NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Sure, the Titans just faced three tough defenses during a three-game losing streak.
Coach Mike Munchak got the people he wanted on his coaching staff and his roster during the offseason. He didn't then say, "We'll be a much better team except on days we play good defenses."
Indications after the Titans fell from 9-7 in Munchak’s first season to 6-10 in his second were that he and his assistants were handcuffed by a lack of talent. So owner Bud Adams signed off on an offseason spending spree.
Thirteen guys on this team played elsewhere in 2012. Seven draft picks were in college last season.
That’s a third of Munchak’s roster that was turned over as he sought the players of sufficient quality. Additionally, he dumped four assistant coaches, added four new ones and altered the responsibilities of three more.
No head coach has everything he wants at his disposal.
But Munchak got a lot of what he wanted. He knew, while he’s signed through 2014, that it would be a make-or-break year, and he felt he finally had the people to do the things he really wanted to do.
His Titans would be a physical, tone-setting, smart team that could get the tough yard. Well, his Titans just saw Kansas City, Seattle and San Francisco. All three were far better versions of what Munchak’s team aspires to be.
The team is better. It lost two games with its backup quarterback playing and just faced three top defenses. But it's a results-based business.
Here, at the bye week of his third year, Munchak’s got a struggling 3-4 team that still lacks an identity, that can be quite undisciplined, that’s overly reliant on defense, that shows little innovation on offense and that is still centered around an offensive line that's not great and a running back who can’t make anyone miss.
Thirty-nine games into Munchak’s career as a head coach, he owns an 18-21 record. It’s not even mediocre. For all the change, nothing’s really changed.
Things might get a lot better. The schedule does soften going forward. Teams go from cold to hot all the time.
But there is very little reason to believe that’s what the Titans will do. Teams break through and change who they are. Generally, however, the best predictor of future performance is past performance.
Be a pro. Know what to do and do it. Those are Munchak’s mantras.
Accountability starts with the offender, of course. Still, we have to ask do guys committing 10 penalties worth 100 yards and two first downs know what to do? Are they doing it?
What are they thinking when they hear Munchak talk about the penalties?
“Just blame it on me,” Munchak said. “It’s a lack of discipline, I guess.”
It’s time to stop guessing on such things. Where is the discipline he’s been talking about for nearly three years? Thirty-nine games is plenty of time to establish an identity. Munchak’s Titans still don’t have one, especially on offense.
He knows the questions and the issues. He just doesn’t seem to be able to answer or solve them.
Among the discussions that will be most popular from now to the Titans’ next game, Nov. 3 in St. Louis, will be Munchak’s future.
He expects to see progress from players.
When he didn’t see it from Kenny Britt, Britt’s snaps were severely reduced. When he didn’t see it from center Rob Turner, Turner was replaced. Monday morning, the team cut struggling return man Darius Reynaud.
That’s great news in terms of accountability.
You know where I am going.
Is the guy lacking the answers putting himself in line to be replaced?
It’s not going to happen during the season. It will count a great deal on what happens the rest of the way and on what sort of mood Adams is in the day after the Titans' season ends.
Barring a collapse by Denver or Kansas City, only one wild-card slot is going to be available in the AFC. It might take a 10-6 record to get it. I have a lot of trouble envisioning a 7-2 record from the Titans in their final nine games to get there.
“How the story finishes is up to us, as a staff and as a team, how we handle this adversity right now that we’re going through,” Munchak said. “Unfortunately, we have two weeks to think about it before we have a chance to play again. Look at our schedule, we have a good opportunity to win a lot of football games this year. We have some work ahead of us, and we have to get better than what you saw today, because that’s not good enough. We all know that, and we’ll see.
“We get to decide how this thing is going to finish. All is not lost. ... But we have to get better than what you saw [Sunday], because that’s not good enough.”