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I'll be blunt: The Titans' 16-10 win over Houston on Sunday should go down as Mike Munchak's final game as head coach.

Was it? I'll have to get back to you on that. Tommy Smith, the man making the call, isn't showing his hand. Smith politely declined an interview request as he left LP Field.

Bottom line: If you think Munchak is the coach to lead this team into the playoffs on a consistent basis over the next few years, you bring him back. If not, you look elsewhere.

Personally, I can't see records of 6-10 and 7-9 in the past two seasons as an indication that better days are ahead. It's time for a change.

For his part, Munchak defended the job he has done and cited improvement over last season. He said he feels "very confident" about the case he can present to Smith and suggested that closing the season with back-to-back wins was a step in the right direction.

If that's what Munchak is selling, let the buyer beware. The Titans' two closing victories were over teams with a combined record of 6-26.

This was the year for the Titans to make their move, but all they did was run in place. With the weakness of the AFC South and the general mediocrity of the conference outside of the very top, you only had to be a pretty good team to make the playoffs. The Titans did not measure up.

I find it interesting that the Texans have fired a head coach and already have his replacement virtually in place. When Houston's season nose-dived, Gary Kubiak was jettisoned and Wade Phillips installed as interim coach while owner Bob McNair got busy.

Penn State coach Bill O'Brien interviewed for the position and is the odds-on favorite. Houston also has talked to former Bears coach Lovie Smith. Ex-Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, now offensive coordinator with the Chargers, likely will be interviewed.

Meanwhile, the Titans continue to spin their wheels. Smith has vowed a thorough review of the season before deciding on his next move.

That tells you the difference between these two franchises. One has championship expectations and is doing whatever is necessary to get there. The other is stuck in a 9-7, 6-10, 7-9 rut and is seriously considering maintaining the status quo at head coach.

Smith needs to realize this is getting tougher to sell to the fan base. At kickoff Sunday, LP Field was half-full. Worse, there is little buzz about Titans football. While turnovers are the biggest enemy of coaches, apathy in the community is the greatest fear of the front office.

A couple of weeks ago, Munchak assured us that fans would have reason for optimism in the weeks leading up to the 2014 training camp.

"If I am part of that equation, we'll go down that road and, believe me, in June and July people will be excited about what we are doing just like last year," he said.

But that's the nature of the NFL, isn't it? You navigate through a draft. You sign free agents. In the Titans' situation, you'll have a recovered Jake Locker at quarterback. With a fresh start and some new faces, there always is cause for excitement.

But what happens when reality bites? Consider the events of this season. A 3-1 start gave way to eight losses in the next 10 games. The optimism of June and July was replaced by the doldrums of December.

This franchise is five years removed from its last playoff game and a decade from its last postseason victory. The Titans have faded into that NFL black hole that includes organizations like Cleveland, Jacksonville and Oakland. Welcome to the club.

Is all that Munchak's fault? Of course not. This isn't college football where a coach recruits talent and sets the agenda for the program. An NFL head coach can only do so much, whether it's Bill Belichick or Mike Munchak.

Just the same, Munchak is part of a culture that needs changing. Bringing him back for a fourth season as head coach does nothing but tell us to expect more of the same.

As much as I respect the opinions of players like Bernard Pollard and Jason McCourty, who have spoken repeatedly about how close this team is to challenging for titles, let's not get carried away. That's the nature of the NFL. The rules are written to keep personnel balanced and games close.

Just because you lose six one-score games as the Titans did this season, that doesn't mean you're a tweak here and a tweak there from turning a 7-9 season into a 13-3. Such thinking is fool's gold.

I keep coming back to something veteran tackle Michael Roos said after the overtime loss to Arizona three weeks ago:

"We've improved just enough that we're not making plays at the end and we're losing close games. That's the NFL. Every week, games go right down to the very end and the same teams seem to find a way to win."

Despite what has happened the last two weeks, the Titans are not one of those teams. In its current form, this organization will continue to find ways to lose and miss the playoffs.

In the NFL, the root of mediocrity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. It's time for some new blood.

David Climer's column appears on Wednesday, Friday, Sunday and Monday. Reach him at 615-259-8020 or dclimer@tennessean.com.

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