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Monday, May 9, 2011
Munchak and Matthews can't be a club

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

There are all sort of new dynamics that come with a new staff.

Mike Munchak will sort them out as he goes. One I’ve wondered about: How do you have your closest friend working for you and use him as a resource the way you need to while not making the rest of the assistant coaches feel like your long-time pal has more pull and/or power?

Bruce Matthews and Mike Munchak.
Bruce Matthews, left, and new Tennessee coach Mike Munchak at the Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremonies in 2007.
Munchak and his offensive line coach, Bruce Matthews, presented each other at their inductions into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They played together. Then Munchak was Matthews’ position coach.

I asked Munchak recently if he feels he will have to be conscious of not granting Matthews any sort of special status among his assistants.

“It’s professional; it’s just like when I coached him," Munchak said. "Ultimately, he was the player and I was the coach. But it was nice to have him as a sounding board even when I was his coach. It was like that with Michael Roos or Kevin Mawae over the years, guys I could throw things at whose opinions I respect. You need to have that.

“You need to have that on the coaching staff. Obviously people know my relationship with Bruce. But I’m hoping I have that relationship with most of the staff, not just Bruce. Where they feel comfortable that we can talk and I can ask their opinions.”

Munchak talks a bit like general manager Mike Reinfeldt. He won’t always have the time to build a consensus the way Reinfeldt tries to, but he wants to hear a lot of voices.

“I like to get a lot of information, I’m a brainstormer, I like to get a lot of people’s thoughts and then kind of pick what I think is the best way to go,” Munchak said. “… I think that’s something that Bruce will be very helpful with because of all he’s been through in this league. There are a lot of things I’ve already been asking a lot of guys about that have helped me already as a coach.”

Inevitably in a group of 18 or however many assistants, some personal relationships develop more than others. Munchak and Matthews are already at an extreme there. During tough times they’ll have to be sure not to allow for any of the rest to feel like outsiders.

Munchak and Matthews banter well like good friends do. They will challenge each other as they take a new step in their careers.

I don’t see how that can be unhealthy unless they allow it to become clubby, and I don’t see them letting that happen.