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Friday, January 30, 2009
And the Titans' best assistant coach is ...

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

We asked for your input earlier this week on who you think the Titans' best assistant coach is.

Here's a sampling of replies in the comments to the post and in my mailbag:

Ken in Franklin: I think it's gotta be Washburn. With few exceptions (Haynesworth most notably), the Titans have always undervalued defensive linemen. Yet Wash always seems to coach them up and put together a solid, if not great, front four. There are a slew of linemen that the Titans have allowed to walk for bigger contracts, yet I can't think of one of them that was as effective as he was under Washburn, and quite a few of them were complete busts.

Ross in Brentwood: As to the Titans' best assistant... You pretty much nailed it already, it just has to be one of those line coaches, and of the two I give just a SLIGHT edge to Munchak. Granted, on both sides of the ball it all begins and ends with the line, what Washburn does with those players dictates what the rest of the defense can do, ditto for Munchak and the offense. Based on what they try to do on each side of the ball, I would argue that Munchak is "better" because of his track record with numerous low-round/undrafted picks.

Tenakeytyrant: wash!!! munchak a close 2nd

Jim in Georgetown: Paul, Let's be honest here. How can the Titans' best assistant coach be anyone but Jim Washburn? While it's true he hasn't always gotten the most talented players, his defensive lines constantly pressure the quarterback- evidenced by the fact that the Titans defense has finished in the top 10 in the NFL in sacks 5 out of the last 7 years. And furthermore, former Titans John Thornton, Robaire Smith, Carlos Hall, Joe Salave'a, Henry Ford, and Jevon Kearse seemed to disappear after leaving Tennessee: Ford retired the year after he left, Hall has not played in a game since 2005, Salave'a was cut and only made a minor impact with Washington afterwards, and Kearse, of course, was hit with a rash of injuries. Only Juqua Parker, it seems, was really able to leave Tennessee and raise his level of play- he's now with Philadelphia. I acknowledge that Mike Munchak coaches up one of the best pass-blocking units in the league year after year, but Wash is the full package as a D-line coach and simply a master at working with what he has. Thanks, Jimbizzle

Ben in Franklin: No doubt you have to go with Munchak. His lineman kept Collins clean all year and paved the way for a rookie to gain over 1000 yards.

Chrisdgunter: ya know what? I'm gonna go against the grain here.. I'm going Steve Watterson. We had a HUGE issue with health the past 3-4 seasons until last season, and that's when Steve and his crew instilled a sort of "Crossfit" into their daily regime. I do crossfit in Murfreesboro and it's not only made me more athletic, but it's also made my agility go way up thus I don't sustain as many injuries. Strength and Conditioning coaches are very under-appreciated around the league, but if you don't have a good one - all of the other coaches are just filling holes with 2nd stringers.

Bojackson30: I'm torn between Munchak and Washburn. Their ability to "coach up" players sets them apart. I wouldn't consider a guy like Amano to be "top-shelf talent" (I like the way you put that), but he's become starting caliber under Munchak.

Looking at what recent D-line losses have done elsewhere, and I have to say that Washburn gets the edge. Considering how Jones and Hayes both were able to make an impact this year also shows his ability.

The Washburn vs. Munchak debate can go on endlessly. They have much different styles, with Munchak a soft spoken counselor and Washburn an in-your-face motivator.

They've both turned low picks and undrafted players into contributors.

Look at what the Titans have drafted for each since 1999 and Munchak's gotten zero first-rounders and one second rounder (Michael Roos). Washburn, meanwhile, has gotten two first-rounders (Jevon Kearse and Albert Haynesworth) and two second rounders (John Thornton and Jason Jones).

But on the free agency front, Munchak got Kevin Mawae and Jake Scott while Washburn got a second-term Kearse and guys who got minimum salaries.

I can't call a tie, I've got to pick one. So on the high draft pick imbalance and on two players who were All-Pros this season, I think things tip slightly to Munchak, who is, in my eyes, the Titans' best assistant coach.