Nine Pro Bowls. Ten All Pro selections. All-Decade team for the 1980s. Hall of Famer.
These accolades jump off the page, but barely touch the surface of who Mike Munchak is as a head coach for the Tennessee Titans. You rarely hear much about him. He is not loud or boisterous. He does not grab headlines or make grandiose predictions. He does not make himself the story.
Today's league is filled with coaches who take on these imposing personalities that seem to overshadow the team that they coach. They, in essence, become the team.
Munchak, however, fades into the background. Quietly yet efficiently, he does his job. Munchak does not yell at his players; some even report they've never heard him raise his voice. He is not a politician, he tells the players how it is and how it is going to be in a straight-shooting style that they respond to. They respect him.
But don't confuse him for being a "player's coach."
Jeff Fisher, Munchak's predecessor and current Rams head coach, was widely regarded as just that. The result was a "country club atmosphere" with long offseasons, mid-season golf outings and lax rules. Upon taking over, Munchak quickly installed a system of discipline and professionalism. On road trips, players must dress up in a suit and tie or get fined. Showing up late to meetings is an automatic fine, as is inappropriate behavior during the season.
Munchak's approach to coaching is rooted in his upbringing. He grew up in a blue-collar household in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He was taught from a young age that hard work, discipline and professionalism is the path to success and he leads the team in that manner.
Former Titans guard Jake Scott summed it up well in an article for the Tennessean.
"It's pretty straightforward with Coach Munchak,'' Scott said. “A good friend of mine, a high school football coach, told me the guys that need to be yelled at don't listen, and the guys that listen don't need to be yelled at. And that is pretty much the sum total of it."
You will never hear Mike Munchak on a expletive-filled tirade. He does not deliver the fiery pregame speeches that you might get from Jim Harbaugh or Rex Ryan. Indeed, before the home opener against the Ravens, Munchak, a historian of the game, emphasized the history of the Titans-Ravens rivalry. He showed footage of the 2000 and 2008 playoff losses.
The team responded, stunning the Ravens with a 26-13 victory. The team ended up finishing the season with their first winning record since 2008, despite losing star wide receiver Kenny Britt to a torn ACL during week 3 and lackluster production from running back Chris Johnson.
And that sums up Munchak as a head coach. Upon taking over the job, Munchak was faced with a lockout and shortened offseason. Britt spent the offseason doing his best Ryan Leaf impression, with three arrests in as many weeks. Star RB Chris Johnson was holding out. And, oh yeah, the team's only quarterback was second-year pro Rusty Smith out of Florida Atlantic.
Munchak was not intimidated. He sat down with then-GM Mike Reinfeldt and developed a plan for the future. They viewed tape of every QB entering the draft and of every possible free agent QB. They drafted Jake Locker, and Munchak personally recruited Matt Hasselbeck, who was immediately sold.
Munchak sat down and had a man-to-man conversation with Britt about his off-the-field troubles. Britt has been trouble-free since.
And finally, he remained patient with the holdout of Johnson. He did not inflame the rhetoric or cast Johnson as greedy. He was a player once and he understood that these things take time. He stayed in the background and let the negotiators do the negotiating.
As with everything else, the results were successful.
That is Mike Munchak. Quiet. Demanding. Professional. Successful.
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