Mike Munchak has hired more than his share of assistant coaches in his two years on the job.
Of course, that means the Tennessee Titans head coach has fired his share as well. He’s bid farewell to some of the guys he decided to stick with when he first replaced Jeff Fisher and he’s tossed aside some of the guys he brought in during his first few weeks on the job.
Whatever the arena, it is a noble trait to be able to admit a mistake. Munchak definitely has shown he can do that.
Here’s the thing, though: He cannot afford to be wrong with his latest staff addition. If he is, it will be his last.
The decision to hire Gregg Williams as senior assistant/defense is an all-or-nothing transaction that offers equal parts potential for positive change and potential for complete disaster, both in terms of performance and PR.
No one can argue that the defense was not in need of some attention this offseason. When you set a franchise record for points allowed and give up more than any team in the league, things have to be different.
Personnel moves will come during free agency and the draft. The coaching staff came first and while Munchak resisted the urge to make sweeping alterations — only linebackers coach Frank Bush was fired — the decision to bring Williams on board in the wake of an NFL suspension undeniably was a bold one.
Williams has a proven record as someone who can put together an NFL defense, plan for an opponent and put his players in position to excel. When he was last with this franchise, as the defensive coordinator in 2000, the Titans allowed fewer yards than any team in the league and fewer points than all but the Baltimore Ravens, who won the Super Bowl that season.
What he does not have at the moment is a well-defined job description.
Munchak, repeatedly, was vague on the subject. Williams and defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said only that they have worked together well in the past (they have) but had no answers about the specific duties each will perform now.
If the players don’t know who is in charge, they won’t get whatever message they need on a daily or weekly basis. And the last thing this defense needs after last season is confusion.
Then there’s the issue of Williams’ reputation, which was damaged by his role in the New Orleans Saints’ pay-for-injury program and, in particular, an audio tape on which he told players to target specific body parts of opposing players.
It is easy to imagine that every hard hit by a member of the Titans defense this fall will raise the specter of a bounty program. The potential exists for this team to be perceived as dirty and for penalties to be called and fines assessed accordingly.
After all, the most widely held belief over the last year was that Williams, whenever his suspension was lifted, was untouchable and that there was a good chance his days as an NFL coach were finished.
Munchak, though, could not wait to bring him on board. He called Goodell and inquired about a timetable for Williams’ return to the league and made the move hours after that happened even though there seemed to be no clear sense of what role he would perform.
In his first public remarks following his reinstatement, Williams admitted he made mistakes. He stressed that he learned his lesson and planned to be a different person and coach going forward.
However, if it turns out Munchak made a mistake in this case, it will be his job on the line next offseason.