Former Titans coach Mike Munchak cleaned out his office at Saint Thomas Sports Park on Sunday, and he admitted he got emotional.
He took down a photo of the Gatorade bath he received after his first win, in 2011. He packed belongings he'd collected during his 31 years in the organization, dating back to his days as a player. He remembered his wife, Marci, spending so much time trying to make things look just right.
"I was so proud when I first got the chance. A lot of things go through your mind. This is an emotional time and I haven't had to deal with it,'' Munchak said. "I guess it's my 'Welcome to the NFL.' I have been fired, let go, whatever you want to call it. It just didn't work out. It is hard, and it hasn't sunk in. When you start packing your boxes, it hits you."
Munchak and the Titans parted ways on Saturday.
After three seasons, the Titans let him go after he refused to make mass changes on his coaching staff. The Titans offered Munchak an opportunity to return, even with a contract extension, if he would agree to reshape his coaching staff, but Munchak didn't want to address that subject.
What Munchak did make clear: He was willing to make changes on his staff, but only to a point.
And he wasn't going to remain as head coach under someone else's plan, despite an offer to return. He didn't see eye-to-eye with president Tommy Smith and general manager Ruston Webster on their plans for his coaching staff.
"I can't fire someone when I don't believe they should be fired. Firing someone is awful. Too many people were going to be affected,'' Munchak said. "I didn't do anything to look like I was a great, loyal guy who went above and beyond the call of duty by not firing coaches. I did what you should do and what I thought was right. For me to maintain a job and a lot of guys lose jobs on a plan I didn't think was right, I couldn't do that."
"I'll make tough decisions, but not if they're not right."
Among the coaches Munchak was going to have to let go were offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and defensive coordinator Jerry Gray. Offensive line coach Bruce Matthews and linebackers coach Chet Parlavecchio, two of Munchak's best friends, also would have to go. Indications are Munchak was told he'd have to dump at least a half-dozen assistants, possibly more.
Munchak declined to do so, and the two sides agreed to end his 31-year run with the franchise.
"It wasn't just about Chet or Bruce. People say, 'Those are Munch's guys.' It was about the big picture. A lot of guys were going to be affected. If it was the right thing to do, I would do it. I have fired offensive coordinators (Chris Palmer) before. And I let go of a special teams coach (Alan Lowry).
"It's not like 'Munch isn't here anymore because he wouldn't fire two guys.' In my eyes, that's not what we disagreed on. There was more to it than that. Obviously they made it easy. They fired all of us so they could start over."
Munchak said when he met with Smith and Webster on Friday in Houston the two sides discussed many subjects, and agreed on many. When the meeting ended, he acknowledged the two sides had differences.
The Titans, including Smith, believed they would be resolved. Munchak was hoping Saturday morning things also could be worked out. But the two sides agreed to disagree. Munchak had one plan, and Smith and Webster had another, he said.
Munchak was 22-26 in three seasons with the Titans, including a 7-9 mark in 2013.
"I know a lot of people might not have been happy if I was back. But I had a plan, and I believed it was going to work,'' he said. "I wanted to be here. I have been here for over 30 years. These jobs are hard to come by. I know the chance of me being a head coach again in the NFL aren't that great. Most guys get one shot at it. But I wanted to do it with the right people, and do it the right way.
"The way they wanted to adjust the staff vs. me wasn't going to work. So we disagreed on it."
Munchak said it was clear to him the Titans intended to keep him.
"It's not like I came in and they said, "You're fired. End of discussion," he said. "We tried to make it work and felt we were going to work it out when all this started."
Munchak said he has confidence the Titans will be a playoff team in 2014, but said, "I'm just sorry it won't be us coaching them."
"This is not the result I wanted at all. Being in Nashville all these years, I loved it,'' he said. "I am upset for myself and the rest of the coaching staff that had to leave with me. I worry more about them and the coaches with the families and kids in school.
"This is hard for me. For me, it is an era. I was hoping to retire a Titan. I was hoping to say, "Hey, I made it 40 years with the same organization. I'm disappointed it didn't work out."