The question was raised almost the exact moment Gregg Williams was added to the Tennessee Titans’ coaching staff.
How would he, the team’s former defensive coordinator, and its current one, Jerry Gray, divide their responsibilities?
Turned out the answer was not important. The question, in fact, was not even the right one.
We all should have wondered about the division of labor between Williams and the man who hired him, head coach Mike Munchak because that — we know now — was the issue all along. Observation of one practice was all it took to realize exactly how things would work this year.
Munchak is the head coach for the offense with an emphasis on the offensive line. Williams is the head coach of the defense. Plain and simple.
During the one on-field session of last week’s rookie orientation that was open to the media, Munchak and Williams never crossed paths. Munchak stayed at one end of the indoor practice facility with the offense. He seemingly never even glanced at the other end, where the defense worked under Williams.
Afterward, the third-year head coach said he intended to be more involved with the offensive linemen than he had been the previous two seasons. That makes some sense given his personal history as a Hall of Fame guard and successful offensive line coach, and the offseason overhaul of the offensive line.
The key, Munchak noted, was time management.
Of course, it becomes a lot easier to manage your time when your duties effectively are cut in half. Not that he doesn’t have plenty to do or that he won’t work interminably long hours during the season, as all head coaches (not counting Steve Spurrier, of course) do. He just has a lot less to weigh on his mind now.
The title bestowed upon Williams was the nondescript “senior assistant/defense.”
Munchak discussed the position in equally vague terms on the February day he hired Williams out of his yearlong NFL suspension for his role in the New Orleans Saints’ pay-for-pain program.
Williams and Gray downplayed any potential issues and repeatedly pointed out that they had worked effectively together in several other situations. Their confidence and comfort were well-founded given that their current working relationship is not much, if at all, different than any of their previous ones.
Oh sure, the particulars might be different, but the basics are the same. Williams has oversight over Gray, just as was the case when Williams was defensive coordinator and Gray was defensive backs coach for the Titans (1999-00) and Washington Redskins (2006-07), and when Williams was head coach and Gray was defensive coordinator in Buffalo (2001-03).
Gray, presumably, will do the same things he has done the previous two years. He simply will get helpful hints and certain game guidance from a source other than the head coach.
It’s probably not that Munchak grew weary of answering for the defense and its struggles in 2012, when Tennessee allowed more points than any other NFL team. He remains the primary spokesman for all matters related to the team, and the plan is for Williams’ media exposure throughout the season to be limited.
More likely, the head coach decided he simply did not have the answers to the myriad issues on the side of the ball with which he is less familiar.
So the only question now seems to be whether Munchak did the responsible thing when he sought out someone with Williams’ expertise to fix a defense that desperately needed some help or whether he shirked his responsibility as head coach when he handed off that task to someone else.