Mike Munchak did not pursue the job with Penn State as Joe Paterno’s replacement. That does not mean he won’t have to recruit.
The National Football League’s free agency period starts in just over three weeks, and it is entirely possible the second-year head coach will have the biggest impact on whether or not the Tennessee Titans significantly upgrade their roster in that manner.
Sure, new general manager Ruston Webster is the one who will talk dollars and cents with those the Titans want.
Munchak will be the one who talks turkey. He will spell out what the team has to offer in terms of opportunity to play and will try to convince them that this is the best place to be.
He’d better be effective too. After all, what else do the Titans have to offer in comparison to many other teams around the league?
They can’t sell the hope of championships. The franchise has been to the Super Bowl just once since it joined the league as part of the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 … and we all remember how that turned out. It was some kind of entertaining contest, but the Lombardi Trophy never made it to Music City.
They can’t exactly push fame either. No one from the 2011 Titans made the Pro Bowl or even made it anywhere near the top of the list of alternates. It’s the second time during the team’s days in Middle Tennessee that it has been franchise non grata during the league’s all-star week.
Similarly, Tennessee did not have a single prime-time performance last fall and winter. Now the league since has said every team would have at least one this year (courtesy of the NFL Network), but there has never been any indication ESPN and NBC are clamoring for more chances to show this team.
Plus, there’s the fact that in the most recent calendar year the Titans finalized their exceedingly messy divorce from one of the most high profile players they’ve had in recent memory (Vince Young) and they endured acrimonious and well-publicized contract negotiations with another (Chris Johnson).
All of that took place in the wake of a complete overhaul of the coaching staff, so stability is not exactly the most uttered term in regard to Titans.
Finally, Webster is on the record about the fact that he intends to maintain the philosophy of his predecessor, Mike Reinfeldt, and not overpay for anyone in free agency. Nothing brings potential talent out of the woodwork like frugality.
In short, the Tennessee Titans hardly qualify as a “destination franchise” at a time when players are on the move.
But then there’s Munchak, who already has shown he’s willing to get involved in the process and that he can be a difference-maker when he does so. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, the key free agent addition of 2011, offered repeated testimonials throughout the season that it was a conversation with Munchak that was instrumental in his decision to sign on the dotted line.
In his one season on the job, Munchak has built a reputation as someone who is as good as his word. There has been no chatter from the players about mixed messages, as often was the case — particularly in later years — under Jeff Fisher.
Of course, we all know that money talks. When the time comes, if the Titans make the most lucrative offer to a particular player, the overwhelming odds are that player will sign.
Chances are, though, that the majority of targets will need to be convinced before they agree to anything. That’s when Munchak will have to have his say.