as Locker finished completing 56.4 percent of his passes for 2,176 yards, but he also had one more interception (11) than touchdowns (10).
The Titans also need to heal up. They finished the season with 16 players on injured reserve and played the final five games without four of their projected five starting offensive linemen, middle linebacker Colin McCarthy, and their top two tight ends.
Munchak is busy reviewing his assistants, but said he’s making no personnel changes right now. With so many firings around the league already, he will have plenty of options to make changes, with defensive coordinator Jerry Gray the biggest question mark.
But Munchak defended Gray, noting the Titans ranked eighth in fewest points allowed in 2011. He said the Titans must fix the defense so it doesn’t happen again.
”Do I make a change just to make a change so it looks like I attacked that problem because I added a new coach? Or do we do it because the coach actually gives us a better chance to become better?” Munchak said.
He fired offensive coordinator Chris Palmer on Nov. 26, giving the job in the interim to quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains. Munchak also brought in veteran coach Tom Moore in December. Moore could be an option for coordinator with Loggains moving back to quarterbacks coach if Moore can be convinced to stick around.
Kendall Wright, their top draft pick, tied with Jacksonville’s Justin Blackmon for most catches by rookies, and he had a team-high 64 receptions. Receiver Kenny Britt returned after tearing his right ACL in 2011, but he will be seeing a specialist about swelling in his left knee.
Munchak defended the last two drafts. Linebacker Zach Brown, a second-round pick in April, finished with 5 1/2 sacks and three interceptions.
Chris Johnson gained 1,243 yards rushing for the third-best season of his career and a 4.5-yard per carry average despite the revolving offensive line. The Titans could cut him five days into the new league year in March and avoid guaranteeing $9 million of his $10 million salary, but Munchak has said they see him as a playmaker they need.
Johnson said the Titans need a lot of leadership to get back to the playoffs.
”The leaders on this team need to step up and just work hard during the offseason and then bring the younger guys along with us,” Johnson said after the finale. ”It’s a situation where we have to work harder and continue to come out here and try to get better at each position.”