On quiet Titans speaking up

November, 14, 2013
11/14/13
11:48
AM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- For all the fair criticisms of Mike Munchak, one unfair one gets too much attention in Music City.

Some critics point at his sideline demeanor and wish he’d be more demonstrative.

I think they aren’t watching him closely enough -- he gets plenty heated at times when it’s called for. Focus on him next time a call seems to go against the Titans. I also think it’s a mistake to think a coach has to rant and throw fits to be effective. Tony Dungy and Tom Landry did just fine as mild-mannered coaches.

When he was still coaching the Colts, I once chatted with Dungy about whether there was periodically a time, behind closed doors, when he felt screaming or throwing something might get his team’s attention in a different way that might have a big effect.

[+] EnlargeJason McCourty
AP Photo/Tom GannamThe usually reserved Jason McCourty spoke up to teammates about staying on the correct path after the Titans' loss to the previously winless Jaguars.
He said, quite reasonably, no.

As a player under Chuck Noll in Pittsburgh, he didn’t want to be yelled at or see a show. He wanted to be told and shown why something was wrong and how to fix it. That’s how Noll operated, and that’s how Dungy followed suit. They both had great success.

This week, after many Titans talked about how the team was lifeless during the bad loss to previously winless Jacksonville, I turned away from Munchak’s demeanor to consider his calm and collected players.

A roster generally has a heavy share of guys who have a personality similar to that of the head coach. The Titans have a lot of quiet, low-key guys like Munchak. Primary among them: Cornerback Jason McCourty; safeties Michael Griffin and George Wilson; running back Chris Johnson; and offensive linemen Michael Roos, Andy Levitre and David Stewart. (Injured quarterback Jake Locker has that demeanor too.)

When the Titans closed the locker room doors Sunday after the loss to the Jaguars, several players spoke up about what unfolded. One of them, who shed his mellow deportment and let loose about the chances the Titans are blowing, was McCourty.

He spoke loudly about continuing to come together and staying on the correct path, about how the Titans are, unlike some recent versions, a talented team. He wanted to make sure guys understood there are still opportunities ahead.

“I just look at it as a personal thing,” McCourty said. “For me, at that moment, frustration had built up and I felt like there was something on my heart that needed to be said and I said it. I don’t feel like everybody needs to do so. Some guys are very vocal leaders. Bernard Pollard is good at that, motivating himself and others around him. Other guys, maybe a quiet guy, just goes and talks to people individually to get them motivated …”

“That was probably the pinnacle of my frustration through my career. There have been different times when I’ve spoken up and said things I’ve felt needed to be said. It was pretty anted up, pretty decent.”

I imagine a composed pro like McCourty speaking up in such a fashion caught the attention of his teammates. To what effect remains to be seen.

Wilson said there could be value in a quiet guy raising the volume.

“The only way you really know if there is real value is when you see how guys receive it,” he said. “They can respond to it or not respond to it. They can listen to you or let it go in one ear and out there other. You decide to do it because you reach a point where something needs to be said. When guys want to vent and get things out on the open, you say things out of love and out of compassion, not to demean or call anybody out. Just to be accountable to each other.”

Chris Johnson has rarely if ever, shown himself to be mad.

Former Titans tight end Frank Wycheck, a Titans Radio color analyst and my sports talk radio colleague, says he’d like to see Johnson come off the field angry when he fumbles away the ball on the first play of the Jaguars’ game.

I can’t recall seeing the easygoing, soft-spoken Johnson heated. I’m not suggesting him getting visibly angry would change anything, and I wouldn’t encourage a guy to put on an air that doesn’t fit.

But I wondered: Is there ever a time he feels like moving away from his typical demeanor in a visible way that could get his teammates’ attention and benefit the Titans?

“Not really,” he said. “Because we have players-only meetings around here and everybody talks and everybody has the floor or whatever. It’s nothing that I need to show out in the media or out where all the fans can see just to get my point across. We have those times where we get to talk and we get to voice our own opinion.

“I say what I have to say, but I’m not throwing a temper tantrum or anything like that.”

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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