Straight-talking Munchak to let vision — and not voice — define Titans' future

Sunday, February 13, 2011 at 10:05pm
Mike Munchak (Christopher Berkey for The City Paper)

Every word Mike Munchak utters as Tennessee Titans head coach is reinforced by experience.

He had a 12-year NFL playing career, which earned him a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well as multiple All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections. He was a second-team All-American at Penn State and the first offensive lineman drafted in 1982. (See related story below.)

It’s a story, however, of vision over voice. What Munchak sees often is more consequential than what he says. 

“My vision … is someday presenting the Lombardi Trophy to Mr. Adams and presenting each person in this organization with a Super Bowl ring,” Munchak said the day he was introduced as Jeff Fisher’s replacement. 

Such talk easily could be dismissed as standard fare for an introductory press conference, but the 16th coach in franchise history has a proven record of recognizing and capitalizing on potential — both on and off the field. 

Not only that, but Munchak is not one who speaks simply to be heard. When he opens his mouth, he maintains a measured tone and moderate volume, and only after extensive study has brought him to his conclusions. 

“Everything he says, you have to take it knowing all the stuff that comes behind it,” left tackle Michael Roos said. 

As a child in Scranton, Pa., Munchak grew up in a house surrounded by five sisters. It’s easy to imagine there wasn’t a lot of room for the male point of view around the dinner table, so more often than not his thoughts were his own. Nothing changed when he started a family. He and wife Marci have two daughters, both now grown.

At Penn State, Munchak earned a degree in business logistics, which suggests he didn’t simply study the ins and outs of the business world but learned a detailed, well-formed approach to those principles. 

“He’s extremely detailed,” guard Jake Scott said. “He pays a lot of attention to the small details of the game. That’s what makes us good as an offensive line, and it’s going to be what makes us good as a team.”

Munchak’s vision and experience first merged when he was still a player for the Houston Oilers. He owned multiple Gold’s Gyms, as well as sizable regional distribution rights to Snapple at a time when most of the country was only beginning to discover that soon-to-be ubiquitous beverage. By all accounts, he reaped financial rewards.

“I can honestly say I didn’t envision him in this role when we were playing together — he had a number of successful businesses he was running even as he played,” former Oilers quarterback Warren Moon said. “I thought he had business aspirations. But the truth is, whatever he puts his mind to and works at, he finds success. It was just a matter of time until he would have success in coaching.” 

Those successes have been plentiful already. As offensive line coach, he’s recognized potential in players picked in every round of the draft — and undrafted ones — and developed them into decent players, sometimes even starters.

For the past 14 years, that attention to detail and the value of his personal experience have been limited to the offensive line meeting room. All the while, though, he formed a broader vision for the franchise as a whole — one he kept to himself.

“In the back of my mind, yes [I was] saying sometimes, ‘If I was the head coach, I would do this,’ or, ‘If I was the head coach, I would do that,’ ” Munchak said. “I wasn’t going to say that publicly, but I definitely knew what I would do.”

Now — at last — he’s the one who has the final say.


Munchak in pleasant company

As the new head coach of the Tennessee Titans, Mike Munchak is a member of an exclusive club. Make that two.

When he was named Jeff Fisher’s replacement, Munchak became the 16th coach in franchise history and the 19th member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to become head coach of a team for which he played. 

“At every level he has been a hard worker, and he has only known success and how to achieve success,” team owner Bud Adams said.

The majority of those who preceded him in the Hall-of-Fame-head-coach double did so with playing careers prior to 1930, including George Halas, Curly Lambeau, Steve Own and Jim Thorpe. A look at the last six to do so, and how they fared (source: Pro Football Hall of Fame):

Bob Waterfield

Played: 1945-1952 Cleveland/Los Angeles Rams

Coached: 1960-62 Los Angeles Rams

Had a 9-24-1 record and never won more than four games in a season.

Joe Schmidt

Played: 1953-1965 Detroit Lions

Coached: 1967-1972 Detroit Lions

Had a winning record in each of his final four seasons as coach but took his team to the postseason just once.

Bart Starr

Played: 1956-1971 Green Bay Packers

Coached: 1975-1983 Green Bay Packers

Best season was strike-shortened 1982 (5-3-1). Otherwise 8-8 twice, 8-7-1 once.

Forrest Gregg

Played: 1956, 1958-70 Green Bay Packers; 1971 Dallas Cowboys

Coached: 1975-77 Cleveland Browns; 1980-83 Cincinnati Bengals; 1984-87 Green Bay Packers

Never had a winning season in four years, started with back-to-back 8-8s.

Mike Ditka

Played: 1961-66 Chicago Bears; 1967-68 Philadelphia Eagles; 1969-1972 Dallas Cowboys

Coached: 1982-1992 Chicago Bears, 1997-99 New Orleans Saints

Had five straight seasons of at least 10 wins, beginning with his third. Coached a Super Bowl winner in 1985.

Art Shell

Played: 1968-1982 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders

Coached: 1989-1994 Los Angeles Raiders, 2006 Oakland Raiders

Had an overall winning record (56-52) but won just one division title and two playoff games.

David Boclair










3 Comments on this post:

By: serr8d on 2/14/11 at 6:14

He'll have to grow a 'stache to win over my wife.

So, we're hoping for the next Mike Ditka here. All the others seem less than impressive.

But I'd rather see you pull up statistics for coaches who also ran successful businesses and made lots of monies while playing the game. Is that something that's more important to wins and losses than Hall of Fame honors? Let's hope so.

And, the 'stache.

By: richgoose on 2/14/11 at 9:56

Right nowI would think that Munchak would consider winning 6 games next year as real success. Remember the bar is set at winning 8 and losing 8.

This is the heritage for the Oilers/Titans.

By: cookeville on 2/14/11 at 5:37

Hey, new era, new coach, new philosophy; It's a win-win situation. The man is over qualified, if anything. He made a success of everything he did, and he will made head coaching the Titans a success. All you naysayers will never win the lottery.

Why? Thought is Action