“Everyone always wants to know where they stand,” Mike Munchak said Monday afternoon.
The Tennessee Titans know for certain that they are not a playoff team. That is about as much certainty as they have had at any time in the last 11 months.
That reality was assured Sunday by a combination of results that accompanied their 23-22 victory over the Houston Texans. When all was said and done, had the New York Jets defeated the Miami Dolphins and everything else gone the way it did, the Titans would be preparing for the postseason.
As such, they already officially are into their offseason, which involves a much greater degree of certainty than the last.
A year after Jeff Fisher’s unexpected departure, players know who the coach will be (although another question about the opening at Penn State was posed to Munchak on Monday). With no lockout looming, they are aware of when free agency and the offseason training program begin.
They also know what is expected of them after one season under Munchak, the Hall of Fame offensive lineman who has been a part of the organization as a player, administrator or coach for 30 years.
“He’s definitely changed the culture,” fullback Ahmard Hall said. “He’s done away with a lot of things that might have been going on. He instilled a lot of discipline and accountability. Guys are going to be held accountable for everything they do. You know if you do something, you’re going to get fined.
“When guys know they’re going to be held accountable for stuff, it pretty much keeps them from doing it.”
Shortly after players cleared out their locker room, Munchak vowed to maintain that approach between now and the start of training camp.
He plans to conduct what he classified as frank discussions with members of his coaching staff. He hopes to provide honest insight about the franchise’s thinking toward potential free agents and he wants players to be involved in the offseason training program and workouts so that they are better prepared for the coming season.
“The more we did things then the more [the players] did exactly what was expected of them and I thought that was a good thing and was a good first step this year in a lot of areas,” Munchak said. “… That’s what you are trying to achieve here, that this is a place that you want to work because you know what’s expected of you. You know what we are going to expect out of you, we know what is going to be demanded of you. There will be no secrets with that and there will be structure and I think guys like that.”
It was a common theme throughout his remarks at a press conference to wrap up the season, which ended with a 9-7 record.
• On potential free agents (there are 23 of them), he said: “At some point I’m hoping that I can talk to all of them. No one can go anywhere until March. … I’m hoping I’ll have an opportunity to talk to them and at least express, ‘We’re moving forward in a different direction,’ or ‘You fit into our plans,’ or ‘We hope we can sign you.’
"I want an opportunity to speak with them all so I know where they stand, they know where we stand and at least as a decision is made, they know we’re on the same page.”
• On the possibility of changes to the coaching staff: “I think you want your boss to call you in and say, ‘You know what? You did a great job here, here and here, but maybe we can tweak this and this.’ I think that’s what we’re going to try to do over the next week or so, 10 days, as coaches, talk to each other about what we could do better, what we could change. Because if you don’t talk about it, it’s not going to change.
“… Those are the discussions you hope are very productive and that we can all take criticism and try to figure out a better way to do things in certain areas that maybe we need to improve upon.”
Apparently, his communication skills are pretty good already.
“He’s no-nonsense,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said last week. “He treats everybody the same, which is nice. As a player, the consistency is pretty good He’s not all the way up or all the way down.”
“His style is great because he’s very clear, very consistent. As a player, it’s just nice to now where you stand — it’s black and white. If you’re ever on the fence about something, you just think back to some of his core things that he’ll say and it’s clear.”