Mike Munchak wanted Chris Palmer to watch tape of some of the Tennessee Titans’ games from the 2010 season.
When the lights went down, Palmer’s voice went up. That was enough for Munchak, who earlier this week hired the 61-year-old Palmer, a coaching veteran of four different professional football leagues, to be the Titans offensive coordinator.
“Having an interview is one thing, but when you start talking ball and you get in the room … you really get to find the passion a guy has for the game and how excited his voice gets all of the sudden, like I think mine does,” Munchak said. “The final nail, for me, really was that.
“Until you’re behind the scenes and really see the knowledge a guy has … you find out real quickly how much of a football guy he is and how special he could be for this team in a lot of way.”
Palmer comes to the Titans after one year as head coach of the Hartford Colonials in the United Football League. He went there (he also has worked in the CFL and USFL) after three seasons as quarterbacks coach with the New York Giants and with the idea that his career as an NFL coach might have been finished.
“I knew there were going to be some opportunities, but it had to be a special opportunity,” he said.
He considered the chance to work with Munchak exactly that, as he had more than a decade earlier.
Palmer actually tried to hire Munchak in Cleveland when he was head coach for that team’s rebirth in 1999. Munchak passed and elected to stay with the Titans, who ended up in the Super Bowl that season. After two seasons with the Browns, he joined the Houston Texans as that franchise’s first offensive coordinators.
In joining the Titans, is not joining a start-up or even a start-over franchise. He does, however, inherit, an offense that currently is without a quarterback.
“I’ve never shied away from a challenge,” Palmer said. “I’m not saying this is a challenge, but I still have the competitive juices and I want to make this right.”
Much like defensive coordinator Jerry Gray, whom Munchak hired last Saturday, Palmer said he plans to understand the respective strengths and preferences of his players then construct gameplans and call plays accordingly. He’ll so within the framework of the playbook left behind by his predecessor, Mike Heimerdinger.
He mentioned running back Chris Johnson, wide receiver Kenny Britt, tight end Jared Cook and a cohesive offensive line as significant pieces around which he can work.
“We’re going to try to keep as much of the playbook as you can because whether you call it a diagonal slant or you call it a 57 or whatever, it’s still a diagonal slant,” Palmer said. “We’ll try to improve it. We’re going to have some different guys in the room. I’m not going to try to make the players learn a whole brand new playbook. We’re going to try to keep as much as we can.
“It’s going to be everybody on the offensive side of the ball trying to put a playbook together that will be comfortable for everyone involved.”
Munchak added John Skipper, who spent the last nine seasons with the Carolina Panthers, as running backs coach Friday afternoon and said he has made significant progress toward hiring a wide receivers coach. He is hopeful that the staff will be in place by the start of the NFL Scouting Combine next Wednesday.
When it came to settling on an offensive coordinator, though, he did not hesitate once he watched a little film with Palmer.
“He made a very difficult decision … into a very easy one for me,” Munchak said. “I don’t want any agendas of what you’re trying to achieve or what you want and looking past to the next job. I want guys who are going to enjoy coming to work and enjoy working with the guys we’re working with and guys who are competitive.
“I loved his demeanor and his approach to the game. … He had exactly what I was looking for.”
Not to mention what he was listening for.