Boclair: Munchak's decision-making not perfect, but it's not all bad either

Sunday, October 28, 2012 at 10:22pm

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.

It is no secret that an NFL head coach has to make many of them. Every day. Particularly on Sundays.

It is what distinguishes him from everyone else in the organization: When a critical choice must be made, it falls to him.

Say this about Mike Munchak, though. None of those that come his way these days seem to be easy ones. Sunday’s 19-13 overtime loss to the Indianapolis Colts was a prime example.

It was up to him whether or not the Tennessee Titans attempted a 59-yard field goal in order to break a tie with just over a minute to play in regulation. It was his decision to punt instead.

Given the way things turned out, it is a choice that will be second-guessed. It was based on the idea that his team eventually would get the ball back, either in the final seconds of regulation or at some point during overtime. It did not.

Normally, a 59-yard field goal try is an act of desperation. The Titans were not a desperate team. At that point, they had not trailed in the contest. Their offense had moved the ball effectively almost all day, their defense had forced the game’s only turnover and their special teams blocked a punt.

A wind out of the north offered a boost and added to the temptation, but Munchak made up his mind as soon as his team took possession that the ball needed to be at the Colts 35 or closer to attempt a kick. It was at the 41.

That is the type of decision people won’t quickly forget. If the Titans miss the playoffs by a game, as they did in 2011, this is one to which they will point and say, “If only … .”

Of course, if they were easy everyone in a stadium on a given Sunday would have the opportunity to weigh in on the choices that face guys like Munchak. Twitter and/or text message polls would be conducted or a person would be picked at random during a timeout to do it.

Before the kick-or-not-to-kick moment there were reminders that some decisions he’s made this season have tuned out well.

For example he chose not to bench Chris Johnson after a woeful opening month of the season. Against the Colts, Johnson delivered a third straight quality performance with 99 yards on 21 carries. The much-maligned running back routinely kept the offense out of third-and-long situations, which had a lot to do with the fact that Tennessee had three scoring drives of 10 plays or more.

Munchak made a similar decision to stick with safety Michael Griffin through some really tough times. On this day, it looked like exactly the right call as Griffin intercepted a pass in the end zone and blocked a field goal.

For the first time we’re starting to get a clear picture of Jeff Fisher’s successor.

A year ago, Munchak’s first as head coach, many personnel decisions were made for him because of the lockout that canceled the offseason and abbreviated training camp. Although many of the games were close, few featured the kind of do-or-die moments that we saw Sunday.

The next one figures to be a doozy. Sooner or later, quarterback Jake Locker is going to be healthy and Munchak will have to decide whether or not to put him back in and return Matt Hasselbeck to the bench.

It’s a choice (he is going with Locker) he says already has been made so it won’t be an issue when the moment finally arrives.

That doesn’t mean he won’t open himself up to some second-guessing. After all, his mind was made up about how far he needed to get in order to attempt a field goal Sunday, and we all know how that turned out.