head coah Mike Munchak and quarterback Jake Locker
could be out of the picture sooner than later. (Mark Humphrey/AP)
Apparently, the Houston Texans' firing of Gary Kubiak has one other AFC South team looking to make major changes very soon -- and possibly before the 2013 season is done. According to Mike Silver and Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Tennessee Titans' front office is not happy with the direction of the team, and head coach Mike Munchak is coaching for his job at this point. Because the Texans are now the only NFL team able to openly and publicly talk to available head-coaching candidates like Lovie Smith, the move may happen sooner than later, Silver reports. In fact, Munchak may not last the season.
The Titans started the season 3-1, but got away from the preferred paradigm of a power-running team for the most part, and have lost six of their last eight games to fall to 5-7. One could assume that a playoff berth could save Munchak's job, and the team is barely in contention for such a possibility. But this was not the desired result -- running back Chris Johnson has gone over 100 yards in just one game this season, and he doesn't really fit the prototype for a power back.
This may be why, according to Rapoport, the Titans are also ready to move on from Johnson after the 2013 season. Johnson triggered a $10 million base salary cost in the third year of the six-year, $55.26 million contract extension he signed in 2011, and he'd be due $8 million more in base salary in both 2014 and '15. After rushing for 2,006 yards in 2009, Johnson hadn't cracked the 1,400-yard mark since, and he has just 774 yards on 205 carries for a 3.8 yards per carry average this season. Johnson has never been a tackle-breaker; he's always been more of a speed guy reliant on his offensive line. But this season, he's seemed even more vulnerable to opposing defenses crashing through the line.
In addition, Rapoport reports that the Titans have already decided that they will refuse the fifth-year option on quarterback Jake Locker, the team's first-round draft pick in 2011. Locker has put forth inconsistent results as he's learned to be a pocket passer -- he was a mobile "see it and throw it" passer at Washington -- and he's missed a large part of this season with hip and foot injuries. Ryan Fitzpatrick has played decently in his stead, and it's rumored that the Titans could go hard after Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who still owns a home in Tennessee from his days in Vanderbilt. It wouldn't be the first time the team had courted a high-profile free-agent signal-caller during the Locker era -- owner Bud Adams, who passed away in October, said that he would break the bank to sign Peyton Manning before Manning chose the Denver Broncos instead. Locker's fifth-year option would be worth $13 million.
It's a tumultuous time for a team that has had its share of them. Since moving to Tennessee from Houston in 1997, the former Oilers franchise has undergone two different salary cap-related roster implosions, and the current regime is in place because former head coach Jeff Fisher would not bend to Adams' insistence that he keep Vince Young as his quarterback.