The prevailing theory on Titans coach Mike Munchak is that he is “too nice” or too much of a “players coach” to instill the discipline his young team needs to succeed. I admit, I subscribe to this theory. I have not seen a team with exceptional attention to detail. Striking the balance between being popular with today’s players yet demanding excellence is a delicate one for any team at any level. Great coaches can strike this balance, but often not without the “Good Cop, Bad Cop” dynamic within the staff. The head coach can have any number of dispositions and be successful (Think Tom Landry vs. Vince Lombardi or Mike Ditka). But among the assistants you need your alter ego to cover all the bases. Munchak is cerebral, even keeled. He’s not a motivational speaker. He needs someone to churn the engines- an energy man.
Enter, perhaps, Gregg Williams. Read here.
If there is one thing Gregg Williams has, it’s energy. Need a fiery speech? He can do it. Want an increased intensity at your practice? Oh yes. He compliments Munchak’s personality perfectly. Ying and Yang. He also has been a successful defensive coach who has worked closely with current Def. Coordinator Jerry Gray. Their ideas and terminology should mesh. When Williams left the Titans to become the head coach of the Buffalo Bills he took Jerry Gray with him and promoted him to defensive coordinator. There would be a question of whether Williams could defer to Gray with his strong personality (the mentor now working under his pupil), but it would hardly be the first time this dynamic has been in play. It would test their relationship, but it’s in everybody’s best interest to get along--- this is a make or break year for this staff. Both the current Titans regime, and Williams appear to be desperate.
Why is Williams desperate? Oh yeah, there’s that. Unless you’ve been fly fishing with former Titans Kicker Gary Anderson in Banff National Park for the last year, you know that Williams has been at the center of Bountygate. Sean Payton has been reinstated—and been signed to a HUGE contract (doesn’t something seem strange about that?). The players involved have been vindicated, despite the sworn statement and testimony in the case.
Virtually everybody has moved on except Williams, though the NFL is having and increasingly difficult time trying to explain exactly what did go on. Regardless, It has appeared that Williams has been willing to be the scapegoat. He has been contrite from the start, issuing a statement and admission of guilt (read here).
Of course, he really didn’t have a choice. Remember “the speech” before the Saints playoff game against the 49ers last season? Warning- Locker Room language in here (and I don’t mean Jake Locker)—frequent profanity, so be warned! Find it here.
So, three questions (not to be confused with “4 Questions”):
- Has Gregg Williams paid his price?
- Is this the type of guy you want to commit to and give another chance?
- Can he still be an effective coach now that this has happened?
Question 1 is up to Roger Goodell. I’m not sure he wanted to answer this question. If his answer was “yes”, than he should already be reinstated. Is the league really committed to making the league safer if everybody involved is back in the league business as usual after a year?
Question 2 is for Munchak. He knows Williams well. He also knows what has gone on in NFL locker rooms for decades, especially the Titans locker room. He knows if Williams’ practices have been that much worse than any typical locker room. But as a man who appears to stand for character, he has to be willing to take the public backlash for being the guy who hires Williams back.
Question 3 is really the key. Does Williams still have the respect of the players after the accusation of being “a snitch”? Presuming the Bounty/Incentive based system Williams has allegedly used for years is gone, can he motivate and get the best out of the players without it?
As I’m writing this, there has been no official decision, and there will have to be the process of reinstatement from the league. But all of the signs suggest that Munchak wants his Bad Cop. Munch hasn’t bounced around from city to city throughout his NFL career like many in his profession. This is both a strength and a weakness. How many other Bad Cops does he know besides Williams? Aren’t there other coaches in the universe who could fill the same roll WITHOUT all of the baggage Williams brings? Or is it that he knows Williams so well that he’s positive he has the right man?
Photo: AP/Chuck Burton