Even amid the rubble there are foundation pieces. At least that’s the hope right now.
A day after the worst loss of his career as a head coach, Mike Munchak maintained his belief that that the Tennessee Titans’ future is a bright one.
“It’s hard to sit here and say you feel good when you’ve won five games and you’re not happy with where you are now,” Munchak said Monday. “But I’ve been a part of teams that won three games and won four games and we built something.
“…I don’t feel good about our record. I don’t feel good where we’re at. I feel good about a lot of the pieces to the puzzle that we do have. I feel good about a lot of things I think that can get fixed real quickly as far as being better.”
With Sunday’s 55-7 defeat at Green Bay, the Titans fell to 5-10 and questions about the direction of the franchise under Munchak were raised in earnest. The second-year coach conceded that there are many aspects of the operation in need of repair but offered that most – if not all – of them can be remedied by the start of next season.
“You can’t lose perspective on the fact that sometimes it takes a little bit longer to build something than one season or a season and a half,” Munchak said. “We’ve had one offseason since I’ve been the coach [because of the 2011 lockout]. So we haven’t had a lot of time with the players. So there’s a lot of factors in this thing.
“We have a short period of time to fix it, but I feel very confident that we will.”
Tennessee has allowed more than 50 points twice in a season for the first time. The defense ranks last in the NFL in scoring defense and 25th in yards allowed. It has allowed more first downs than all but two other teams.
Jake Locker, the long-term option at quarterback, currently has a better passer rating than only Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets and Kansas City’s Matt Cassel, both of whom lost their starting jobs this season, and Cleveland rookie Brandon Weeden. The offense is tied for 30th in first downs per game, tied for 23rd in points per game and is 25th in yards per game.
Injuries, particularly to the offensive line, have not helped matters. Currently 15 players, including four projected offensive line starters, are injured reserve. That group also includes tight end Jared Cook, the team’s third leading receiver.
“It’s just stuff that I wish we could have overcome better than we have to this point,” Munchak said. “I thought we’d play better. You’re going to have injuries. Unfortunately, we’ve had a few too many in the same position, especially up front, that have hurt us. We knew the transition to a new quarterback was going to definitely add to that. But when you’re adding a new quarterback and you’re adding all these injuries it’s hard to get anything in sync. It makes it harder, but it’s obviously not impossible.
“It’s been a very bumpy ride because of all the factors. … Again, the bottom line is wins and we only have five and that’s not good enough.”
The last time the Titans finished 25th or worst in both total offense and total defense was 2010. Their record was 6-10 that season, Jeff Fisher’s last.
The best they can do this season is to finish 6-10. To get there, they have to win Sunday against Jacksonville, which defeated them 24-19 back on Nov. 25.
“You can’t fix everything in seven days so I think you have to look at it that way,” Munchak said. “There’s things, obviously, that we’re not happy with the way they’re going on all sides of the ball.
“It’s just a matter of us having a good week this week, concentrating on what we need to get done, coming out Sunday and having a big game … and go from there knowing that we have much to improve upon but there’s nothing like starting with a win to finish the season.”
As a player with the then-Houston Oilers, Munchak was a part of just six victories in his first three seasons (1982-84). He was not a part of a team with a winning record until 1987, when the franchise started a run of seven consecutive playoff appearances that carried him to the end of his Hall of Fame career.
Of course, owner Bud Adams changed coaches twice along the way – six games into 1983 and 14 games into 1985.
Munchak is going to make it to the end of this season. To stay beyond that, he must get Adams to share in his vision.
“This is one of those things where we have to see if we can overcome it together,” Munchak said. “I think we’ll all be stronger – the guys in this room – if we can overcome it. Adversity builds character and we’re going to find out what we’re all about. I think we’re seeing some of that this year.
“I feel good about how we’re going to get there. It’s up to Mr. Adams to decide if he agrees with me.”