Mike Munchak’s long career with the Tennessee Titans franchise came to an end because he refused to fire offensive line coach and long-time friend Bruce Matthews, a source close to the team confirmed to The Sports Xchange.
The Titans announced Saturday that they fired Munchak as head coach.
On Sunday, Munchak interviewed for the head coaching job at Penn State, his alma mater, which originally pursued him following the firing of Joe Paterno in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal two years ago.
Munchak spent more than 30 years with the NFL franchise, going back to being drafted in 1982 when the team was in Houston as the Oilers. The firing was a bit of a shock because Munchak seemed safe earlier in the week and was talking to his players and the media about the future.
Team CEO Tommy Smith and general manager Ruston Webster met with Munchak in Houston earlier in the week and made it clear he could keep his job if he fired some of his assistants, including offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, defensive coordinator Jerry Gray and Matthews.
In exchange for making those changes, Munchak reportedly would have his $3 million a year salary doubled. But he did not comply.
It is unclear if Munchak was willing to release the others, but sources confirm that he refused to fire Matthews, a fellow Hall of Famer with whom he played on the Houston Oilers’ offensive line from 1983 until 1993. When Munchak became head coach in 2011 he hired Matthews as the offensive line coach.
What is also unclear is whether Munchak made his stand with the Titans already knowing that Penn State was again interested in hiring him after Bill O’Brien left a vacancy by taking the head coaching job with the Houston Texans.
Munchak was 22-26 as the Titans coach with no playoff appearances.
“First I want to thank Mike Munchak for his professionalism through this process and thank him for his years of dedication to the Titans/Oilers organization,” Webster said in a statement Saturday. “He is first-class and I wish him and his family nothing but the best. I also want to praise (CEO and president) Tommy Smith for his involvement during the weeklong process. He was thorough and thoughtful.
“The last week has been a difficult time trying to navigate through many issues to find the best resolution for this franchise moving forward. Tough choices were presented to all sides and the end result was to part ways and move forward without Mike.“
In the wake of the change, the Titans were expeced to deny reports they asked for Matthews to be fired because he is so highly regarded among the team’s fan base.
The Titans will immediately search for a new head coach.
Under Munchak, the Titans went just 2-20 against teams that finished with winning records, which reportedly played a role in Smith’s decision to fire him.
The Titans started off 3-1 in 2013 but struggled offensively and finished 7-9. Tennessee was also struck by injuries, including multiple injuries to quarterback Jake Locker that relegated the third-year player to only seven starts this season.
After playing 12 seasons for the Oilers (1982-93), Munchak was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame 2001. Matthews was selected to the HOF in 2007.
If Munchak does not get the Penn State job, his services will be recruited by several teams as an offensive line coach at the very least. Penn State reportedly interview University of Miami coach Al Golden, another former Nittany Lion player, on Saturday and has expressed interested in Vanderbilt coach James Franklin. Golden announced Sunday that he will stay with the Hurricanes.