Titans see good future with Munchak off 9-7 season
The Tennessee Titans will spend the offseason thinking of the
three games that cost them a playoff berth and looking ahead to a
promising second season under coach Mike Munchak.
Just how many are back for 2012 remains to be seen with
contracts of more than 20 Titans expiring. With Munchak taking over
a team that went 6-10 and didn’t have an offseason due to the
lockout, the Titans have high expectations for what’s next.
”Who would have thought we’d be 9-7?” fullback Ahmard Hall
said Monday after the Titans cleaned out lockers. ”Who would give
us a chance to be 9-7? Munch is building something great here, and
everybody wants to be a part of that.”
Hall is among those whose contracts are up, meaning the Titans
have plenty of personnel work ahead.
For a franchise that got rid of a quarterback and head coach a
year ago, handling a secondary where four defensive backs are
pending free agents should be much easier. Defensive captain and
cornerback Cortland Finnegan and safeties Chris Hope, Michael
Griffin and Jordan Babineaux all are up with no contract talks
since Finnegan bolted training camp in August.
Finnegan doesn’t sound as if he expects to be back, though he
hopes to return after six seasons in Tennessee.
”Coach Munchak is building something really special around
here,” Finnegan said. ”He plans to talk to everyone. We’ll see
what the future holds.”
Munchak said the salary cap will decide how many players they
keep. He hopes they keep as many as possible in free agency along
with another crop of rookies to go with a promising draft class
where three started on defense.
”You got a nice little core here, so I think it’s something we
can build on,” Munchak said. ”I think that’s part of the
excitement of selling to the guys that are in this room is that
yeah, 9-7 was OK. It wasn’t quite good enough this year, but a lot
of good things happened at 9-7 that we’re excited about as an
organization, as a team and that we can build on.”
The Titans finished the season beating the Houston Texans 23-22,
missing out on their first playoff berth since 2008 when the Jets
lost to Miami and Denver lost to Kansas City. That left Tennessee
tied with Cincinnati but losing the head-to-head tiebreaker due to
a Nov. 6 loss to the Bengals where the Titans blew a 10-point lead
in losing 24-17.
”Hopefully the lesson we learned is you can’t hope that someone
else can do your job for you,” Munchak said. ”We had to earn our
way in, and we didn’t.”
Tennessee also lost its opener 16-14 in Jacksonville and became
the first team to lose to the previously winless Colts 27-13 on
Dec. 18 when a win would have put the Titans into the AFC’s sixth
and final playoff spot.
At least Munchak has his quarterbacks in veteran Matt Hasselbeck
and Jake Locker going into a full offseason to push for the
starting job. Hasselbeck started all 16 games and became the first
quarterback for this franchise not named Warren Moon to throw for
at least 3,500 yards. He finished with 3,571 yards passing with 18
touchdown passes and 14 interceptions. Locker threw for four TDs
with a 99.4 passer rating coming off the bench in five games.
Munchak said the quarterbacks will compete again with the player
who should start being an obvious decision when the time comes.
He plans on keeping his coordinators, giving Chris Palmer to
work on an offense that ranked 17th in the NFL in passing even
though top receiver Kenny Britt tore his right ACL in
The biggest focus will be on a run game that ranked 31st in the
league averaging a measly 89.9 yards.
Chris Johnson ran for a career-low 1,047 yards after missing the
preseason before getting his new contract extension. He has plenty
of incentives in that deal to spend plenty of time working in the
Titans’ offseason program, and he said the Titans simply need to
improve their execution.
A full offseason will help Jerry Gray’s defense too.
”We were limited in what we could do because guys were learning
it on the run,” Finnegan said. ”That’d be huge for this
A fourth rookie, Karl Klug, led Tennessee with seven sacks, and
the Titans ranked eighth in the NFL in points allowed per game. But
Tennessee still must find a way to tighten up a run defense gashed
for big runs far too often, leading to a No. 24 ranking giving up
128.3 yards per game.
Notes: The Titans will pick 20th in April’s draft. … The
Titans’ 2012 home schedule features visits from Houston, the Colts
and Jaguars in the AFC South along with the Patriots, the Jets, the
Steelers, Chicago and Detroit. Tennessee will visit its AFC South
divisional rivals along with trips to Minnesota, Green Bay, Miami,
San Diego and Buffalo after finishing second in the division.