The 2013 Tennessee Titans were a disappointment to say the least.
Mike Munchak walks off LP Field after Sunday's win over Houston. A decision on his fate for 2014 will come over the next few days.
Now, the moves begin in terms of seeing what the 2014 roster and coaching staff could look like.
Beyond Mike Munchak's status as head coach, there are several other player and coach situations that could come into play as the Titans try to add enough to a team that has missed the playoffs for five straight years to turn it into a contender.
“I think this team has improved and we just need to continue to get better,” Titans general manager Ruston Webster Webster said . “It's been a long year, so we'll give it some time to digest, and just kind of see where we go from here.”
Munchak will plead his case to come back and finish the final year of his contract, which has one more season to run, and hopes that the Titans winning the final two games with a strong rushing attack and a solid defense.
“Once I get a timetable on exactly how they want to proceed, then I will have an opportunity to sit down and talk about this football team and how I see it going forward,” Munchak said.
In terms of what he will present on his behalf, Munchak said he will point out how close the Titans are to being a contender. Though they were eliminated two weeks ago losing to Arizona, the Titans finished just one game out of the final AFC playoff berth, one that would have been theirs with one more victory somewhere along the way.
“We have to make good decisions. We're there. There are a lot of good things going on,” Munchak said. “Yes, there's disappointment. Yes, there's things that we're not happy with, and all those things. WE have to have faith that we'll do the right thing here, the organization will. This is going to be a team that's building for success.
“I've been here before when we did it this way. It took us four years, and all of a sudden, we went to the Super Bowl after 8-8 and 7-9 and all of those things.”
If Munchak survives, other changes could be forthcoming among the coaches. Per a league source, a scenario exists where the Titans could part ways with defensive coordinator Jerry Gray and install senior assistant Gregg Williams to run the defense. The two shared the role this season as Williams returned from a one-year suspension.
As for the players, some of the changes are inevitable. Wide receiver Kenny Britt, who finished his career as a healthy scratch and posted only 11 receptions all year, will be gone as a free agent.
Chris Johnson, who finished off the season with 127 yards Sunday to cap one of the most disappointing seasons of his six-year career, probably won't be back unless he changes his mind about a pay cut. Johnson is due an $8 million base salary in 2014 with $8 more million to come in 2015 and $7 million, plus a $2 million roster bonus in 2016.
Johnson, who became only the sixth player in NFL history to run for 1,000 yards in his first six seasons, admitted he thought about that before Sunday's game.
“I gave a thought to that even just running out of the tunnel about possibly being my last game in Tennessee uniform,” Johnson said. “You know you give it a thought, but at the end of the day, you can't let it affect how you play in the game.”
Others who could possibly have played their final game with the Titans include Pro Bowl cornerback Alterraun Verner, who admits that he will test the market, though that doesn't necessarily mean he will rule out returning to Tennessee.
“I just think that it is just wise to see everything. I'm not shutting out Tennessee at all. I love being here and everything about here. My wife loves it here. I'm not ruling them out, but I think it would be wise to go out there and see what happens,” said Verner, who was named to his first Pro Bowl berth on Friday.
Likewise, receiver Damian Williams can be a free agent, and though he voiced a preference to stay, he admits it is undecided about his future.
“We'll just have to see how things shake out. You never want to leave, but you've just got to see. You never know what they're going to do,” Williams said.
Safety Bernard Pollard, who came to the Titans as a free agent, said he would like to return “if the right things” are done in the off-season.
Pollard said he spoke to new CEO Tommy Smith before the game Sunday and had met with Mike Munchak last week to discuss his future.
“I talked to Mr. Smith today, and it was very encouraging,” said Pollard. “We're gonna see what happens. This is a good team, screaming to be great, and begging to be great. ...They know where I stand, and I think they know the situation where I'm coming from. I think they're doing everything they can to make sure this team is put in the right situation for us to be successful.”
Another Titan, who is a latecomer to the team also voiced a desire to return. Kick returner Leon Washington, signed a few weeks ago, stabilized the return game and says the Titans are close to being a contender.
“I would definitely (come back). The relationship I have with Coach Munchak, we hit it off right away. The relationship I have with Coach Nate (Kaczor), the special teams coach, is pretty special. I would definitely like to be back.
“...They're really close in my opinion. A turnover here, a turnover there, in my opinion, and you win some games. If the returner earlier in the year (Darius Reynaud) had made some smart decisions, I think they win a couple of more games. This team is rolling with a lot of young talent; it's a playoff team if you ask me.”
Quarterback Jake Locker, still on crutches and in a walking boot from his Lis franc injury, said he will be ready to go by mini-camps.
Locker said he still has three more months in the walking boot before he can be released to begin his rehab work.
“I'll be good to go by mini-camps. I'll be good to go and fine. I get out of the boot in four months from the surgery,” Locker said.
Locker has missed 14 of a possible 32 starts in his two years as a starter due to various injuries. He was also asked if he is trying to match backup Ryan Fitzpatrick's beard, and said, “I told my wife I'm not shaving till I can run, so we'll see (if he can beat Fitzpatrick's beard).”