Following are excerpts from Mike Munchak's season ending press conference on Dec. 30, 2013. The links below contain the entire session.
HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK
(on the outgoing message to the team today)
We talked about the past game a little bit. We went through that, showed some clips, gave out some game balls like we normally do when we win. That was fun. That was the fun part. We gave instruction about the offseason, the rules, coming to the building, the usual things, then really about having a plan for the offseason. Like we talk about having a plan during the season, they’ll sit down these next couple days and look at their personal lives and make a plan for what they need to work on there. When you’re in football for so long, you kind of put that on the back burner. They need to get adjusted to the normal way of life and just have a plan for their health, whatever may be going on health wise as far as injuries or things they need to take care of in a timely way and figuring out a way to get better…a plan for them individually to get better whether it be in the weight room getting stronger, more flexible, whatever it may be that they can do over the next four months to do all that. I think that’s how I kind of look at the offseason as a player, having a plan just to remind them of things they need to do.
(on whether he feels disappointed or optimistic heading into the offseason)
Both. I think they should be disappointed. We sat in this room in April eight months ago and had a plan. The plan was to be playing this weekend. Good things have happened, no doubt, and players had some of their best years. I thought we improved in a lot of areas, and all that stuff’s good. But, the bottom line as we all know is we need to be playing this weekend. Like I said about having a plan, what can they do to help that happen next year? That’s what we talk about in the offseason what they can do. The offseason is all about what ifs. If you don’t win the Super Bowl, there’s a lot of what ifs about what could we have done differently as a team, as a player. Players go through that, and coaches go through that. You’d rather at least be in the playoffs. You’d rather at least be one step further to give you a chance to win. I think there’s disappointment for us as a team for not accomplishing what we want to accomplish, but you can’t let it just beat you down to where there wasn’t some good. There was a lot of good, and that’s what keeps you going, knowing that there were games, there were situations where we could have done much better. We need to fix that as a team, as a head coach, as players, maybe the way we train in the offseason, maybe the way we do things. Everyone’s going to be evaluated. They need to evaluate themselves. They should still be proud of some things they accomplished, individually especially, as team in areas where we got much better than we were last year at this time. Ultimately, it’s about winning, so we need to get away from the game, refocus, come back. Hopefully when we get back in this room in April, we’re excited about the changes we made and the direction we’re heading.
(on improvements over last season)
Statistically, every stat you can come up with pretty much as far as numbers we improved upon on offense. The biggest one for me was time of possession. I think it went from 32nd to middle of the pack to 16. That was a big thing we talked about with controlling the ball, controlling the line of scrimmage, keep the defense off the field. I thought that was a lot better. There’s categories and I just thought we did better in those areas. We won one more game, which wasn’t the goal. You need to win more than that. Defensively, the numbers were real bad last year, statistically. All those numbers are obviously much, much better as far as points, rankings, where we ended up. The only important ranking is we obviously didn’t make the playoffs.
(on not making enough plays at the linebacker position)
Well, we had some yesterday. I think last year the same thing happened, kind of toward the end of the year all of a sudden Zach (Brown) had some interceptions. Akeem (Ayers) had two plays yesterday. I think we had a few plays by the linebackers yesterday. It comes in bunches sometimes. I think we all sit there and say, ‘I wish so and so had more sacks and we got more picks off this guy.’ I think we have the type of players that can make those plays.
Well, I’m not going to comment on what Kenny (Britt) may have said because I’m not sure in what context he’s referring to. I think everyone saw that we did our best to have Kenny help us win football games this year. It was tough. We wished he had a great year. We wished he had the opportunities to post the big numbers we hoped he would. It just didn’t work out that way.
(on whether Kenny Britt’s health is an issue)
I’m sure it’s a combination of everything. There’s no telling exactly how he feels. He doesn’t need surgery for all I know. I think he got through the season healthy that way, I hope. You never could tell when guys get checked out if there was something that was lingering. I don’t think that necessarily affected how he played.
(on the offensive line’s health heading into the offseason)
(David) Stewart had the shoulder. These are the things right now that guys have their check-out physicals that they’re looking at now as far as what’s the best way to get healthy. This week it will be determined what he needs to do with that shoulder. (Andy) Levitre tweaked his knee yesterday. He’s walking around today. I’m not sure if he’s going to need any work. Those are the things we’ll find out the next couple days then have a plan, sit there and have a meeting about those guys, the guys we have that need work done or don’t. If they need it, you want to encourage them to get it done now so we can get the rehab process started. We’re kind of wait and see.
We don’t know. Now it’s more or less figuring out what’s best like when you have the knee if it’s better to clean the knee out or can you wait it out for two or three weeks and see if it goes away. Now that he’s not playing football, not being banged around, it’s can you settle it down now. Those are the type of things you have to look at. Those are the challenges sometimes of the offseason, of making decisions on doing a surgery or not doing a surgery because we’re trying to avoid surgeries if we can. Sometimes by waiting it drags to, ‘Well, he doesn’t need the procedure until March.’ All of a sudden, he’s missing OTAs. It’s a fine line. Those are the decisions the players have to come to with the doctors.
He would be on the injury report if he wasn’t practicing. He didn’t miss a practice. He may have missed one the whole year. As we all know, in the spring he didn’t practice because of the knee. The OTA stuff, he missed that whole period of time. In camp, we kind of took it easy on him for the recovery of the knee. During the season, he was pretty much there every Sunday and practiced every day. I’m sure he had things sore or not feeling as good has he hoped they’d be, but nothing that would keep him out of the game.
(on whether Andy Levitre has a hip-related injury)
I think it’s sore. I think he’s had the hip, and he got the knee yesterday. It’s a couple things going on, but now is the time we can check it and get away from it. A lot of times guys have things going on that they can play with, so it’s a matter of if it’s affecting your play enough to where you can’t play or shouldn’t practice or need to rest it. If you have to do that, then obviously we’d pull him out for a few weeks like we did with (David) Stewart’s shoulder for example. We pushed it, he did his thing, and he thought he could play. He reached a point where he needed a rest, and we tried that during the middle of the season for him. Same thing with Andy (Levitre). If Andy reached that point, he wouldn’t have played, but he never got to the point where he felt he couldn’t play.
(on players needing surgery in the offseason)
Right now, don’t know for sure. There was nothing that was obvious from yesterday’s game. It’s more of getting guys over, getting tested. It’s smart on both sides. The player needs to know that there’s nothing that’s been bothering him. We’re taking care of those things now, so all that’s being done here over the next few days.
(on whether the team needs to bring in another quarterback this offseason)
I think that will probably be part of our discussions as how we go forward as a team, not just with players. I’m sure we’ll talk about all those things, but, yes, we’ll have plenty of time to unravel all those topics because of how everything’s laid out. There’s quite a few topics we need to talk about.
(on his stance on
We’ll talk when we get a chance. I haven’t really sat and talked to the doctors in a while about what the procedure is going to be for the whole offseason. We’ll have that discussion. It’s a month out, and we can get a more real-time (answer) of what’s next for him and go through all that. We need to have that discussion, as we do with the whole roster…whether it be next week or whenever we go through the whole roster medically with the doctors and see where everyone is and what the projection is and what the concerns are. Every team does the same thing because now you’re going into free agency at some point, you’re trying to sign your own guys, and there’s a lot going on. You can get some guys signed between now and March, and there’s things you can do. You need to have those meetings now so you’re prepared when the time comes to make those decisions.
(on if he believes this was a playoff team if Jake Locker would have stayed healthy)
Well, I can easily say it would have been because you can’t prove me wrong necessarily. I just have to go with the way things were headed. It doesn’t mean, who knows what would have happened, but we felt very good about the way it was heading. We were just happy that people were finally seeing what we saw in Jake Locker as he was progressing as a player after four weeks in the season. The good thing there was no turnovers, the fact that he was so good with the football, the fact that that was a big concern with the decision making, ‘OK, there’s nothing there, what am I going to do? Am I going to take a sack, throw it away, or am I going to force it in there?’ That’s the maturity I liked because it was something he did in the preseason, so that’s why, if you can do that, if you can control turnovers, you’re going to win a lot of football games. We were plus-nine after four games and ended up even for the season, so that, to me, is the biggest thing, the comfort he was having in this offense. I would have loved to see what was going to happen. Would the record have been any different? I assume and hope it would have been enough to make the playoffs, but until we keep him healthy and get him 16 weeks, that’s the question.
I thought it was a great battle for them. I was excited to see Chance play against those guys again, you know, (J.J. Watt), and Stingily having a chance to play against a guy of that caliber. There was a lot of good stuff going on, good battles. They won some, we won some. We ran the ball well against them. They got some hits on our quarterback at times, but I felt overall that it was a great experience for them. I thought Chance played much better this time than he did back back in Week 2. He was physical, we had some great runs, he pass blocked well, he was in position better and just understanding the game better. You could see what a difference he’s at. Schwenke didn’t play the last time, but Schwenke again, was solid, but he needs to get healthy. His ankle (injury) shows up when you watch him and change of direction is not great, playing with that ankle, but I thought it was good for Byron to play against a player like J.J. Watt. He didn’t have him every snap but when he had him, he did nice. He realized how hard, how good you have to play against a guy like that, what it takes play-in and play-out to shut a guy like that down and you can’t just do it once in a while. It has to be exact or he can make you look bad. I think it was great for them to have success and win the game and run the ball well and be OK, solid, in pass blocking.
I thought it was the best he’s played since I’ve been head coach. I thought he played comfortable. I think having Bernard (Pollard), having George (Wilson) really made a difference in his game. Having other leaders on the field allowed him to relax and do his job. Because of that, I thought, is why he tackled so much better. I think technique and all that stuff, you actually work in practice, but I thought, the bottom line for our defense in general this year is we’re so much better in terms of our tackling and yards after catch. We had very few yards after catch yesterday. I think we tackled pretty well yesterday and we have all year. That’s the biggest difference between this year and last year, whatever we were ranked, 31st or 32nd, to (14th) on defense, so we’ve come a long way, and if stats are important, those defensive stats, we’ve cut them way down in almost every one of them, so a lot of good things happening on defense.
He was exactly what we were hoping he’d come in and be, as far as his passion for the game. You can’t have enough of those guys in your locker room. I mentioned earlier about, well, maybe you could. You don’t want, you probably couldn’t handle having 53 of him, but I think having a handful is a good thing. I think we needed that type of leadership. We needed a guy that had been there and done that. He had been to the Super Bowl a year ago. He knows what it takes. He knows the ups and downs of a season. The Ravens weren’t playing very well last year at one point and they kind of kicked it into high gear, made the playoffs and made their run. He saw what it was like to hit adversity and overcome that the places he’s been so I thought he brought that attitude in and really did a nice job with that and really fell within our system. He never had a problem. I thought he spoke up when he needed to. I thought he played physical. I thought he showed these guys how to play hard every snap. That’s what we wanted. We wanted a guy that came in here and showed these guys how to be pros. Coaches can only take them so far. You need players that can show them how to walk the walk and I think someone like him, someone like
(on his opinion of the return on investment in free agency)
Well, like I said, I’m happy with Bernard (Pollard), happy with George (Wilson). I thought Delanie (Walker) came in and had a big year — his best that he’s ever had. I thought
(on that investment meaning a one-win difference)
But you’ve got to look to the future, though. It’s not just, some of these guys are one-year deals, but again, that has nothing to do with us not winning more games. We brought in a good group of guys and hit on a lot of guys that ended up helping us this year. They weren’t sitting on the bench. They weren’t not helping us, they weren’t having bad seasons, they were helping us in a positive way to be a big part of this offense or defense.
(on if sitting out a game affected
I don’t know that it affected him that way. I hope it didn’t, as far as how he played. In practice he looked fine and his demeanor was good. I think the opportunities maybe didn’t come as much as we had hoped. We ran the ball a lot more in the last two weeks than we did earlier in some of those games where we made more throws and were throwing it around the yard a little more. The Arizona game, unfortunately he didn’t play and we threw 60 passes. The last couple of games we ran the ball about 45 times, so that changes how many reps he got during the games because we weren’t playing as much three-wide receivers as we did against Arizona, so that’s part of it too, and he got a little jammed up yesterday with the shoulder so he didn’t feel at his best yesterday because of that.
(on whether he enjoys being a head coach)
I really like it. I enjoy it, and I love it. I think it’s a great challenge to have a chance to manage, to put together a team for a common goal. Our coaches feel the same way; we all have the same agenda about winning football games, making players better, and bringing a championship to this city. I think all those things are exciting to do it the right way and get a group that feels the same way. We’ve had a lot of success over the years at times since we’ve been in Nashville. I want to bring that back. I want to have five, six years in the playoffs in a row. We all want the same thing. We just got to go get it done. That’s something that I’m excited about doing. We’ll see.