There’s a mythology that comes along with new Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak. It’s the idea that, as an offensive line coach, he could take the proverbial ground chuck and turn it into filet mignon. It’s why the Titans routinely waited until the later rounds of the draft to select offensive linemen — whatever their deficiencies, Munchak could make them into quality players.
It’s a nice notion, one that can help turn a man into a head coach, in fact. But it’s not exactly true.
Look at the players who earned Pro Bowl or All-Pro honors under Munchak. Bruce Matthews was a first-round draft pick and already a perennial Pro Bowler before Munchak became his position coach. Brad Hopkins also was a first-round selection. Kevin Mawae was a free agent who had been to the Pro Bowl six times before he signed with the Titans, and Michael Roos was a second-round selection (41st overall).
None of them ever was anything that resembled ground chuck.
That’s not to say Munchak didn’t make quality players out the likes of Kevin Long and Eugene Amato (both seventh-round selections). He also had tremendous success with Benji Olson, a fifth-round pick who warranted Pro Bowl consideration at points during his career; Justin Hartwig, who landed a couple of sizable free agent deals after he left the Titans; fourth-round tackles Jon Runyan and David Stewart, and third-round choice Zach Piller.
What all of that says is that Munchak can take the proverbial ground chuck and turn it into a decent hamburger. Give him a prime cut of beef, and he can turn it into an entrée worthy of any high-end steakhouse.
It’s not exactly the stuff of legend, but this is definitely a worthwhile trait in a head coach. The value of that skill will only be enhanced if he can do the same with an entire 53-man roster now that he has replaced Jeff Fisher.
“We started out 5-2 [last season] for a reason,” Munchak said. “There’s obviously people here we can win games with. We were thought of as one of the best teams in the league, I think, early in the season, the
first half of the season. We came off a 13-3 [in 2008], and then [in 2009] we made the recovery from the bad start.”
Consider some of the possibilities now.
Kenny Britt. The wide receiver has the potential to be among the game’s best. However, questionable offseason work habits and too many dropped passes have conspired to limit his playing time and performance.
Cortland Finnegan. He is a seventh-round draft pick who actually developed into a Pro Bowl player a couple years ago. An uneven attitude and some uneven performances have diminished his reputation in recent years.
Jared Cook. Franchise officials thought enough of this tight end’s talent that they traded up to draft him in 2009. So far, that talent remains largely untapped.
Derrick Morgan. Last year’s first-round choice flashed real promise before injury undermined his rookie season. He’s largely a blank slate who, at this point, looks as if he could go in either direction.
Of course, Munchak’s most important project will be the one player who is not yet on the roster: the starting quarterback.
“To me, it’s going to depend on who that quarterback is as far as what we can do,” Munchak said. “It all starts with the quarterback. This league is a quarterback league. We all know that.”
Munchak’s not going to end up with the best quarterback in the league. It’s imperative, though, that he gets the best out of whomever he picks up, which is what he’s always done.