Munchak’s challenge now staying as Titans coach

Mike Munchak believes the Titans are close to finishing a

rebuilding project and turning this franchise into a playoff team

once again.

Now he must convince Tennessee’s new president and chief

executive officer Tommy Smith that he’s still the best man as head

coach.

Bud Adams spent more than $100 million bringing in 13 free

agents and made it clear before he died that he expected 2013 to be

a playoff season.

But the Titans lost quarterback Jake Locker for nine games and

missed the playoffs for a fifth straight season at 7-9 – two wins

shy of a berth. They started 3-1 with Locker healthy before a skid

that included losing eight of 10 and five straight at home.

The coach will meet first with general manager Ruston Webster in

the next day or two, then Smith later this week.

”The biggest thing is staying healthy at certain positions,

especially the quarterback position, but I like the group we have

here,” Munchak said Monday. ”I thought these guys worked hard.

We’ll make a few changes to make the roster a tad better, but I

don’t think a lot’s needed.”

Munchak is 22-26 as head coach with a year left on his original

deal. An extension might be part of a decision to keep him. This

was the only season during his tenure the Titans spent to restock

the roster of a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game since

January 2003.

The Titans lost six games by eight points or less this season

after being blown out in seven games in 2012. They also won six

games by the same margin. The biggest mark against Munchak is his

AFC South record, now 6-12 after two straight wins to wrap the

season.

If Munchak is retained, defensive coordinator will be among his

coaching moves with Jerry Gray’s contract up along with the

one-year deal for Gregg Williams as senior assistant coach for the

defense. With Williams on staff after his season-long suspension

for his role in the Saints’ bounty scandal, the Titans jumped from

27th in the NFL in yards allowed to 14th.

Locker has three more months with his surgically-repaired right

foot in a walking boot, but he expects to be ready for the

offseason program. He has a year left on his rookie deal but has

missed 14 of 32 games since being named the starter. Munchak said

they obviously hope this record would be different if Locker had

been healthy all season.

”Until we keep him healthy and get him 16 weeks, that’s the

question,” Munchak said.

Smith has said he plans to spend more money this offseason to

add talent. The Titans also will have the No. 11 draft pick overall

to use too.

They also must decide if they want to keep Chris Johnson after

he became only the sixth man to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his

first six seasons. Johnson said Monday he knows what he’s worth and

is due $8 million in 2014. He also agrees with Munchak that this

team is close.

”I feel like if the ball would’ve bounced our way a couple

games I feel like we could’ve made the playoffs,” Johnson

said.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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