What's Next for Titans After Firing Mike Munchak?

Sean ODonnellContributor IIIJanuary 4, 2014

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On Saturday, the Tennessee Titans decided to part ways with head coach Mike Munchak after failing to reach the playoffs in all three of his seasons at the helm.

Titans general manager Ruston Webster issued this statement to Jim Wyatt of USA Today regarding the situation:

I want to thank Mike Munchak for his professionalism through this process and for his years of dedication. I am confident we will find a coach that can continue our growth as a team and lead us to sustained success.

After the Titans' 16-10 victory in Week 17 against the Houston Texans, Munchak spoke about his delight with the direction of the team:

I feel real good about this team, how we have grown as a team throughout the year. I see it first-hand every day. I see the tape. I see what we are doing. I think I have a great feel for what we need as we continue to get better.

I don't think we are that far off. I mean, I think you saw that in the way we played this year. I don't think you saw a team that last year we had a hard time hanging in games. This year, we were right there. We just got to find, get a few closures. We just need to find a few more guys to help us close out games and we'll be in great shape.

Well, Munchak won't be able to find the new guys he was speaking of—that job will now fall on someone else. This team still has a solid core of players, but his been mired in mediocrity since last making the playoffs in 2008 under Jeff Fisher.

There has been ongoing talk about possible changes to this football team, and this firing may just be the tip of the iceberg. After all, without knowledge of who will be next in line to take the reins of this team, the future of the roster remains undetermined.

Even still, rumors run rampant. In early December, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweeted that both Munchak and running back Chris Johnson would be finished with the team after the season:

So far, the team's halfway there.

It should not come as a surprise if Johnson is released or traded in short order. The veteran running back is set to make a total of $10 million next season, according to Spotrac.com.

Johnson was asked by Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean if he would consider taking a pay cut in 2014. Johnson said, "No way. I don't feel like it’s all my fault. It's a team effort."

So, there that is.

Johnson has reached the 1,000-yard mark every year he has been in the league, but in 2013, he struggled to get there. He gained 3.9 yards per carry, the lowest of his career. If the Titans are to go forward with any kind of a successful, balanced offense, they will need some fresh legs in the backfield.

What the Titans do at running back is not the only question mark on offense. What may be even more intriguing is what the Titans plan to do at the quarterback position.

Jake Locker just finished his third season with the team. In 2014, he will be entering a contract year in which he is scheduled to make just over $3.4 million, according to Spotrac.com. It's an inexpensive rookie contract, so the Titans have no reason to part ways with the signal-caller just yet.

Locker will be starting the 2014 season under heavy scrutiny. He was recently called out by Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com regarding his inability to lead the team. However, Kuharsky did mention that Locker's roster spot should not be in question.

With a new head coach coming to town, it could be possible that he would want to work with his "own guy" at the quarterback position. Whether that means selecting a quarterback early in May's draft or bringing in a veteran, Locker could have to deal with some competition when 2014 training camp rolls around.

Ian Rapoport tweeted that the Titans should be on the quarterback market, as they are not expected to pick up Locker's option for 2015:

Jake Locker Career Stats
SeasonGames PlayedComp %YardsTDsINTsRating

Even though the Titans committed over $100 million in free agency over the 2013 offseason, they are still in good position in terms of cap space. According to Spotrac.com, Tennessee currently has over $7.6 million in cap room in 2014 with an additional $12.8 million rolling over from the 2013 season.

This room will allow the Titans to address these team needs. Not only will they be looking to possibly replace their long-time running back and bolster the quarterback position, but there are other areas that should be tightened up as well.

Tennessee finished the season ranked 14th in the league in total defense, however, the linebacker corps could use some help. This area of the defense was a major factor in the team's 20th ranking against the run in 2013.

On the offensive side of the ball, the wide receiver corps is in need of some help after the demotion of Kenny Britt. Many pundits believe Britt has played his last down with the team which makes a replacement necessary.

Before any of these decisions take place, the Titans must first find a new head coach. With the offense in flux, it could be speculated that the Titans may be looking for an offensive-minded head coach. 

Names such as Norv Turner and Ken Whisenhunt could be highly considered here, as both men specialize on the offensive side of the ball and both have head coaching experience.

Whoever comes in as the next head coach of the Titans will certainly have his hands full. Expect this team to make more changes during the offseason to help contend in a relatively weak AFC South.


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