Commentary by David Climer, The Tennessean
Is 8-8 good enough?
Is it playoffs or bust?
Nobody really knows what it will take for Mike Munchak's head coaching tenure with the Titans to extend beyond this season. But one thing's for sure: status quo won't cut it.
Munchak understands this. Ask him about it and he'll tell you that he puts more pressure on himself than anyone. He'll say every NFL coach is only as good as his last game.
But when your owner is on record as saying he expects improvement, you're only as good as your next game. Coming off a 6-10 season that included six losses by 20 or more points and a 55-7 debacle in Green Bay in the next-to-last game for good measure significant improvement is essential.
Up front, let me say I think the Titans will be better. When you turn over one-third of your roster via free agency and the draft, you're banking on an upgrade. On paper and on the field, there is improvement at a number of spots, particularly in the offensive line.
But will it be enough to save Munchak's job? I'll have to get back to you on that. Check with me during the bye week after San Francisco comes to town. By then, the Titans will have a seven-game body of work. We'll know if they're a viable playoff contender or will spend the final two months of the season in a salvage effort.
Owner Bud Adams has stopped short of issuing a playoffs or pink slips edict like the one that greeted Jeff Fisher and Floyd Reese at the 1999 training camp. In fact, Bud has left things surprisingly open-ended. At age 90, maybe he's mellowing.
When he announced Munchak would return for a third season as coach, Bud said he expects the Titans to be in the playoffs this season but stopped short of saying it is an absolute necessity or there will be a total housecleaning.
Clearly, though, more wins are expected. And Munchak knows it. He says he's up for the challenge.
As training camp dawned on Thursday, Munchak seemed more at ease than at any point in his head coaching tenure. You get the sense that he is doing things on his own terms now. In 2011, he pretty much stuck with the training camp plan that had been utilized by his predecessor. Last season, there were some tweaks here and there but no overhaul.
This time around, Munchak decided to move everyone players and coaches into a hotel for the first two weeks of camp. This misery-loves-company approach is intended to create team bonding.
"I've had a chance to prepare for what I like and what I don't like and what's best for our team," Munchak said. "... It gives me confidence with when I put a schedule together of what I think we need."
Moreover, he has been permitted to surround himself with people he knows and trusts. He initiated the move to get Gregg Williams on staff. He had other options but chose to elevate 32-year-old Dowell Loggains to offensive coordinator. He made other moves on the staff to get a greater comfort level.
Beyond that, Munchak has made it clear he wants to put his own stamp on the team. Harkening back to his days as a player and later as an assistant coach, he is emphasizing a more physical approach, with the rebuilt offensive line as the anchor.
"Our system is in place now," Munchak said.
Bookend tackles Michael Roos and David Stewart have discussed it and embraced the concept that the offensive line is where the Titans can forge an identity that has been missing for the last handful of seasons.
"As we go the O-line the team goes," Roos said.
And with a win-or-else season approaching, that's as good a place as any to start.