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Notebook: Offensive Coach Additions made with Jake Locker, Chris Johnson in Mind

Posted Feb 8, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans coach Mike Munchak said the changes he made to his offensive staff this offseason were made with quarterback Jake Locker and running back Chris Johnson at the forefront of the decision-making process.

Munchak began an extensive evaluation the day after Tennessee’s 2012 season ended. He said he considered multiple candidates, but it became clear to Munchak and Titans general manager Ruston Webster that Dowell Loggains would be the best person to serve as offensive coordinator.

Loggains served in the spot the final five games of 2012 after he was promoted from quarterbacks coach to replace Chris Palmer. Munchak was pleased with the approach Loggains took down the stretch even though there was not enough time to do a complete overhaul and injuries kept mounting.  

“I had a couple of coaches call me to see if Dowell was going to be our coordinator because they were interested in talking to him,” Munchak said Thursday during a news conference where he introduced his new offensive and defensive assistants. “After a couple of days, we realized this was the direction we wanted to go, that there’s no doubt that Coach Loggains was the best person for the job going forward.”

After determining that, Munchak sought to hire assistants who will work well with Loggains, and involved the 32-year-old in building the offensive staff.

Titans offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, right, said he is excited to work with (from left) new tight ends coach George Henshaw, running backs coach Sylvester Croom and receivers coach Shawn Jefferson to build an offense to the strengths of Tennessee's players.

“We talked about what type of coaches we needed,” Munchak said. “To me, it’s a puzzle. You just can’t pluck guys out. You’re trying to fit the coaching staff you have around (what does) Loggains need, the players we have, with Locker and CJ, and the offensive line. You have your players in mind when you build your staff.”

Munchak said Dave Ragone emerged as a top candidate to be Tennessee’s quarterbacks coach because of “his energy level, his knowledge of the game, the position, (and because) he knew the receivers very well from coaching them” (for the past two seasons).

“He knew their strengths, their weaknesses to help the quarterback’s point of view on that,” Munchak said. “He and Dowell have a great relationship. He watched tape, he evaluated what he thought Jake and Matt (Hasselbeck) did well. He was very great in the interview, but the problem was you can’t take one good coach from one spot and put him in another unless you have a really good coach to take his spot.”

Ragone, a former quarterback, was able to switch positions because the Titans were able to hire Shawn Jefferson to coach receivers, Munchak said. Jefferson played the position 13 years in the NFL and spent the past five seasons as Detroit’s receivers coach. Munchak and Loggains said they think Ragone’s familiarity with Titans receivers will help Locker’s development.

“We feel like Jake is the face of our franchise going forward,” Loggains said. “He did some nice things last year, battled through injuries, kind of showed his toughness, showed us his real character.”

Loggains said he and the assistants will build the offense and game plans according to personnel instead of shoehorning players into a specific system.

Munchak said he thinks the return of George Henshaw, who coached Titans tight ends from 1997-2005 and helped previous coordinators with installation, and the hiring of running backs coach Sylvester Croom, who like Henshaw, has previous experience as a coordinator, will be extra resources for Loggains that go beyond getting the most out of their position players.

Loggains said he looks forward to seeing how Henshaw will impact tight ends Jared Cook, Craig Stevens and Taylor Thompson, how Croom will help Johnson “be the best back he can be” and how Jefferson will impact Kenny Britt and Kendall Wright to raise expectations on the two first-round receivers.

Loggains said he is excited about the opportunity to work with coaches and create an identity of the offense that is built on the strengths of the players.

“The feeling is different (than last season) because it’s ours,” Loggains said. “We’re going to have ownership. At the point we took over last year, it was, ‘This is what the offense is.’ It’s what you have, so just the feeling of ownership and feeling that we can take this in the direction of what we feel is best.”

CJ, GRIFFIN IN TITANS PLANS: Reported elements of the contracts of Johnson and Titans safety Michael Griffin prompted some speculation by media outlets about their future with the Titans, but both players are in Tennessee’s plans.

“We’re going to honor both of those (contracts),” Munchak said during Thursday’s session.

Munchak said he was surprised how often the topic was approached. Johnson will be entering the third year of a multiyear deal, and Griffin will be entering the second year of a multiyear deal.

LOCKER BACK IN TENNESSEE: Locker, who is on the mend from postseason surgery on his left, non-throwing shoulder has returned to Tennessee after spending several weeks in his home state of Washington.

“He was in rehab (Thursday), so I was able to see him for just a minute,” Loggains said. “Of course, we didn’t talk football because we’re not allowed to, but it was good to see him. He’s doing well. Until we get to Phase 1 (of the offseason program in late April) we won’t be able to talk about football much, but I think he knows where I stand on some of the philosophy going forward. We were able to talk the last four or five weeks of the season about the direction that, given the opportunity, I wanted to take this thing.”

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