The Tennessee Titans have fired Mike Munchak after three seasons as head coach and 31 years combined with this franchise as a player and coach.
The Titans confirmed the firing Saturday after holding meetings since they ended the season with a 7-9 record and a 16-10 win over Houston.
“The last week has been a difficult time trying to navigate through many issues to find the best resolution for this franchise moving forward,” general manager Ruston Webster said in a statement. “Tough choices were presented to all sides and the end result was to part ways and move forward without Mike.”
Webster now has to oversee this franchise’s first coaching search since Munchak was hired in February 2011 and only the second since the team left Houston in 1997.
Munchak, a Pro Football Hall of Fame player who went to Penn State, flew to Texas Friday morning to meet with team president and CEO Tommy Smith and Webster. They returned late in the afternoon, and Munchak eluded reporters by driving his truck through a different airport exit. Smith said in a statement that those talks continued into Saturday.
“Ultimately, we decided it was best to move in different directions,” Smith said. “As I told him, we appreciate his efforts as head coach and I think he helped us progress as a team. We will start the process of finding that person immediately, and Ruston Webster will lead that search for us.”
The coach had a season left on his contract and was 22-26 overall. He had been with this franchise since 1982 when the then-Houston Oilers made him a first-round draft pick, and he joined the coaching staff as an assistant the year after he retired.
The Titans made Munchak their 16th head coach when late owner Bud Adams promoted him after firing Jeff Fisher. But Munchak’s first offseason was wiped out by the NFL lockout, and his second was chewed up when Adams ordered his front office to chase Peyton Manning.
Adams spent more than $100 million this past offseason to restock the Titans’ roster and made it clear he wanted a playoff berth. That spending spree landed 13 new free agents, along with seven draft picks making the roster. Smith, Adams’ son-in-law, was picked as president and CEO a week after Adams died Oct. 21, and Smith said last month he thinks the Titans need to fill a few more holes.
Webster thanked Munchak for his professionalism.
“He is first-class and I wish him and his family nothing but the best,” said Webster, who was promoted to general manager in January 2012.
The Titans lost six games by one possession and also won six games decided by a possession. They also dropped eight of 10 games in one stretch, including five straight at home, with fans showing their displeasure with a franchise that hasn’t won a postseason game since January 2003 by staying away by the thousands.
Munchak had made it clear over the past couple of weeks that he thought having quarterback Jake Locker available for all 16 games likely would have been the difference in the two or three wins needed to earn this franchise’s first playoff berth since 2008.
Possible changes to Munchak’s coaching staff may have been a sticking point after he hired four new coaches and switched up a couple of others. Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray and senior assistant coach for defense Gregg Williams both have expiring contracts, and special teams had been an issue on kick and punt returns until the team signed Leon Washington late.
Munchak also promoted an old friend already on his staff as linebackers coach for 2013, and a young group featuring Zach Brown, Colin McCarthy and Akeem Ayers struggled most of the season.
Left guard Andy Levitre, who signed as a free agent in March to play for Munchak, wrote on Twitter: “Unfortunate to hear the news about Coach Munchak. Couldn’t be more thankful 4 him giving me this opportunity in Nashville. Wish him the best.”