Mike Munchak told owner Bud Adams when he accepted the job as the Tennessee Titans on Monday that he wouldn't let the 88-year-old owner down.
Munchak, who has been part of the organization since being a first-round pick of the Houston Oilers in 1982, was named the Titans 16th head coach on Monday and promised changes for a team that had become stale in finishing 6-10 this past season.
“I'd like to thank Mr. Adams for entrusting me with the responsibility of leading the Titans into next year. I know he wants to win, and he'll do whatever it takes to win,” Munchak said. “I want to thank Mr. Adams for believing in me and giving me this opportunity. I told Mr. Adams earlier before I came in here, that one thing is for sure – I will not let you down.”
Adams reciprocated that confidence in his Hall of Fame lineman turned coach via conference call at the start of the press conference.
“He has always been a hard worker and has always achieved success. He made it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” Adams said. “He has the respect of people he played with and those who played for him. He is the type of leader who can guide us again into the playoffs. It is time to see what he can do.”
Munchak said he expects a professional approach from players, coaches and staff.
“My philosophy is simple. No matter what your job is in this organization is to be a pro, and what I mean by that is: Know what to do and do it,” Munchak said. “No excuses. No whining. Just do it. I've stressed that to my players on the offensive line.
“The vision to me is to someday present the Lombardi Trophy to Mr. Adams and presenting each person in this organization with a Super Bowl ring.”
What Munchak can and will do is make changes, both to the personnel and the coaching staff that has at least five vacancies and perhaps more if Munchak decides to jettison any of the current coaches.
“Whenever a team makes a change like this, it's hard on everybody. There's a lot of uncertainty throughout the organization. We've been spoiled here,” he said. “This is our first coaching change in 14 years (in Tennessee). I know it's been a tough decision, a tough time, a tough process for Steve Underwood and Mike Reinfeldt to go through.
“I've been here. I know what we're doing well, and I know what we need to change. And I can promise you I'll do what it takes to get us back on the winning track. I feel to be successful in the NFL, we need the support of every single person in this building – the coaches, players and support staff. And I feel that as one of the leaders of this franchise, that lies on my shoulders to make this happen.”
Titans players, especially those on the offensive line, were happy that their position coach had been promoted to head the organization on the field.
“It’s going to be a really good thing for all of us moving forward,” guard Jake Scott said. “He’s extremely detailed. He pays a lot of attention to the small details of the game. That’s what makes us good as an offensive line, and it’s going to be what makes us good as a team.”
Munchak said he never pursued other opportunities for offensive coordinator or head coaching vacancies over the years primarily because his family was happy in Nashville and he was happy coaching the offensive line. Those possibilities were there, however, as just this off-season several teams, most notably the Carolina Panthers, pursued Munchak as an o-line coach. Each time, Munchak stayed the course with the Titans organization, and on Monday he was rewarded with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be the Titans head coach.
“There was no reason for me to leave. Family is first for me, first and foremost when I make my decisions. I was never chasing the dream, or chasing the head coach or coordinator title,” Munchak said. “We've done a lot of great things in this city. There was no reason ever to leave, so I was thrilled with what I was doing. In the back of my mind, I was saying 'If I was the head coach, I would do this, or if I was the head coach, I would do that.' I never said it publicly, but I definitely knew what I would do. I had been around good people and good coaches, and I think I take a little bit from everyone I've been around.”
Everyone includes his predecessor Jeff Fisher, whom he spoke well of and thanked for giving him a chance, and also Penn State legend Joe Paterno, who was his college coach.
Munchak's first item of business as far as change is how to fill the coaching staff vacancies. In terms of who might return, Munchak will have full reign over the coaching staff hirings and firings. When asked about retaining offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger specifically, Munchak answered in general terms regarding the entire staff.
“To me, anything is open,” he said. “I feel like we’re starting fresh. It’s not the same-old, same-old. I think we can come in, sit down and figure out what’s best for the Titans going forward with what we have here obviously and then just go from there. So I’m not going to say … Anything is possible.”
With the Titans 6-10 this past season and needing everything from a defensive coordinator to a starting quarterback, Munchak offers no alibis, only the hope of turning things around.
“The way the league is set up right now, you know, why not us? Why not the Titans?” Munchak said. “To me, they have to believe in that, and that starts with me sending that message on what we should be thinking—that way, not, ‘Oh, poor old us. This happened to us, this happened to us.’ Like I said, no excuses.”