Coach's challenge convincing owner of his plan
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By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Mike Munchak has been around long enough to know that five wins in a season isn't good enough in the NFL.
The Tennessee coach's challenge will be convincing owner Bud Adams, his boss for 30 seasons as a player and coach, is that he needs more time to turn the Titans back into a winner.
Munchak is only the seventh Hall of Fame player to be an NFL head coach since the 1970 merger, the fifth to coach the team he played for. He wraps up his second season Sunday against Jacksonville (2-13) with 15 players on injured reserve, including four of his starting offensive linemen out for the final month.
"I don't feel good about where we're at," Munchak said. "I feel good about a lot of things, the pieces of the puzzle we do have. I feel good about a lot of things that can get fixed real quickly."
After last week's 55-7 loss to Green Bay, Adams, who turns 90 on Jan. 3, made it clear he wants answers from his front office and Munchak after the season finale on what's gone wrong with a team that went 9-7 in 2011, one of three winning records since the 2003 season when this franchise last won a playoff game.
Munchak, who has a four-year contract, cautioned that turning around a franchise can take more than just a season or two. He lost his first offseason as a head coach to the NFL lockout in 2011 and has had just one offseason to teach a team largely built through the draft.
"We have a short period of time to fix it, but I feel very confident that we will, and sometimes it takes longer than two seasons to do that ... so I think you have to make a decision and look at who we have on our roster, who we're playing against, what we're doing," Munchak said. "You have to figure out where we're headed and we'll see. I feel good about how we're going to get there, and it will be up to Mr. Adams to decide if he agrees with me."
When Munchak was promoted from assistant offensive line coach to the team's coach on Feb. 7, 2011, he joined fellow Hall of Famers Raymond Berry, Mike Ditka, Forrest Gregg, Art Shell, Bart Starr and Mike Singletary in making the transition from player to NFL head coach. Singletary, the most recent, went 8-8 in his first full season with San Francisco only to be fired after going 5-10 in 2011.
Veteran Matt Hasselbeck helped cover up some of this team's rebuilding needs in Munchak's debut season.
When the Titans decided in August to go with Jake Locker as their starting quarterback, they opened with their youngest roster in both average age and experience since 2006.
The eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft wound up missing five starts after hurting his left shoulder twice in the first four games. When Locker returned in November, the Titans had lost two starting offensive linemen from August, which reached four of the five by Dec. 2.
"We knew the transition of a new quarterback is definitely going to add to that, but when you're adding a new quarterback and then you're adding all these injuries, it's hard to get anything in sync," said Munchak, who is 14-17 as head coach.
Receiver Nate Washington, one of the few veterans on this team, said Wednesday he thinks Munchak has handled a difficult season the best he can.
"He's put blame where it need be as well as he's looked himself in the mirror in front of us," Washington said. "He's told guys at the end of the day, we all have to go out and do our job."
Munchak has made several moves this season trying to jumpstart his team. First, he convinced coordinators Chris Palmer and Jerry Gray to move from the sideline to the coaching box, then fired Palmer on Nov. 26.
With the Titans nine points shy of tying the franchise record for most points allowed, Munchak may have to make other changes to his coaching staff.
He also talked veteran offensive coach Tom Moore into joining the Titans for the final month to help new coordinator Dowell Loggains.
Munchak understands building can take patience. He wasn't part of a winning team himself until his sixth season as a player, and he has had fellow Hall of Fame players such as Elvin Bethea, Kenny Houston and Warren Moon talk to his Titans about surviving and thriving in tough seasons.
He brought in Kevin Carter a couple weeks ago as a reminder of how the Rams went from 4-12 in 1998 to winning the Super Bowl the next season.
"Adversity builds character, and we're going to find out what we're all about," Munchak said.
If he gets the time.
NOTES: Chris Johnson (ankle) and RB Jamie Harper (ankle) did not practice Wednesday along with LB Colin McCarthy (concussion), C Kevin Matthews (right ankle), CB Ryan Mouton (hamstring), TE Craig Stevens (concussion), WR Damian Williams (foot) and LB Will Witherspoon (chest). WR Kendall Wright (rib) was limited after missing last week's game.
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Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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