NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 06: Mike Munchak the Head Coach of the Tennessee Titans watches the game action during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at LP Field on November 6, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Another day, another Penn State coaching rumor. The guys over at the newly reconstituted LaschOut tweeted that a NFL head coach had inquired about the PSU job. It was later confirmed -- such as these things are ever really confirmed -- that the head coach in question was former PSU great Mike Munchak.
(Before the horse gets too far out of the barn, this rumor was denied by Titans reporter Jim Wyatt.)
Head Coaching Record
Well, he's in his first year as a head coach on any level -- with the NFL's Tennessee Titans. They're a surprising 6-5, in a season where most NFL prognosticators likely had them eliminated from the playoff race by early November. However, yes, that's the extent of Munchak's head coaching career.
Glad you asked. Munchak is on a short list of best offensive linemen to ever play at Penn State. He was a top-ten pick of the Houston Oilers in 1982 and has spent the last 30 years either playing or coaching in the Oilers/Titans organization. His résumé:
After a 12-year playing career as a guard for the Houston Oilers, he spent three seasons assisting the coaching staff. Munchak became the offensive line coach in 1997 and held that position for 14 years (1997-2010). Four of his players have totaled 10 Pro Bowl invitations and his offensive lines have paved the way for five different running backs to total an NFL-high 12 1,000-yard rushing seasons since 1997.
In 2001, he became the fifth franchise player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He earned nine Pro Bowl invitations during his career and was bestowed the honor of having his Oilers number 63 jersey retired in 1996.
Munchak, as a coach, is acknowledged as one of the finest teachers in the game. Only twice during his career has he had the benefit of starting the same starting five linemen from one year to the next; yet, the Titans offensive lines are perennially one of the best units in the NFL. His offensive line allowed the second fewest sacks (28.3 sacks per season) in the NFL since he assumed control of the group in 1997.
Additionally, the Titans ranked seventh in the league in rushing yards (124.5 yards per game) during his tenure and totaled seven NFL top 10 finishes in rushing yards (1997, ‘98, 2000, ’06, ’07, ’08, ’09). The highlight for the group was a 2,000-yard rushing season in 2009 by Chris Johnson, who became just the sixth player in league history to reach that mark.
Of course, Chris Johnson totally flaked out in the preseason and the Titans have a washed up Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback, so they're suffering on the ground this season (currently ranked 30th of 32 teams).
Munchak has the benefit of being away from Penn State for 30 years, but if you're concerned that the years have taken a toll on his respect for the program, don't worry:
"I can't tell you how excited I am to be the next head coach of the Tennessee Titans," Munchak said at his introductory press conference. "[Joe Paterno] is probably the guy I've learned the most from - his discipline, the way he ran the team. He commanded the room and the practice field. He was very hands-on and involved. I'm hoping to instill some of things I learned from him here."
Fit - Cultural, Personnel, Etc.
Certainly, Munchak would be an ideal cultural fit for practically all Penn State fans. His presence would essentially guarantee that Penn State's offensive line -- a unit that has struggled mightily for the better part of the last decade -- would never be awful again. As for the rest of this category, it's a crapshoot. We can assume a number of things about Munchak's offensive philosophy, but the specifics would have to be hammered out by coordinators and assistant. Remember, Munchak went straight from position coach to head coach. He's never been an offensive coordinator, and has never worked on the defensive side of the football. However, as far as putting a credible and stable face on the Penn State program, it's hard to do any better than Mike Munchak. The devil would be in the details: assistant coaches, recruiting ability, CEO skills, and so on.
Also, a key missing piece in the Munchak scenario is the timeline. Tennessee is improbably in the AFC playoff race and has five games remaining. Penn State likely wants to move much faster on this thing, although they've stated that Tom Bradley will remain on the coaching staff through the bowl game. If Penn State is willing to risk sacrificing this recruiting class in order to conduct a fully thorough exploration of all options, a guy like Munchak becomes more viable.
Recruiting wouldn't be a total lost cause in that scenario. Penn State's bowl game is likely to be December 31 or so, which leaves about five weeks before National Signing Day (although there are many nuances and restrictions regarding recruting practices in January). Still, waiting is rolling the dice.
Love the idea, with reservations about coordinators/recruiting noted above. Certainly, it would appease those who want a coach that provides a clean break from the Paterno regime while also understanding and loving the culture of the state and university. The thought of never having to worry about the offensive line again makes me downright giddy.