Commentary: Character and integrity define Munchaks reign with Titans
By Joe Biddle, Columnist
We can debate whether or not Mike Munchak was the person to carry the Titans forward after three mediocre seasons.
Most fans would conclude he was not the right fit, that a change was warranted.
But there is no doubt about one thing. Mike Munchak may have more character and integrity than anyone I have ever covered in the coaching profession at any level.
Mike Munchak is not a “ME’’ person. He is a “WE” person. Thus, it was Munchak who basically fired himself when Titans management and he disagreed on some stipulations they gave him in exchange for an extension and a reported hefty raise.
Munchak firmly stood by his beliefs, his friends and his conscience.
Munchak told WKRN-Channel 2 Sports Director Cory Curtis that reports claiming he would have to make wholesale changes on his staff in order to return for a fourth season, were inaccurate. He claimed it was more about a disagreement that could not be resolved between what management’s future plan entailed and the plan Munchak developed and thought would bear fruit next season.
I believe it was some of both. I thought he had to decide between Gregg Williams and Jerry Gray and make one of them the defensive coordinator. It’s almost impossible for players to serve two masters.
I believe they asked/ordered him to fire his best friend Bruce Matthews. This is someone who introduced Munchak at his Hall of Fame induction ceremony, just as he Matthews had introduced Munchak. They were each other’s best man at their weddings.
No, the rebuilt offensive line wasn’t as promising as advertised. Did any linemen noticeably improve under Matthews’ watch? Granted, they plugged in three new starters – free agent left guard Andy Levitre, first round draft pick Chance Warmack at right guard and rookie center Brian Schwenke.
Offensive line play is built mainly on communication and knowing what the guy next to you is going to do without asking. It takes time to develop and maybe it would happen next season.
Linebacker play failed to improve under Munchak’s hire of Chet Parlavecchio, a former high school coach he had promised to hire if he became an NFL coach. It might not have been Munchak’s wisest hire, but you can’t fault him for keeping his word all these years.
It has been reported that the Titans demanded more cuts to the coaching staff, including offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains.
Even though it meant losing his job, Munchak would not sign off on all the staff changes the Titans wanted. To do so would make Munchak a powerless puppet.
“I can’t fire someone when I don’t believe they should have been fired,’’ Munchak told Tennessean writer Jim Wyatt. “Firing somebody is awful. Too many people were going to be affected. I’ll make tough decisions, but not if they’re not right.’’
He stood on his principles and faced the consequences.
Don’t think we’ve heard the last of Mike Munchak. He has been interviewed by his alma mater, Penn State, to fill its head coaching vacancy.
If that doesn’t work out, Munchek will be in high demand to coach an NFL offensive line. It’s a niche he has a comfort level with. He is first and foremost a teacher.
He will land on his feet and know he made the right decision, even if the results brought heartache and sorrow to him, his family and his staff.
But I am not alone when I applaud Mike Munchak for taking a stand.
Sport Columnist Joe Biddle is a four-time sports writer of the year in Tennessee and a 2013 inductee to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted on: 1/8/2014