Kenny Britt smiles often. He is personable and typically polite. He never gives the impression that he believes the world owes him something. Other than the fact that the Tennessee Titans drafted him in the first round, he has given virtually no reason for anyone to compare him to, say, Pacman Jones.
As his police blotter lengthens, though, it’s impossible not to view the big-play receiver as the local football franchise’s latest pain in the rear.
Britt was arrested last week in New Jersey after he allegedly tried to elude police when they attempted to stop him for a speeding violation. It was the latest legal misstep for a young man who seems to know better. It also set the stage for everyone to get a read on first-year head coach Mike Munchak’s approach to discipline.
Now, let’s be fair. Britt has a long way to go to match Jones’ legacy of jurisprudence. Thus far, the vast majority of his misdeeds are connected to his automobile (a collection of outstanding traffic warrants, for example) and seem more a product of immaturity than of sociopath behavior. There’s been nothing nearly as sinister as gunplay at a strip bar, but it’s tough to think that’s not where this thing is headed.
There is nothing he can do at the moment. Owners have locked out players, which means Munchak cannot address Britt’s situation with him personally until the lockout ends.
Once that happens, though, this ought to be the item No. 1 on his to-do list. Specifically, he needs to take action in a way that not only gets Britt’s attention and sets him back on the proper path, he needs to send a message to the entire team about what won’t be tolerated.
In this day and age, players’ off-the-field conduct is more scrutinized than ever, and the balance between being a player and a public personality is tenuous, to say the least.
Jeff Fisher probably handled such situations better than the average coach, but he failed with Pacman. Too often, he was swayed by Jones’ game-breaking potential — the same type of potential Britt has — and was not firm enough in handling the troubled young man.
Eventually, the Pacman saga became an embarrassment to Fisher, the team and the league. As a head coach, the perception of Fisher as a disciplinarian was forever diminished.
So what should Britt’s punishment be? A fine? A suspension? Waive him?
That’s for Munchak to decide.
We’ve been told the Titans’ new coach is meticulous and unfailingly prepared in whatever venture he undertakes. Certainly, there’s every reason to believe that’s the case in a pure football sense, based on his record as a player and a position coach.
Dealing with discipline is altogether different. Typically, there is no plan in place; it’s a matter of instinct.
In a way, the lockout is good in this situation. Munchak has time to think about what he will do, why he will do it and the potential effects of what he does. And think he should. As I’ve said, Kenny Britt is not Pacman Jones, and his legal issues are not on par with those of the disgraced cornerback. Not yet, at least.
It’s impossible to quantify the number of decisions Munchak ultimately must make before he actually coaches a down in a football game. Whatever the number, it’s entirely possible that the one he makes about Britt and this situation would be the most important — for himself, the team and Britt.