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Stream of recent Tennessee reports puts cart before horse

ChrisJohnson Getty Images

If the Titans were in a major market or otherwise relevant, the stream of recent reports regarding the franchise’s immediate future would have gotten more attention.

But because the Titans have largely been forgettable since squandering the No. 1 seed in 2008 with a home playoff loss to the Ravens, no one has seemed to notice or care much about the news that:  (1) coach Mike Munchak likely will be fired; (2) the 2011 CBA-driven fifth-year option on quarterback Jake Locker’s rookie contract most likely won’t be picked up; (3) running back Chris Johnson most likely won’t be back; and (4) the team could be interested in quarterback Jay Cutler, who played college football at Vanderbilt.

The flaw in items two through four is that each of those outcomes depend in large part on the identity of the head coach.  Even if G.M. Ruston Webster remains in the job, the next head coach surely will have input on the question of whether the team does or doesn’t want Locker, does or doesn’t want Johnson, and/or does or doesn’t want Cutler.

If Munchak goes, that would be a shame.  Beyond the fact that Munchak has spent more than 30 years working for the same organization as both a player and a coach, it’s not clear how much blame Munchak should get for the decision to draft Jake Locker in 2011, Munchak’s first year as the head coach.  With a roster that generally is viewed as being more mediocre than stellar when it comes to talent, it’s possible that Munchak has whipped up the best possible batch of chicken salad that he can.

Assuming there’s a new coach, the new coach possibly will want to see what Locker can do.  Even if the Titans don’t pick up a fifth-year option that would grossly overpay Locker in light of what he has accomplished, they have him under contract for one more year, at a fully-guaranteed salary of $2.09 million.  If he can stay healthy and play well within the confines of an offense aimed at keeping him in one piece, a new contract for 2015 and beyond not driven by the inflated fifth-year option becomes at least possible.

As to Johnson, the fourth year of his current deal carries an $8 million non-guaranteed base salary with no triggers that force a decision in March or April.  It’s therefore too early to assume he’ll be cut.  He could be traded to St. Louis, where he’d be reunited with former Titans coach Jeff Fisher.  Johnson also could accept a renegotiated contract that better reflects his current market value.  Without an obligation to pay him a lot of money early in the 2014 league year, the Titans can let things play out deep into 2014 calendar before making a final decision.

Here’s an important factor to consider when it comes to Johnson, who remains on track for the sixth 1,000-yard season of his six-year career.  If he’s not on the team, who will the fans be paying to watch?  On a roster bereft of star power, keeping Johnson could still be the best strategy for putting butts in the seats.

Again, the final decision will at least be influenced by the identity of the coach.  Unless the Titans already have decided to fire Munchak and to replace him with someone who definitely doesn’t want Chris Johnson on the team, it’s too early to predict with certainty what will happen to him.

And that brings us to Cutler.  It’s impossible to know whether the Titans would want Cutler without knowing who the coach is.  What if they hire Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, whose first order of business as the head coach in Denver was to trade Cutler?

Will the Titans be “interested” in Cutler if he hits the open market?  Sure they will.  Any team without a franchise quarterback would at least have some interest in a guy who could still become in the right circumstances a true franchise quarterback — especially if the price is right.

Will Cutler be the quarterback in Tennessee?  A lot of dominoes will have to fall a certain way before that ever happens.

The first domino to fall would be a Hall of Fame offensive lineman with a very long history of loyal service to the franchise.  Here’s hoping that the full scope of Mike Munchak’s contributions to the team and his responsibility for its current state are considered before he’s pushed out the door.

Here’s also hoping the Titans are sure they’ll be able to find someone who’ll be able to get more out of a roster that resides far from the top of the league when it comes to assessing overall football talent.

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24 Responses to “Stream of recent Tennessee reports puts cart before horse”
  1. h3min1230 says: Dec 10, 2013 10:08 AM

    For some odd reason I can’t get myself to hate Chris Johnson. As much as his play has dropped off, I would still love for him to sign with the Pats.

  2. rascalmanny says: Dec 10, 2013 10:17 AM

    Keeping Munch and CJ for another year will NOT put butts in seats. Are you kidding? There’s been lots of empty seats already even though the tickets are sold.

    Titans fans have wanted to clean house for some time now and I sure hope they make a run for Mccarron and a bulldozer RB.

    Adams gave us VY, CJ, and Munch and we’re waiting to see what the new owner will do. Hopefully he will make the needed changes.

  3. wishingtonredslur says: Dec 10, 2013 10:30 AM

    He’d be good on the Pats because they have Brady keeping defenses honest on the deep ball. They also wouldn’t be giving him the overvalue contract he currently enjoys.

  4. titansfannb says: Dec 10, 2013 10:30 AM

    As much as I am grateful for all of munch’s years of loyal service, he is just not head coaching material, 3 years in a row he has gone up against winless teams and lost. There is talent on this team, they are just maddeningly inconsistent. Time for some fresh blood and let the new coach decide what to do with locker and johnson.

  5. bechillin says: Dec 10, 2013 10:42 AM

    this team has more than enough talent to contend. greg williams has done wonders with the defense given the lack of depth.

    The offense should be able to score at will but locker was never the same after his injury against the jets and fitzpatrick is fitzpatrick.

    no one understands that chris palmer was a big reason CJ’s production dropped and an oline that should dominate every game is not. That is on munchak

  6. gatorsandsteelerssuckbigblackclocks says: Dec 10, 2013 10:42 AM

    Ok considering munchak’s contributions…considering…considering…thanks munch, please leave now.

  7. TheDPR says: Dec 10, 2013 11:03 AM

    If you can get Locker healthy, I’d take him over Cutler at this point in both their careers. Cutler is what he is and is unlikely to improve. Locker still has potential if you can put a team around him.

    I’d give Munchak another year with Locker. Let Chris Johnson go. Try to grab a Ben Tate sort of guy in free agency maybe. Unload Kenny Britt.

  8. imthaschmidt says: Dec 10, 2013 11:15 AM

    as a Titans fan i completely agree, i wanted munchak and CJ gone this year and Locker is trash. Cutler would be a great pickup but i would like manziel in the draft. This team needs to stop sitting in the middle of the pack and either be terrible and get good draft picks or spend tons and be a real playoff contender. losing to JAx and houston is just ridiculous in the middle of a wild card chase.

  9. jagtiger says: Dec 10, 2013 11:20 AM

    Maybe they should move to London or LA?

  10. baily67 says: Dec 10, 2013 11:22 AM

    how can you actually say there’s no talent on this offense? have you not watched Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter play this year? catching passes from mediocre quarterbacks and a lame offensive coordinator calling the plays?? come on.

  11. realfootballfan says: Dec 10, 2013 11:26 AM

    I don’t know who views Tennessee’s roster as mediocre. Despite the Texan narrative that it has a ready made turn around roster, the Titans are actually the team that has one of the best rosters that is not playing up to capability. Now, some of that is not Munchak’s problem with the injuries to key players, but the Titans have underachieved nonetheless.

  12. patayling says: Dec 10, 2013 11:32 AM

    Really banging the drum hard for Munchak here…you guys buddies?

    But true, he’s playing the cards that he’s dealt by the Front Office. They haven’t been very good ones.

  13. detectivejimmymcnulty says: Dec 10, 2013 11:32 AM

    Sounds like Florio has a personal relationship with Munchak. He’s not a good in game coach, which is pretty important to succeed as an NFL HC. I think Locker is just too high of a price for an injury prone guy with a lot to prove. You can’t doubt his physical skills.

  14. starchybunker says: Dec 10, 2013 11:35 AM

    ” If he’s not on the team, who will the fans be paying to watch?”

    that’s a very legitimate question from a casual outsider…but believe me that a very large portion of the paying Titans fans are more than ready for CJ to go…

    And while Munch is a class act/great human being/tremendous asset to the organization, he is extremely over-matched as a head coach…which is too bad.

  15. metalhead65 says: Dec 10, 2013 11:45 AM

    so because Cutler played college ball in the state of Tennessee he will be the titans QB next year? I don’t think so unless they back up the brinks truck to sign him. he will be in no hurry to learn his 4th offense in 5 years and play for a team going nowhere. I think he will resign with the Bears with a cap friendly 2-3 year deal. he is playing in a NFL offense for the first time since he came to the Bears with NFL quality talent around him. he will not want to leave a good situation to start over again unless they are prepared to pay him a romo type contract.

  16. wikipediasaidso says: Dec 10, 2013 11:52 AM

    …it’s possible that Munchak has whipped up the best possible batch of chicken salad that he can.
    ==========

    Munchak is a great guy, a very smart guy, and over the many years with the organization has been a top-notch assistant. The kind of guy any organization would be proud to have on their staff.

    But the way they’ve lost games especially this year, winnable games where they found so many ways to beat themselves, is frustrating. This year in particular, it’s really not about a lack of talent.

    It just hasn’t been the best batch of chicken salad. And that goes along with a really horrid division record ever since Munchak took over, even when the division has been down in recent years.

    So yeah, if they decide to make coaching changes, I’d understand.

  17. stephen031 says: Dec 10, 2013 11:53 AM

    Wholeheartedly disagree on the talent point you make. At this point, the team has way too much talent to be a 5-6 win team.

    With CJ, Wright, Washington, Britt, and Hunter, there should be so much more production on offense, no matter who is at QB. The DL has a $35 million DE (Wimbley) rotting on the bench, an above average 1st round pick DE (Morgan), and a Pro Bowl DT (Casey). LBs could be better, but there’s definitely talent there. Then a lot would argue that the Titans have two Pro Bowl-caliber CBs, if nothing else, McCourty and Verner will both be paid like it after this year. Griffin and Pollard have both been above average.

    So where does the problem lay? Other than lack of production and instability at QB.. right back at the position Munchak coaches, the offensive line. It’s been mediocre to even awful at times for 4 seasons now, despite the fact that most people were saying the Titans had one of the most talented OLs in the league coming into this year.

    In addition, Munchak’s coaching hires have been awful. He gutted everyone to bring all his old buddies from the Oiler days with him. He fired Alan Lowry (great STs coach, who happened to draw up the Music City Miracle) and now the special teams is the worst in the NFL. Dowell Loggains has no idea what he’s doing as offensive coordinator since he has no experience and Jerry Gray is somehow still on staff despite the fact he doesn’t know what a blitz is.

    The Titans are 2-18 against teams over .500 since Munchak became coach.. one of the wins was when the Texans benched their starters Week 17. Even if the roster had talent comparable to the Jaguars, you can’t even say he’s getting all he can out of this team with that record.

  18. jdmix says: Dec 10, 2013 12:11 PM

    Will be interesting to see what happens. Locker, hasn’t played through a whole season yet. Even, if he makes it through all of next season, what’s to say he is “finally” healthy? I would take a run a Cutler if he becomes available and if you have to get rid of CJ trade him and don’t cut him if possible. Titans need more depth on defense and not sure if Munch is the right fit, but I could see him there one more year. I would look to draft Aaron Murray from UGA if I was the Titans if you can’t land Cutler.

  19. granadafan says: Dec 10, 2013 12:56 PM

    For the amount they’re paying Johnson, he has severely underperformed. NFL teams play 16 games plus playoffs. Getting a 1000 yards should be the norm, not something extraordinary worthy of exhorbitant contracts.

  20. thegreatgabbert says: Dec 10, 2013 2:26 PM

    The horse was managing to nudge the cart along with it’s nose until the wheels started falling off.

  21. dodohead418 says: Dec 10, 2013 3:25 PM

    What we really have to consider with Munchak?

  22. gbr437 says: Dec 10, 2013 4:10 PM

    As a Titans fan it has been quite painful watching my team go in with high expectations only to under achieve year in & out. While i do agree that we need to cut bait on Munchak, his staff, & Locker. I do not agree with releasing or trading CJ. A contract restructure sounds like a better option. Unlike most backs in the league he’s always healthy. Thats rare for a back thats been playing as long as he’s been playing. Also, if you take Jamaal Charles for example. He & Chris Johnson are pretty much the same dynamic back with the same potential to score from anywhere on the field. The differences between the 2 is qb & coach. When’s the last time the Titans had a consistent QB that could keep Defenses from keying in on CJ? Anyone…? I’ll wait! I mentioned the coach because last i checked the coach is responsible for the overseeing of his OC & the offensive plays. Every week Munchak allows plays for CJ to continuously run straight up the middle for losses or no gains. That is not his strength! KC does not utilize JC like this. They run stretch plays, screens, & even use him at wide receiver simply because he’s that dangerous to where they can do multiple things like that with him. The Titans need to really study how KC uses JC & in turn use CJ in the same manner for him to be successful. Cutler is not the answer either because he’s pretty much an older version of Locker. Inconsistent & injury prone.

  23. gkgtchey says: Dec 10, 2013 5:59 PM

    I think all of these issues can be resolved by addressing the running game and more specific, the play calling. Why does the Titans OC insist on using his speed back as a battering ram? They need to get CJ the ball in space, and use a Shawn Green type for smashing the ball between the tackles. Its this simple.. then Munch looks good, CJ looks good, the o line looks good, the defense isn’t out there as long so they look good.. etc. If they insist on trying to slam CJ in there, then they get no first downs, and get beat. And everyone gets fired.. its really that easy.

  24. slobberknocker says: Dec 10, 2013 7:19 PM

    Uh, here’s a thought: WINS will put butts in the seats…even on a cold day.

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