It was pointed out to me late last week — correctly so — that Mike Munchak does not need to be a coach.
He does not need the money. Even before the end of his playing career he got involved with several business and investment ventures, most of which yielded significant returns.
He certainly does not need to make a name for himself within the sport. He entered the NFL as a first-round draft pick and shortly after he left was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
It seems safe to assume, therefore, that Munchak is the man in charge of the Tennessee Titans because he chooses to be. He has an idea of what he wants to do with the team and its schemes, and for more than a year-and-a-half now he has worked to implement those things.
It is an important distinction given recent events involving wide receiver Kenny Britt. The offseason arrest and charge of drunk driving combined with his brief but biting social media rant about a team-imposed fine likely brought him near the end of what already was a shorter leash than players with this franchise previously had.
After all, Munchak does not need to put up with the type of nonsense that his predecessor did.
If Britt or any of his teammates have not yet thought about that, they probably ought to. They need their coach a lot more than he needs them, and that is not always the case.
Jeff Fisher’s playing career, for example, was cut short by a training camp injury prior to his fifth season. Almost immediately, he became a coach and quickly rose to the point that he went from one of the youngest coordinators in the league to one of the youngest head coaches.
So he did not have the playing credentials that provided immediate credibility.
Plus, he was under pressure to justify his rapid ascension, which might explain why he seized upon virtually any opportunity to beef up his résumé. After a few years he negotiated “Executive Vice President” into his job title. He eagerly accepted an invitation to be part of the NFL’s competition committee and before long was made a co-chair.
One of his go-to explanations of his approach was that he treated “every player differently under the same set of rules.” As such, he abided more than some cared to stomach from the likes of Albert Haynesworth, Pacman Jones and others.
Fisher was willing to sacrifice character if the potential for production was high enough. That approach
ultimately yielded only marginal success.
He did take the Titans to their only Super Bowl appearance but never quite won often enough to satisfy an overwhelming majority of observers. Remember those five 8-8 seasons?
Check the current Titans’ staff directory: Munchak is the “head coach.” Plain and simple.
He has made it well known that the one thing he expects — above all else — from his players is that they be professionals, to “know what to do and do it.”
Thus far, his resolve in terms of balancing character and talent has not really been put to the test. Britt’s issues have not been so egregious as to demand significant action, but they have piled up at a frightening pace. Many unquestionably have been unprofessional.
The next one, if there is one, likely will do it. Munchak will be pushed to the point when he must make a stand and send a clear message to his team, his owner and his fans about exactly what he is willing to tolerate.
There is no reason to think he won’t draw a hard line. After all, there is no reason for him to do otherwise.