Progress is key for Munchak and Webster

Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak sits in one of the hottest seats in the NFL going into 2013.  In fact, a 6-10 finish in 2012 almost ended Munchak’s 30-year history with the franchise.  Despite posting a 9-7 record in 2011, the Titans regressed into a losing season with two embarrassing losses to the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers.  With all eyes on him, Munchak will have to do something to save his job.

The question is, what exactly will that be?  Will the Titans need another winning season?  Will they need a playoff appearance?  Or will the Titans even need a division title in an AFC South where the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans both look talented enough to win in the playoffs?

Munchak may not exactly need to do any of these, although it would sure help if he did.  If the 2013 Tennessee Titans just show improvement in execution, particularly on offense, that could be enough to save the players’ and coaches’ jobs.

This seems to be what Munchak’s and Titans general manager Ruston Webster’s plan was heading into the offseason: put pieces around quarterback Jake Locker in hopes that he improves.  By adding former Alabama guard Chance Warmack with the 10th overall selection and trading up to 34th to take former Tennessee Volunteer wide receiver Justin Hunter in the 2013 NFL Draft, Munchak and Webster are doing everything they can to give Locker what he needs to succeed.  Locker looked inconsistent in 2012, and the Titans hope that more protection and weapons will equate to improvement from Locker.

And then, there’s Chris Johnson.

Tennessee wants Johnson to return to his CJ2K days, and the additions of Warmack and Hunter show that Munchak and Webster are taking steps toward that end.  Signing guard Andy Levitre away from the Buffalo Bills and drafting center Brian Schwenke 107th overall from California this past April, along with the signings of guards Rob Turner and Chris Spencer in free agency, continue to display Tennessee’s commitment to offensive improvement.  Tennessee hopes that these additions will result in more running lanes and bring Johnson back to his 2,000-yard rushing days.

It’s no longer a secret that the NFL is a passing league, and that’s why Tennessee’s focus on improving the offensive line and giving Locker another weapon makes sense.  If 2013 is a breakout year for Locker, Munchak and Webster have nothing to worry about.

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Where will NFL coaching prospects land in 2013?

There is one thing that sports fans can tell you: Conventional wisdom is not always followed.  This can be especially true when teams are interviewing potential head coaching candidates.  And if some NFL franchises are even looking for a new general manager and a coach, things can get even crazier.

While the interviews and signings are going on right now, lets take a look at which coaches would best suit the teams looking for a new coach and teams who might be looking for a coach.

Arizona Cardinals – When the news broke that Arizona interviewed former Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid, the move made some sense.  The Cardinals quarterback issues continued to pose problems, and what choice could be better than to reunite Reid with quarterback Kevin Kolb? Sadly, Reid has since signed on with Kansas City, leaving Arizona looking for a coach who they feel can develop a quarterback.

CBS analyst and former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher would be a great hire for Arizona, but it would certainly be a long shot.  Instead, why not try for Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy who has done an outstanding job of developing systems around the quarterbacks that he had been given?  Arizona’s defense has been terrific under defensive coordinator Ray Horton who is also considered a head coaching prospect. If Arizona could somehow bring in McCoy and retain Horton, the Cardinals could have a formidable team.

Buffalo Bills – Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone interviewed with the team recently, and that does seem to be a good fit.  Bills G.M. Buddy Nix will stay with the team this year, and Buffalo has been vocal about bringing in a franchise quarterback this season.  Marrone, who also served as the New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator during Sean Payton’s first three seasons on the job, knows what it takes to run an offense in the NFL.

Speaking of New Orleans Saints offensive coordinators, why not give Pete Carmichael a look?  While Carmichael does not have the head coaching experience that Marrone does, Carmichael has worked under both Payton and Marty Schottenheimer.  Both Payton and Schottenheimer have found a lot of success in their careers as NFL head coaches.  Either way, Marrone or Carmichael can give Buffalo the coach who can develop the franchise quarterback they are looking for.

Chicago Bears – Lovie Smith’s firing made absolutely no sense.  Despite posting a 10-6 record, Chicago decided to go in a different direction.  The Bears might regret that decision in the years to come, but one thing is for sure: Teams should give Smith a look for the vacancy at head coach.  If by some unforeseeable reason Smith does not get a head coaching job, he will be one of the league’s premier defensive coordinators.

Even though his name has been dropped in San Diego and Philadelphia, Monday Night Football analyst and former Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden would make sense here.  Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has all the tools to get the job done, even though there have been some questions about his maturity, but he needs better protection if Chicago wants to make a move to be a contender in a tough NFC North.

Gruden will have the offensive know-how to let Chicago’s offense shine, and he will also have a Tampa 2 defensive scheme ready to go.  When Gruden was Tampa’s head coach, the Buccaneers ran a Tampa 2 with Monte Kiffin as the defensive coordinator.  Kiffin, who resigned from Southern Cal, could make his return to the NFL.  And what better situation than to be reunited with Gruden and a previously made Tampa 2 defense?

Cleveland Browns – Reports coming out of Cleveland are saying that new owner Jimmy Haslam wants University of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly.  There is no doubt that Kelly is one of the most popular prospects for an NFL head-coaching job. However, there is one candidate that is simply a better fit for Cleveland.

As incredible of a story as it has been for Indianapolis and coach Chuck Pagano, much credit has to be given to Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians for the Colts’ playoff season. Before arriving in Indianapolis, however, Arians served as the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator.  When the Steelers let Arians walk a year ago despite having success there as the offensive playcaller, it was a huge surprise.  And that is why Arians to Cleveland makes so much sense.

Arians is familiar with the AFC North and knows what it takes to be successful there.  He helped develop Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and has also coached Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He’s got the offensive knowledge to help Cleveland be productive against a very defensive division.

Kansas City Chiefs – Andy Reid already signed on as the coach for Kansas City, but this fit does not make too much sense.  It’s obvious that getting an offensive-minded coach was definitely the right move, but the Arizona job makes more sense for Reid.  Someone like Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, brother of Jon Gruden, makes sense as he was directly involved in the development of quarterback Andy Dalton. Moving forward, Kansas City needs a quarterback that they can rely on.

If Reid and the Chiefs new general manager (whoever that is) decides that they want to get West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith in the draft, then this choice makes more sense. Reid developed another scrambling quarterback, Donovan McNabb, who led them to several NFC Championships and even a Super Bowl appearance.  K.C. may be asking Reid to work the exact same magic he had in Philly about a decade ago.

Philadelphia Eagles – Oregon coach Chip Kelly would make for an interesting hire for Philadelphia.  Michael Vick is still on the roster, and it would be fascinating to see what Chip Kelly’s offense with Michael Vick would look like.  Still, reports are that Kelly is getting very close to becoming Cleveland’s head coach.

So if Kelly is out of the mix, who could step in? Despite Philly needing someone who could help them offensively, Lovie Smith could be a great hire.  The Eagles defense has talented players, and bringing in someone like Smith could only help booster their play.

There is no doubt that there will be questions about Philadelphia’s quarterback situation as Nick Foles did a great job as the starter.  With both Vick and Foles on the roster, quarterback controversy will be there. The next coach coming in must see that and know that he has to deal with that from day one.

San Diego Chargers – Bruce Arians’ name has been rumored here, but Ken Whisenhunt would be a terrific hire for the Chargers.  Again, Arizona was plagued by not finding a franchise quarterback.  Whisenhunt wouldn’t have to worry about that with Philip Rivers already on the roster.  If Whisenhunt could find another great defensive coordinator like he did with Horton in Arizona, there is no reason to think that San Diego couldn’t compete with Denver for the division title.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Head coach Mike Mularkey has not been fired.  Well, at least not yet.  A report came out recently that the Jaguars assistants were told to look elsewhere.  That is not a good sign for Mularkey at all.

It all comes down to the hiring of a general manager. If the new G.M. wants Mularkey to stay, he will.  If not, Mularkey goes.

Should Mularkey get fired, the direction of the team from there should make sense.  Jacksonville has expressed interest in acquiring quarterback Tim Tebow.  Tebow’s presence could help Jacksonville get fan attendance back where it needs to be.

So if Tebow does go back home, which coach would be the best choice to lead them?  Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is the obvious choice.

McCoy coached Tebow in Denver in 2011.  That year, Tebow led the Broncos to a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs.  If Tebow does come back, a reunion with McCoy may very well be the recipe Jacksonville needs to get back on the winning track.

Bryce Brown drafted in round seven by Eagles

When Lane Kiffin became the head coach for the Tennessee Volunteers in 2009, Big Orange Country held high hopes for their team.  They had just fired long-time head coach Phillip Fulmer and the team’s stability became an area of question.  Kiffin brought in one of Tennessee best recruiting classes at that time, including one of the top prospects coming out of high school, running back Bryce Brown.

Brown, now drafted to the Philadelphia Eagles with the 229th overall pick, went from being considered one of the elite prospects from his days in high school to sneaking in the end of the draft as his limited playing time is a huge question mark on his stock. 

When Kiffin left the program, Brown decided to part ways with the Volunteers as well.  He transfered to Kansas State where he did not get that much playing time.  Brown left Kansas State and decided to enter the NFL Draft.

Now Brown finds himself behind LeSean McCoy, one of the league’s primier running backs.

Giants add another Hokie

Just two days after drafting Virginia Tech running back David Wilson with the 32nd overall pick, the Giants added another Hokie in cornerback Jayron Hosley. 

Hosley, like Wilson, found a way to sneak into a round of the draft.  He was the 31st pick of round 3 and the 94th pick overall. 

Last season Hosley contributed by forcing two fumbles and intercepting three passes for his defense.  The Giants won the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots back in February, but the Patriots passing game still found success in that championship game as New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw for 276 yards and two touchdown passes.  New York hopes that the addition of Hosley will help shore up the passing game.

David Wilson sneaks into first round

Many speculated about whether Alabama running back Trent Richardson would be the only running back selected in the first round.  That speculation came to a screeching halt when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded up to the 31 overall pick and selected Boise State running back Doug Martin.  Then a pick later, the Giants chose Virginia Tech running back David Wilson. 

Wilson comes to a team looking to replace Brandon Jacobs, who signed with the San Francisco 49ers, the team that the Giants beat in the NFC Championship.  New York still has Ahmad Bradshaw on the roster, but Wilson should expect to get some of the carries to let Bradshaw rest.

Wilson had a solid year at Virginia Tech a year ago, getting 290 carriers and rushing for 1,709 yards and nine touchdowns.  Even though Wilson only stands in at 5’9 and weighs 206 pounds, in comparison to Jacobs’ 260, the Giants will still look to find ways to incorporate Wilson into the offense.

Malik Jackson finds new home

With pick number 137, former Tennessee Volunteer defensive lineman Malik Jackson was selected by the Denver Broncos. This makes another Tennessee Vol addition to the Bronco locker room as Denver signed quarterback Peyton Manning during the offseason. 

Jackson, who is 6’4 and weighs 284 pounds, will be expected to help contribute as a 3-4 defensive end.  The Broncos defense still was not at the level that head coach John Fox wanted, despite the team drafting Von Miller with the second-overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.  Jackson comes in to help a run defense that was ranked 22 in the league and allowed an average of 126.3 yards per game.

Jackson was one of the bright spots in the Tennessee Volunteers 2011 season.  Jackson brought in a total of 56 tackles and three sacks during his last season with the Vols.

Manning decides against Tennessee return

All of the effort to bring Peyton Manning back to Tennessee failed.  Despite Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams trying to give Manning a lifetime contract, Manning signed with the Denver Broncos. 

Many in East Tennessee wanted to see Manning sign with the Titans just so they would feel like he “came back home.”  Unfortunately for Big Orange Country, Manning will not be playing for another Tennessee football team.  Despite fans waiting outside the Titans facility and yelling Tennessee-Vol chants and Manning wearing an orange shirt to the visit, he still decided to head further west and joined in the AFC West. 

Manning fans who watched Peyton play at Titans stadium might have to take a longer roadtrip to see their favorite Tennessee Volunteer play quarterback as the Titans and Broncos do not play each other in the regular season.  Barring a matchup in the playoffs, Peyton will not play against Tennessee for at least another year.