No one has been more of a company man than Mike Munchak for the Tennessee Titans.
No one has been more loyal. He knows the history of the organization, having been a first-round pick out of Penn State in 1982 and played for the Titans' predecessor, the Houston Oilers for his entire 12-year Hall of Fame career.
When he was named head coach in 2011, he began the process of linking the Oilers past to the Titans presence, making sure the players knew the franchise's history by having photos and memories placed on the walls inside St. Thomas Sports Park. He would even walk and talk with owner Bud Adams, who gave him the opportunity to be the head coach, down those hallways to reminisce about the glory days and talk of his plans to restore the franchise to better days.
Though Adams essentially put Munchak on notice at the end of last season that things had to improve with the Titans after a $100 million infusion of free agents, Adams' death in October certainly casts doubt on Munchak's future with the organization.
Munchak, who has spent more than three decades with the franchise, could be down to his final three games with the franchise unless the Titans can make some sort of run to convince new team president Tommy Smith and general manager Ruston Webster that Munchak deserves one more year to complete his rebuilding of the Titans.
Munchak believes he deserves one more chance to complete the task he originally promised Adams of bringing the Titans back to prominence. But he knows there won't be any sentiments from Smith or Webster when the final decision is made on his fate.
"I don’t think my relationship or how long I’ve been with the organization should have anything to do with it. Ultimately, it’s about what’s best for this organization, not necessarily short term but long term," Munchak said. "A lot of people in this business think very short term where they want change but they don’t know what to do about it. They just want to change it without having a plan. I think you have to have both. I think if you want to change something you have to have a plan about what’s a better way to do it. I don’t think me as far as how long I’ve been in the NFL or this organization should really be a factor. It won’t be when it comes to what’s best for this football team going forward."
According to a source, the decision on whether Munchak stays or not could go beyond the Titans' final win-loss record. Whether that becomes 8-8, as Munchak hopes, or falls somewhere in between, the final determination could rest more on whether Smith and Webster feel like Munchak and the coaching staff got the most out of what was promised to be a vastly improved team.
The Titans brought in 22 new players this season and are still only 5-8 and needing to win two of the final three games just to better last year's woeful 6-10 mark.
The question then becomes, did the Titans underachieve or was the roster overvalued at the start of the season, raising those expectations too high.
Complicating the matter is the fact that quarterback Jake Locker missed nine games this season with injuries, and the Titans simply have not played consistently well under backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
"I’m not going to blame injury on my record, our record. My one season that we were 9-7, our quarterback played all 16 games. (Matt) Hasselbeck played all 16, and we were 9-7 my first year," Munchak said. "Last two years we haven’t stayed healthy. Is that the only reason we are where we are? No. We have to do things better in a lot of phases. I think we should be playing better with Fitzy. We should have won games with him at the quarterback spot that we have not. We all know that. … The quarterback being knocked out twice makes a huge difference, no doubt about it. You build a team around a quarterback, you have a scheme for that quarterback, you lose him. We haven’t done a good job recovering from that."
The big question that remains from trying to recover is whether or not that blow will end up being a fatal one for Munchak and the coaching staff.