For the first time in team history, the Tennessee Titans (not Oilers) have a head coach not named Jeff Fisher. After 16-plus seasons at the helm of the franchise, it was announced on January 27, 2011 that he would not be returning to the Titans for the 2011 season.
On February 7th, the Titans promoted offensive line coach Mike Munchak to head coach. While Munchak has no resume as a head coach, he had a fantastic career with the Houston Oilers.
In his twelve seasons as the Oilers left guard, he earned 9 Pro Bowl selections (1984-85, 1987-93), 4 First-Team All-Pro selections (1987-89, 1991) and a spot on the 1980s All-Decade Team. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001 and his number 63 was retired by the Titans.
While hiring Munchak, the Titans also fired defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil. Along with the coaching holes at the offensive line and defensive coordinator, the Titans also need to fill coaching voids at defensive line, running backs and wide receiver positions.
Here’s a look at some names who could fill the gaps on the coaching carousel…I mean staff.
Defensive Coordinator—Jerry Gray
Gray, a former teammate of Munchak, is rumored to be the favorite to take over as defensive coordinator. After 9 seasons as a player, he began his NFL coaching career with the Titans in 1997 as a defensive assistant and was promoted to defensive backs coach in 1999.
In 2001, then Titans defensive coordinator Greg Williams was hired to be the Buffalo Bills’ head coach. Williams brought Gray with him as the Bills’ defensive coordinator. Gray held the position from 2001-05, helping coach Buffalo to the No.2 overall defense in 2003 and 2004.
In 2006, Gray became the defensive backs coach with the Washington Redskins under head coach Joe Gibbs. He remained in Washington for 4 seasons before becoming the defensive backs coach for the Seattle Seahawks in 2010.
On January 17th, Gray became the assistant head coach and defensive backs coach at the University of Texas. Although Gray has just accepted a new position, it would be no surprise to jump at the opportunity for an NFL defensive coordinator job.
Defensive Line—Chuck Smith
After twelve seasons as the Titans defensive line coach, Jim Washburn accepted the same position with the Philadelphia Eagles.
This past season Chuck Smith was the defensive line coach just down I-40 at the University of Tennessee. After a reported disagreement with head coach Derek Dooley, it was announced that Smith would not return in 2011.
Smith, although inexperienced as a coach, had a decent career as a player. He was named as an All-Pro in 1997 for the Super Bowl bound Atlanta Falcons and is currently the Falcons’ franchise sack leader (58.5).
With a quality playing resume, Smith could really help an inexperienced Titans defensive line. The starting 4 lineman average only 4 years experience, and that’s including defensive end Jason Babin’s 7 years.
Offensive Line—Bruce Matthews
Every Titans fan knows the name Bruce Matthews. Matthews played an astounding nineteen seasons, all with the Oilers/Titans, which is unheard of in today’s era of free agency. He earned 14 Pro Bowl selections (1988-2001) and 8 First-Team All-Pro selections (1988-90, 1992, 1998-2000). He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007 and, like Munchak, had his number 74 retired by the Titans.
Matthews began his coaching career in 2009, as the Houston Texans’ offensive assistant. If Munchak is going to pick anyone to coach his line, who better than his former long-time teammate Bruce Matthews?