Mike Munchak has a reputation as an old-school type.
An offensive lineman in his playing days, the Tennessee Titans head coach is not interested in the showmanship that is so much a part of today’s NFL. He wants a team filled with players who work hard, who know what to do and who do it. Anything more, to his way of thinking, is unnecessary.
While it is safe to assume that Oscar Wilde never pondered the situation of Munchak or the Titans directly, the writer/poet who lived in the latter half of the 19th century nevertheless was right on when he said, “To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.”
After all, Sunday’s 24-19 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars was the last thing the second-year coach expected from his team.
With five weeks to go in the season, the Titans need to figure out who they are and what they do well because 11 games into the campaign they have lacked any sort of consistency, whether it comes to statistics or results. That much is clear given that before they lost to the Jaguars they whipped the Miami Dolphins by 34 points.
“I think it’s frustrating because you’re not sure what you’re going to get,” Munchak said Monday. “… It is very frustrating, not only for the coaches but for the players. Obviously, they want to win. They wanted to build off the Miami game. We all wanted to get the two [wins] in row, come back and have this game be bigger and that type of thing.
“We didn’t and now we have to deal with how we get back on that track.”
Exactly which track is unclear. The Titans have gone in many different directions this season but none for any length of time, which has a lot to do with why they have not won or lost more than two games in a row since early in 2011.
The game at Jacksonville, for example, featured a defense that racked up a season-high seven sacks, which was as many as the previous three games combined. That same unit forced just one turnover, three fewer than at Miami.
The offense settled for five field goal attempts (kicker Rob Bironas made four) but scored just one touchdown. Along the way it managed 360 yards of total offense and 20 first downs.
The three other times this season Tennessee managed at least 350 yards it won, and the team won three of four in which it had at least 20 first downs. Offensive coordinator Chris Palmer was fired Monday evening.
“It’s the most frustrating part of coaching, I would think,” Munchak said. “… You may have guys playing well. That’s the problem in football. You can have a handful of guys play very well still but you’re not getting the results you want. We get seven sacks [Sunday] — we’ve been talking about sacks — but it’s with a loss.”
Things got off to a good start when the Titans intercepted a pass on the first official play from scrimmage, a takeaway that set up Bironas’ first field goal. After that Jacksonville’s offense without running back Maurice Jones-Drew, and with a new starting quarterback, Chad Henne, scored one touchdown on a 59-yard pass play and another that capped a 12-play drive.
Most unexpected was that the Titans, on the fringe of the AFC playoff race, lost to an opponent that had one victory in its previous 10 games.
“I think we went down there with good intentions,” Munchak said. “I think we went down there with good attitudes. I think we felt good about ourselves — there was no reason not to — that we were headed in the right direction. We had just played in Florida two weeks earlier. The weather was great there. It was cool.
“There was no reason for us to go down there and not play well.”
He certainly expected they would.
Then again, he thinks about football in more traditional terms than a lot of others. Perhaps it is time for him to modernize his intellect, to borrow Wilde’s term, and simply expect the unexpected.