Munchak treks to Senior Bowl with new staff
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans head coach Mike Munchak finally finished his firings and hirings last week in time to introduce his new coaching staff.
So, what to do this week? That's easy: Road trip.
With Munchak riding shotgun, the Titans front office, coaching staff and scouts headed south from Music City on Interstate 65 as far it goes and convened at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. They're hoping to find several key positions for the 2013 season in the incoming draft class.
After all, the Titans didn't have a player make the Pro Bowl this past season.
Munchak's maneuverings that began before season's end eventually involved 12 staffers who were either fired, hired or changed jobs. Add the firing by Titans owner Bud Adams of Mike Reinfeldt, the former general manager who was executive vice president and chief operating officer in charge of both business and football franchise operations for just one year, and that's a baker's dozen of shakeups.
The two biggest staff decisions made by Munchak included promoting Dowell Loggains by taking the interim tag off his first offensive coordinator position. He was elevated to interim from quarterbacks coach when former coordinator Chris Palmer was fired with five games remaining in the season.
Still on staff is defensive coordinator Jerry Gray, although there had been discussions that it might not be a given considering last season's defense allowed the most points in franchise history. But the defense did steadily improve and finished respectable with some promising young talent.
"The goal in every decision I have made has been to do whatever I believe puts us in the best position to win this year," said Munchak, whose team went a disappointing 6-10 after going 9-7 and barely missing the playoffs in his rookie season.
"I believe with the new coaches that we have added and some shuffling of the current coaches, we have made our staff better."
Here's a look at the other staff additions and changes:
Sylvester Croom: The former Mississippi State head coach and Detroit Lions offensive coordinator, the popular Croom brings 21 years of NFL coaching experience to his gig as running backs coach. After moving over from the Jaguars after one season, he will work directly with Titans standout back Chris Johnson, the former 2,000-yard rusher who has been hit and miss the past two seasons. He replaces Jim Skipper, who was fired.
George Henshaw: The veteran coach returns to the tight ends coaching job he held with the franchise from 1997-20005 when his players, led by former star Frank Wycheck, caught 845 passes, the most by a team for tight ends during that stretch. Henshaw replaces John Zernhelt, who was fired.
Shawn Jefferson: The Lions' receivers coach the past five seasons, he helped develop star Calvin Johnson to one of, if not the, most dominant receivers in the NFL. A 13-year NFL playing veteran, he caught 470 passes for 7,023 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Dave Ragone: The former Louisville QB and three-time Conference USA Player of the Year moves to quarterbacks coach after two seasons as receivers coach. He played three seasons for the Houston Texans.
Nate Kaczor: Tough shoes to fill after being promoted from assistant offensive line coach to special teams coach. He replaces 17-year assistant and special teams guru Alan Lowry, architect of the Music City Miracle. Kaczor was assistant special teams coach for Jacksonville from 2008-11.
Chet Parlavecchio: The former special teams assistant was promoted to linebackers coach to replace Frank Bush, who was fired to the surprise of many after his young group was arguably the best unit on the team in 2012. Like Munchak, Parlavecchio is a former Penn State All-American.
Among those remaining on staff include offensive line coach Bruce Matthews, like Munchak a former Oiler and Pro Football Hall-of-Famer; secondary coach Brett Maxie; the former Cowboys secondary coach with 16 years of NFL coaching experience; defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, the two-time All-American at Auburn and 1988 Outland Trophy winner as best lineman in college football; and defensive line assistant/pass rush specialist Keith Millard, the 1989 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and now pass-rush coaching guru.
"We were able to add proven coaches," Munchak said. "By moving coaches around, it will change the dynamic in the meeting rooms and on the field. We still have some spots to fill, and I am always looking to improve our staff, so it is still a work in progress."
Senior meat market
Arriving Sunday for the weeklong prodding and probing of invitees that will play in Saturday's Senior Bowl at Mobile's Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Titans staffers are being led completely for the first time on the personnel side by new GM Ruston Webster.
Reinfeldt had been the leader of talent procurement for the Titans for six years, but this season's team did not have a Pro Bowl representative. Also promoted within the personnel department was Lake Dawson to vice president of player personnel. Blake Beddingfield is director of college scouting
"It's a building process, and this is just a piece of the puzzle," Dawson said of vetting talent that includes the Combine in early February in Indianapolis, on-campus workouts and individual private sessions. "We look at it as a puzzle from the standpoint of how the guy played in the fall, how he played in the all-star games, how he worked and how he prepared."
The Titans, who have the No. 10 overall pick in April's NFL Draft, will have met individually by week's end with every Senior Bowl roster member that piques their interest. In their assessments, the person part is often just as or more important than the player part of a prospect.
"What's his personality like?" Dawson said of what he seeks to know of each prospect. "Does he have a good work ethic? How does he practice? How did he do at the Combine? All of this is going into our computer system and building a case as to whether we would consider drafting a particular player."
If the prospect passes that, then he better know how to play, if he is going to be drafted.
"One of the great things about the Senior Bowl is the competition," Beddingfeld said. "Every day, they're going up against the best seniors in the country. Whether it's one-on-one drills or team practice, they're competing against the best. There's no second team."