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Coach Munchak's Dec. 23 Press Conference

Posted Dec 23, 2013

HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK

(on the team’s holiday schedule this week)

I think they’re unfortunately used to it as players in the league with Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Years. That’s something I think these guys are used to. I think it works out, and that’s why we’re off today. Normally today you come in. Tomorrow we’re going to have them come in for about three hours or so with some things we have to do. We’ll get started on Houston, so we’ll have a half-day, a short session tomorrow that way they’re out of here by noon tomorrow. They’ll have Christmas Eve, free time there, then they’ll come in at Christmas about one o’clock, 12 o’clock and have the same thing, another half day Wednesday. We’ll be done about five o’clock Wednesday. Guys can be home in the morning with their families and obviously be home for dinner, too. I thought that worked out well with the 24-hour window there, a window there, and in the meantime we can still get our work done for Wednesday with the stuff we need to do as far as Houston goes. It works out for everybody, and then we get back on Thursday with a normal schedule.

(on whether the schedule would be different if the team was in the playoff hunt)

These kind of schedules I kind of wait to see what the situation is, the health of your team, where you’re at. I would do the same schedule. We end up having more meeting time because we’ll go Tuesday. Normally we’re not talking about Houston on a Tuesday afternoon. We’ll already be doing that. We’ll get about three or four hours of work there and come back and get four or five hours the next day, so we’ll get plenty of work in on Wednesday as far as preparation. We’re back on Thursday and Friday, so it should work out good either way.

(on winning on the road but failing to close games at home)

We talk about that, I’ve talked about that throughout the year somewhere. The schedule at the beginning of the year I think most people say, ‘Hey, if we go 4-4 on the road and 6-2 at home we’re in the playoffs.’ You hope you do better than that when the schedule comes out and you look at it (and say), ‘Well, we could win this game or that game or the team isn’t as good as you thought, whatever.’ All of a sudden you pick up that extra win, so I think 4-4, you want to be at least that. You shoot for that as a minimum. That’s solid. We always feel we can win a couple more than that, be 6-2 or better on the road, but I think that’s good for the team.

(on the importance of winning a game at home)

That’s a big one just like we talked about before the Arizona game of starting to get that home field advantage back. Obviously, we wanted to win the last two at home for that reason. This game ties in to get a home win with the last win and a division win, so you have all the things there that you want to do and need to get done. As much as it doesn’t matter because ultimately we’re not in the playoffs, you still want to be at your best and finish strong and finish like we did yesterday, play together as a team, find a way to make plays and win. I think to do it back-to-back, get two wins in a row would be a good way to finish the season off.

(on finishing on a winning note)

Since this one is not going to the playoffs, I think in general it’s always a positive. It’s always better than the alternative. You don’t want to go out on a loss if you can help it. It’s good to finish with a good feeling about what you’re doing and how the season went to win two in a row at the end, two division teams and all that. You just get to rally and finish strong and come together. It’s kind of something to say we ended on a positive note, built off something (with) this type of game. Everyone wants to win the last one.

(on rallying against the Jaguars)

At halftime I think we had a good talk on both sides. They always do a good job (talking about) what went on, what our opportunities are. We were down to 30 minutes at this point and have to go out and make plays, all the things you’re going to say. We made the adjustments I thought were necessary, which ended up working. We ran the ball better the second half consistency. The defense got stops and held them to 85 yards or 90 yards in the second half, so a lot of good things that way. We just came out and made plays, found a way to convert some fourth downs, found a way to get some tough yards in the run game, make a stop on fourth-and-one, just a lot of things, the interception at the end. We got some stuff done.

(on thinking about what could have been this season)

You’re always going to do that, there’s no doubt. We wished a lot of different games had worked out this way that that the ball bounced our way. We had one penalty, one turnover. There wasn’t any calls that hurt us or changed the game at all. We were allowed to just play, and I think that helped us also that we never had anything there that was distracting that way. I thought it was good.

(on being called for fewer penalties these last few weeks)

I think they’re playing smarter. I just watch body language stuff. We really did a good job all year on the sidelines, toward the quarterback where guys pulled off. Griff (Michael Griffin) had one on the boot where the quarterback was right there. I think normally he would hit him, but he pulled off and didn’t touch him. I think those are things that guys are understanding with some of the calls that hurt us that they have to learn how to play the game a little better to avoid the 15-yarder on the quarterback or the one on the sidelines. As you watch, we did a lot better job with that. I thought we did a better job with our hands, the offensive linemen getting their hands out, smarter. When the running back bounced it outside, guys were doing smarter things that way. I think the group has gotten better at that. A lot of crews are different, and this crew was more of we’ll let them play, so that helps too. We have gotten better throughout the year. Special teams especially was probably the thing we’ve dropped substantially with penalties that have hurt us in the past.

(on Byron Stingily’s performance yesterday)

One, the one before the half. Other than that, pass game wise he was solid, did a nice job with that. Running game he did a nice job. I thought it was a nice, solid game for him…we ran the ball as much as we did. He’s a pretty good athlete, strong guy. He didn’t have any mental errors and was pretty much on task throughout the game. Good game for him; good, solid game.

(on whether he is considering shutting David Stewart down)

We’ll consider that as an option, see where (David) Stewart is at. He really didn’t get better last week, toward the end of the week when he couldn’t practice on Friday. That’s something we’ll definitely consider.

(on replacements for injured players)

They did pretty good. The defense as the game went on played better and better. We gave up some plays, and the quick screens out there hurt us a little bit. We got caught on the blitz on that one before the half where they fake the quick screen and threw the ball to the receiver. They caught us on a blitz there, which was the big play for the two-minute drive. Other than that, I thought they were pretty solid. I thought Zach Brown and (Colin) McCarthy did a nice job of rotating in and out with different packages there. I think both played a pretty consistent game. McCarthy was able to go in and play for Moise (Fokou) a little bit at Mike linebacker, so we had him and Zach on the field at the same time. They played about the same amount of reps I think, so that worked out pretty well throughout the game also. I was happy with that. Same with the running back spot. We talked about them getting those type of carries, and we finally got a game where we carried the ball 40 times. Both running backs ran well.

(on the linebacker rotation this week)

We’ll probably do the same thing this week. It’s just a matter of whether (Zaviar) Gooden is dressed depending on what we do at receiver and some of the other spots with health. I think you’ll see us rotate those games. Houston is a little different with all the play-action and things that they do, so it will be a different approach of who may be best suited to play in packages. We’ll consider those things, but I think you’ll see them all playing.

(on carrying the ball more against Houston)

Definitely. I would love to be able to do that every week. I hope we would go out and have success creating third-and-twos and third-and-threes to where we can convert easier rather than losing yards or having no gain. That’s what we hoped we would be able to do, get both of those guys going, so we’ll be trying to do that this weekend if we can.

(on injuries suffered yesterday)

(Jurrell) Casey was the one that got the knee a little bit. He was checked out. I haven’t heard back of exactly where he’s at, but we’re assuming he’ll play this week. It wasn’t anything that believed to be a concern.

(on Nate Washington’s performance)

He’s had two games back-to-back where he’s played well, running some great routes, looked quick and fast yesterday. Early he caught some balls and throughout the game. He had the big touchdown pass that put us ahead. He played with great energy. He blocked well. He’s been a great example to that room, to those young receivers, to our team. I’m glad to see him playing so well, especially in a game where we needed him to make some catches for us. He did, and the coverage went to him. They were trying to take some other things away from us that we’ve been doing the last few weeks, so it was a good opportunity. He was getting open and made some great catches.

(on if losing the first game against the Texans is one he wants back)

That was hard because of the way we hung around in that game in Houston. At the time, everyone thought they were a Super Bowl-type team. They had just won a big game in San Diego in a comeback and we were playing in their house, in their home opener. I thought we ran the ball well. We were doing a lot of things well, the defense was playing well, the game stayed close and all of a sudden we get the turnover and jump out by eight points so it was disappointing the way we lost. We had the eight-point lead and the ball and we should have been able to finish the game there on the offensive side of the equation, and then on defense, you wouldn’t expect them to drive the field and get the two-point conversion. Either stop there, we win the football game, and then we had the pass we missed, on a wide open, Kenny Britt’s deal. We had a chance to win it there in regulation, so a lot of things were frustrating that day, because again, you never know, we win that game, and one game can change a season, the way things go, but that was one of unfortunately a handful of games like that that we had in the fourth quarter, in our grasp, and didn’t win.

(on the significance the Titans-Texans game has to Titans President/CEO Tommy Smith compared to the Titans’ late founder and owner K.S. “Bud” Adams, Jr.)

You’d think it always would, maybe more so to Mr. Adams than Tommy just because that’s where Mr. Adams, all of the history, obviously, with the Oilers and the move out of there, I think that’s always something, and with that being his home for so many years and still continuing to be his home after we moved here, that always carried extra weight, which we know.

(on what he tries to accomplish this week to help his job security)

Just win. That’s all these guys — the only way to have fun in this league is to win. Even though it’s only going to be our seventh and we wished it was a bigger number than that, I think that’s all we can control, so it’s have a good week, enjoy Christmas but be ready to be focused and play a game on Sunday, and for the things we talked about earlier, how important it is to win at home, even though it’s the last one and it’s been disappointing play at home, with the losses, with the losing streak we have at home, all those things we want to put behind us so that next year we don’t have some record continuing, ‘Oh, we haven’t won at home in “x” amount of games,’ or you kind of just want to put all that stuff to rest by doing that, by winning the last one and having two division wins, again, even though it still just means 7-9, but it’s still a division win. It still means something that way, and to win a game at home, it’s big to finish a season that way so that’s all I’m focused on. That’s all I can control in the next week and that’s what we’ll concentrate on.

(on if yesterday’s game or the Texans’ game was or is a “must-win”)

We’ve been saying ‘must win’ for six weeks, seven weeks, whatever it was once we were 4-4 and went to 4-6, we realized that we had to win them all, we had to win most of them. I feel like it doesn’t make it any more pressure. It’s a game we needed to win for a lot of reasons, and Jacksonville was a team that was 4-2 since we had played them. It wasn’t like they just beat us, and we were the only team they beat. They were playing well, had won three in a row and were 4-2 and we were 1-5 so we went down there knowing they were more confident than we were and we went down there and we beat them at their place, and that’s what you have to do in this division, win on the road and beat your division opponents, so for us, it was a must win because we had to get that off our back and this is another one, Houston. Again, we can say what their record is, but I think they’re still in the top 10 in defense and again, finding ways to hang around in games and lose them at the end, so it should be an interesting game.

(on if finishing with one more win shows improvement over last year)

Yeah, it does. I think if people want to go on that being the major thing, you won “x” amount of games, so you definitely want to post a number that’s (higher). Even though it’s only one game better, hopefully the people that are watching us play are seeing us much and much better than last year, as far as what they’re seeing on the field. Last year, again, at the end of the season last year, we had a lot of holes to fill. It was a project when we met in January of all the changes we had to make, so on the offensive side, needing three offensive linemen, three new starters, two new running backs, at the tight end, making a decision on (Jared) Cook and bringing in Delanie (Walker), adding another receiver. Defensively, we needed safeties and added two safeties. We needed a defensive end, we needed two defensive tackles, we added all those people, so we added a lot of people to our roster, another middle linebacker. We added a dozen guys, so we don’t have those kind of holes anymore. Those guys have come in and done very well for us, so I think going forward, hopefully that’s why we’re excited going forward, and it’s hard to talk about now, but there’s not as much to do. I mean keeping a healthy quarterback is the main problem here, and obviously adding a few more pieces to the puzzle, which I think last year, (general manager) Ruston (Webster), his staff and the coaching staff did a great job of identifying what we need to do and how we go about that. You can’t do it all in one year. We couldn’t get all the pieces to the puzzle that I felt we needed in one year. I thought we did a great job with what we had, so you want to take those people you do bring in and show improvement on your team, which I hope we’ve showed on a weekly basis. Disappointed with not winning games, yes, but we got ourselves in a position to be much more competitive and give ourselves a chance to win almost every Sunday and that’s what you have to have in this league. Now we’ve got to find a few more guys and a little more luck and keep the quarterback healthy to get us over the hump and that’s where this team is, so the rebuilding or whatever word you want to use, reshaping, was last year because we had so many holes to fill and now there’s much less to be done going forward. I think that’s the part you have to go off, after you win one more game, and go from there, how we go forward, and that’s what we’ll do.

(on his relationship with Ruston Webster)

Like you mentioned, we get along well. I think there’s things, we’ll have things we don’t necessarily agree on and we’ll have some good back-and-forth on that but I think that’s why we were able to come to a lot of the decisions we made last year with free agency and the draft and how we needed to fix what was going on last year and the situation we were in with the injuries, and we became a much older team last year, so I think we saw that closely and we’re close to what we’ve got to do. He’s got his job and I’ve got mine, and when we get to this time of year, we all want the same thing, we want to win. He wants to win, I want to win, obviously the ownership wants to win, everyone does, the city, so we’ve all want the same goal. It’s just a matter of what’s the best way to get there and that’s what we’ll decide, how we do that next week. He and I have a really good relationship.

(on if he thinks Ruston Webster will go to bat for him)

You’d probably have to ask Ruston that question probably on how he feels, but I think, again, this is a business. As much as people say I’ve been with the organization a long time, there’s a lot of good in that, and I’m really excited about that, but ultimately this is what’s best for this football team going forward, so you’re seeing what we’ve done from last year to this year, and what our plan is and how do we get over something we all want to get over and be in the playoffs every year like we’ve talked about, like I’ve talked about to my team all the time. So we need to figure out, ‘Here’s how I think we need to do it, here’s what I think we need to do,’ and if we’re all on the same page, we go for it, and if not, if there’s factors and we aren’t, then obviously there’s changes made so I don’t know. We want to win so it’s a matter of finding out what vision is it we’re going to jump on and just having a plan. You have to have a plan, and if you have a plan, how are we going to get that. We all want change for the right reasons, but you have to make the right changes to win, so I think we all have to be on the same page for that and if we are, then I think they’ll do what they think is best.

(on if he thinks he and Ruston Webster are on the same page where Webster would go to bat for him)

I don’t know what going to bat would mean. I think there would be a discussion on does he see it the same as I do when it’s all said and done and what we need to accomplish. I’m sure not everything will be on the same page but that’s pretty much impossible for guys to figure out how to do it between coaches and players and things you have to do. I don’t know why we’d be far off. We’re close here, so I’m not sure what will be the ultimate decision on what they do, but we’ll see.

(on Chris Johnson reaching the 1,000-yard milestone)

I think it is (important). He’s (Chris Johnson) that close. I think that’s something we should be able to accomplish this week. I think we should win the game, and he should get his 50 yards while we’re doing that. If we can’t get him 50, we’re probably not going to win. I hope we run the ball well with the two of them, him and Shonn (Greene) will have a good day again. On both sides of the ball, we put together another good, solid game and come up with a win.

(on whether reaching the 1,000-yard milestone is still meaningful)

I think it does. Is it as hard as it used to be? Obviously not (because) you play more games, have more opportunities. It’s more for someone like CJ (Chris Johnson) his health, the durability of showing up every Sunday. People take that for granted. This guy practices every day, hasn’t missed a game since he has been here. We always talk about injuries, ‘Man, this guy was hurt, that guy was hurt,’ CJ has been very fortunate that way how he handles his health, how a guy his size handles a lot of abuse every Sunday. I think that’s more of an accomplishment because that means he shows up every Sunday every year to do his job. That’s something to be proud of as a running back. Do you wish it was higher? Should it be more per carry? All those things will always be questioned, but the bottom line is he showed up every Sunday, played hard, played his best. 1,000 yards kind of adds to that with just another season of getting the job done. Maybe not the 1,400 or 1,500 he hoped for because he didn’t get as many carries or we didn’t get the big long runs as much this year. Two or three runs for 80 yards and his season is thought to be a lot different. It’s just how it goes, but ultimately that’s the importance of it; the fact it’s an accomplishment of what he has been able to do as a player.

(on whether he is surprised Chris Johnson hasn’t had as many breakaway runs this season)

We obviously wish he did because that would have helped us in a way. That’s why he has the all-time record in the NFL for 80-yard runs because they’re hard to come by. Guys are pretty good tacklers in this league, and guys have some pretty good speed. They’re hard to come by. You get a little spoiled by him because he was doing it so frequently and easily. Last year he had two or three of them. I just wish he had more 10-yard and 15-yard runs to be honest with you.

(on whether he would make a case for Chris Johnson to stay in the offseason)

One step at a time here, a lot of meetings here. That’s the stuff again when the season’s over, same thing I’ll get an opportunity to do, as to why I should be here. One of those things, just like we did last year, is about CJ (Chris Johnson) and a lot of other players as you go through the roster of how you move forward, whose contracts are up, how you build the team back, and all those type of things. I’ve been with him since he’s been here being an offensive line coach when he came through the door. People thought I was a much better coach, especially when he got the 2,000 yards. People thought I was pretty good, too, because those backs make you look really good as coaches and players.

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