NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Go ahead and ask Mike Munchak about his job security with the Titans. It has been a topic of speculation among Tennessee fans for months, and the coach has been asked repeatedly about his future the past couple weeks.
He has yet to dodge even one question.
“It’s part of this profession,” Munchak said. “This time of year if you’re one of the teams that aren’t winning the expectations are to win every year and I understand that. I don’t mind speaking. I can only control what we do this Sunday. … After that, what happens as far as that goes, some of that’s out of my control to some degree.”
Fans have been unhappy with a franchise missing the playoffs now for a fifth straight season, and Munchak posted the Titans’ lone winning record since that last postseason berth in 2008 in his debut season in 2011 at 9-7. The Titans started the season 3-1 start before a titanic skid that saw them lose eight of 10. They finally beat the Jaguars 20-16 last week.
Now the Titans have a chance Sunday to beat Houston and at least finish one win better than last season at 7-9.
“That’s all I can control in the next week, and that’s what we’ll concentrate on,” Munchak said.
Through it all, Munchak has kept an eye on the long term and his team’s needs, a vision honed through his 31 NFL seasons first as a Hall of Fame player and now coach all with this franchise. Munchak will make his argument to coach the final year on his contract next week with new president and CEO Tommy Smith and general manager Ruston Webster.
Munchak now is 21-26 since being promoted in February 2011.
His first offseason was wiped out by the NFL lockout with the second free agency period wasted chasing Peyton Manning. Owner Bud Adams, who died in October, approved a spending spree of more than $100 million this offseason, and the Titans added 13 free agents to the roster along with seven draft picks.
“We couldn’t get all the pieces to the puzzle that I felt we needed in one year,” Munchak said.
Fans criticize Munchak’s sideline demeanor constantly, wanting more emotion from the former offensive lineman. Munchak does get fired up every now and then whether he’s yelling at officials over a penalty or celebrating with a smile. But the coach’s biggest demand for all around him is that everyone be a pro and do his job.
Munchak has made it clear recently that winning in the NFL means having a healthy quarterback. Sunday’s season finale will be the ninth game Jake Locker has missed due to injuries this season, and he will wind up missing 14 of 32 games since being named a starter.
What’s the value of having the same quarterback start all 16 games? Munchak estimates that could mean two or three more victories, a number that would put the Titans firmly in the playoff mix with a game to play.
What’s the value of having a coach who has worked for the same organization throughout his NFL career? Munchak said there’s a lot of good in his long relationship with this team but ultimately the only thing that matters is what’s best for the Titans in the future.
His argument to keep his job includes a team much improved from last season, even if it’s not showing in the record. Last year’s team was blown out by 14 or more in seven of 10 losses. This year’s team has lost only twice by 14 or more. But the Titans are 5-5 in games decided by a touchdown or less.
Munchak said the Titans have less to do this offseason. He knows how the NFL works and said he thinks the right thing will be done.
“We’re close here, so I’m not sure what will be the ultimate decision on what they do, but we’ll see,” Munchak said.
Munchak said Byron Stingily likely will get his second straight start at right tackle with David Stewart missing practice again with an injured shoulder. DT Jurrell Casey (right knee) also did not practice.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press