It became apparent Tuesday that Mike Munchak does not plan to maintain the status quo as Tennessee Titans coach.
His decision to fire offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger and two others was the first clear-cut piece of evidence he does not intend to follow in Jeff Fisher’s footsteps even as he fills Fisher’s shoes.
That decision meant that Munchak would begin his tenure with coordinators of his own choosing. He inherited an opening at defensive coordinator because Chuck Cecil was fired a week before Fisher’s departure.
Munchak said his philosophies in regard to schemes and approach will be equally obvious in the choices he makes to fill those openings.
“Obviously there’s going to be different chemistry in this building, and that will create change with the coaching changes we’re going to make,” Munchak said. “… I think it’s something you’ll see as we go. I think, as you see it, you’ll go, ‘Oh, that’s what they’re doing there.’ Or we brought this guy in, we signed so and so as this position coach, ‘OK, I can see what they’re doing there.’”
“It’s going to be a journey, and right now, it’s all there. It’s just now putting the pieces together.”
Or removing them, as he did with Heimerdinger and offensive quality control coach Richie Wessman and defensive quality control coach Rayna Stewart. Wessman and Stewart had been in their respective roles for the past two seasons.
Heimerdinger was the Titans’ offensive coordinator from 2000-04 and again the last three seasons. When Fisher re-hired him in 2008, he called Heimerdinger “the best play-caller I’ve ever worked with.”
Munchak, the offensive line coach all that time, apparently saw things differently.
“[Munchak] wants to go in a different direction, and as the head coach of the team, it’s his prerogative to do that,” Heimerdinger said. “It’s disappointing that I can’t see things through, which I would have liked to have been able to do.
“Mike needs to do things his own way.”
The decision to part with Heimerdinger does not offer immediate insight into Munchak’s approach.
In his first stint with the Titans, Heimerdinger’s offense, with quarterbacks Steve McNair and Billy Volek, finished among the league’s top 10 in passing three times. The last three years, with running backs Chris Johnson and (for a time) LenDale White, twice finished among the top 10 in rushing.
“[Heimerdinger] is an innovative offensive mind and we have worked well through the years, but I believe we need to go in a different direction at offensive coordinator,” Munchak said. “…These are not easy decisions, but I have a responsibility to move things in the direction that I have laid out for this team.
“We will continue to evaluate the rest of the staff moving forward.”
At this point, Munchak’s staff will have at least eight new faces, including the offensive line coach he hires to replace himself. It seems likely that will be Bruce Matthews, the Oilers/Titans Hall of Fame offensive lineman and one of Munchak’s closest friends.
Matthews was an offensive assistant with Houston the past two seasons and he recently agreed to a new two-year contract with the Texans. According to a report out of Houston, however, Matthews never signed that contract, which makes it possible for the Titans to talk to him.
“I think chemistry is a huge part — to me — of us being successful,” Munchak said. “You want the players to see what we’re doing. You want the players to see on the sidelines how the coaches are acting, how we’re interacting, because that’s how they’re going to act.
“So I want a staff that fits. There’s going to be certain things that I’m looking for in a coach. [There is] a lot of work ahead of me and everybody else here. It’s not just all me. I’m going to have a lot of help doing it, making the right decisions. I’m looking forward to building it.”