President Barack Obama better hope he gets a stronger vote of confidence from Americans on Election Day than the football operations folks of the Titans and the Jaguars received from their bosses this week.
On Sunday, following his team’s 51-20 home abomination courtesy of the Bears, Titans owner Bud Adams said his 3-6 team was “grossly outcoached and outplayed,” and “all aspects of the organization will be closely evaluated over the next seven games.”
Less than 24 hours later, on the heels of his 1-7 team also getting its doors blown off at home, again, Jaguars owner Shahid Khan indicated the fans are doing their part by supporting the team, yet he is not doing his part by putting the right people in place, particularly with regards to talent evaluation.
Titans head coach Mike Munchak and your staff: that means you.
Jaguars GM Gene Smith and head coach Mike Mularkey: are your ears burning yet?
Let’s take a quick look at each of these situations independently for a moment.
As impressive as Munchak was in his rookie head-coaching debut a season ago, he has been equally bad this season. From mismanaging the offensive line for the second season in a row, which is supposed to be his bread and butter, to the repeated failures of his staff, namely defensive coordinator Jerry Gray, who badly miscalculated the safety position and can’t get his players to execute one of the most rudimentary tasks their jobs require — tackling — it has been a complete and utter mess in the Music City.
Munchak’s no-nonsense, detailed approach has not translated to a disciplined football team that holds itself accountable; instead, Tennessee has regularly made mental and physical errors this season and even its best players shirk accountability at every opportunity.
I’m not including GM Ruston Webster in this discussion, as I do think he has assembled enough young talent for this team to be competitive. Sure, there have been a few silly contracts given out and some of the defensive struggles the Titans have experienced should have been obvious before the season, but it says here Webster does not belong on the hot seat.
In Jacksonville, Smith had the right idea when he began his rebuilding project four years ago. Starting in the trenches and putting a strong emphasis on high-character individuals who make a positive impact on and off the field sounds great.
But where are Smith’s home-run draft picks or free-agent acquisitions during that period? OLT Eugene Monroe and CB Derek Cox — when he can stay on the field — are solid starters, but who else?
I’m not ready to write off first-rounders Tyson Alualu, Blaine Gabbert or Justin Blackmon, but are any of these players where they need to be at this stage of their development?
The bad free-agent contracts, including Aaron Kampman, Clint Session, Mike Thomas, Marcedes Lewis, aren’t all entirely Smith’s fault — injuries are a part of the game — but you can’t tell me Kampman and Session didn’t come to Jacksonville with injury red flags.
Thomas’ deal was a clear case of Smith jumping the gun. Webster made a similar mistake in re-signing an average receiver, Lavelle Hawkins, but at least Hawkins wasn’t given $9 million guaranteed.
I wasn’t wild about the Mularkey hiring but how much of this can really be pinned on him? There are some in league circles who think he needs to take a more tough-love approach with his club, ditching the “progress” theme and telling his players they simply need to be better, but this roster was the least-talented in the division heading into the season — and the Colts completely churned a 2-14 roster in a matter of months.
The way the Jaguars have been embarrassed at home (outscored 126-34 in four games, all losses), the drops and inconsistency from the offense and the regression from coordinator Mel Tucker’s “D” are all troubling, but I can’t possibly point the finger at Mularkey nearly as much as Smith.
In this league, however, a GM being fired and head coach being retained is a rare thing — the Bears this offseason were the exception to the rule — so it appears Smith and Mularkey are treading on similarly thin ice.
Adams demonstrated his lack of patience this offseason when he did everything in his power to thwart his front office’s plans by bringing in Peyton Manning. Thus, it should come as absolutely no surprise if Munchak doesn’t survive past the season, though, with major progress made in the final seven weeks, he probably has a better chance of salvaging his job than Smith.