It’s too late to make a big difference this season.
If Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak wasn’t happy with the progress of the offense under Chris Palmer now, then he should have been unhappy with the progress of the offense earlier.
The team announced Monday night that Palmer is out, replaced by quarterback coach Dowell Loggains.
But if Munchak “didn’t feel like we were progressing the way that I had hoped” after Week 12, what was different after Week 5 or Week 9?
After Sunday’s loss in Jacksonville in which the Titans scored 19 points, the team ranked 24th in total offense.
After Oct. 7th’s loss at Minnesota in which the Titans scored 7 points, the team ranked 26th in total offense.
After Nov. 4th’s loss to Chicago in which the Titans scored 20 points, the team ranked 24th in total offense.
What would have been the big difference about making a change then? Here's what: The Titans would have still had a realistic chance of a successful change in direction giving them a shot at getting into the playoff picture.
Now, Munchak says, “I believe we needed a change in direction and I hope to see that progress in our remaining games.”
Even if that progress improbably produces a season-ending five-game winning streak, a 9-7 season is unlikely to earn a wild card berth.
After that loss to Chicago, that’s what Bud Adams called for, progress in the team's remaining games. He told Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean that everybody’s work for the remainder of the year would be under close scrutiny as the owner determined their futures.
If the Titans get improvement now on offense, Munchak will likely get increased job security in the form of an extension. He and his staff are under contract only through 2013. Coaches rarely work as lame ducks, and if he's got to bring in some new assistants -- including, perhaps, a new defensive coordinator -- he's got to be able to offer them a three-year deal to make an attractive offer.
I didn’t expect Munchak to make an in-season change because I know he’s a loyal guy who respects Palmer a great deal.
But there are players on this offense, tight end Jared Cook chief among them but hardly alone, who hardly shared that respect.
So the move is proactive by Munchak, but not as proactive as it could have been.
Look for Loggains to return to some of the base principles of the offense run by the late Mike Heimerdinger, under whom Loggains worked when Jeff Fisher was the Titans coach. Loggains is in his seventh season with the Titans. He's seen what didn't work for Norm Chow and Palmer and what did work for Dinger. He's a smart young coach who broke into the league under Bill Parcells in Dallas.
Loggains can’t make drastic changes immediately. But he will work to eliminate the sort of confusion we’ve seen weekly where the quarterback and a receiver got crossed up and were not on the same page.
Palmer’s options routes were a breeding ground for that and included no flexibility. Line up in Play Call X, see a corner playing inside leverage, and run precisely this. Do otherwise, and hear about it. There wasn't flexibility or room for negotiation based on how you were being played.
Loggains will likely give route runners more freedom to play off of the coverage they see and take advantage of the space they find to work in. The quarterback will be allowed to see something develop and react to it.
Some underneath options may disappear -- a tight end who was previously heading to the flat, for instance, may just stay into block to allow the other tight end who is crossing deeper a chance to make a play.
The change should mean more creative downfield possibilities.
How much can change in the first week of Loggains as coordinator? He’ll draw up a game plan Tuesday with the rest of the staff implementing the first level of changes. Houston’s pass coverage has had issues the last couple weeks. Well-executed plays should have the potential to work.
Over the final five games, Loggains will be writing a bit of an application for a permanent promotion. I suspect he'll get it.
What qualifies as progress? For starters, a lot less talk of a quarterback and his target not being on the same page.