Mike Munchak is optimistic about what is to come for the Tennessee Titans — even with the possibility that he could be gone.
Following Sunday’s 27-23 loss to the Indianapolis Colts the best the Titans can finish is 7-9, which would be two games worse than a year ago. At worst their record could be 4-12, which could be enough to cost Munchak his position as head coach after two seasons.
“We have to win football games — I get that,” Munchak said Monday. “I think it’s all about, for me, to know that we’re headed in the right direction. I feel we’re doing that. We’re not getting the wins and I get that, and that’s what I’ll be judged on when all is said and done. That will be something for someone else to decide.”
That someone else, of course, is owner Bud Adams, who founded the franchise as the Houston Oilers in 1960.
The history of the team includes 16 head coaches, counting Munchak. Eight of them held the job for two years or less, and few survived drops in the win column of three or more. Most notably, Jeff Fisher, the only one to take the team to the Super Bowl, held on when the win total dropped six from 2000 to 2001 (13 and seven), seven from 2003 to 2004 (12 and five) and five from 2008 to 2009 (13 and eight).
“He’s never given me any assurances from the day he hired me,” Munchak said of Adams. “But I think he hired me to take over this football team, head it in the right direction and win football games. As far as that goes he’s never said [anything] one way or the other.”
Thus far, Munchak’s time on the job most closely resembles that of Bum Phillips, who inherited a team that went 7-7 in 1974 and went 10-4 but missed the playoffs in his first season. The Oilers slipped to 5-9 in 1976 but Adams stuck with Phillips. From there, the team made steady gains capped by three straight playoff appearances, including two trips to the AFC Championship game, from 1978 through 1980.
Munchak took over a team that won six games in 2010, Fisher’s final season, went 9-7 and narrowly missed the postseason in his first season.
The Pro Football Hall of Famer and member of the Titans ring of honor came to the franchise as a player in 1982. The team won six games under three different coaches in his first three seasons but, beginning in 1987, the started a run of seven straight postseason appearances.
He knows first-hand, therefore, that success on the field does not always come immediately.
“It’s going to be special to be a part of this,” he said. “… Maybe not right now the wins and losses are not what we want. I’ve been a part of teams — for my first three or four years we didn’t win a lot of football games and then we went to the playoffs seven years in a row. I think as guys hung together, we got comfortable with each other and we stayed in the same system and all of a sudden you built something that was pretty special.”
He stressed that he does not view the final three games, beginning next Monday against the New York Jets (7:30 p.m., ESPN), as a stretch that will determine whether or not he keeps his job beyond this season.
“We need to win because that’s what we’re supposed to do every Sunday,” Munchak said. “That’s not my concern. Believe me, it’s not something that crosses my mind about the consequence to me if we end up with four wins, five or six. To me, it doesn’t matter at this point.
“… This is going to be a very good football team here. We’re not showing it right now as far as our record goes. But believe me, we could easily have three or four more wins … than we have right now and it would be a totally different story. I feel like you’re seeing enough stuff that it’s close enough, it’s here. We’ll get it.”