Munchak interest shows experience matters

January, 7, 2014
Jan 7
9:25
AM ET
If the Detroit Lions have made one thing clear during their coaching search, it is this: prior experience matters.

With Tuesday's news from ESPN Insider Ed Werder that former Tennessee coach Mike Munchak will interview with the Lions on Friday, it is becoming more and more apparent that being a head coach before is likely criteria No. 1 when it comes to selecting a new on-field leader for the franchise.

Consider the candidates the Lions already have spoken with or requested to speak with: Jim Caldwell, Ken Whisenhunt, Jay Gruden and now Munchak. All have, at some level, been a head coach before.

Now, the levels of success as head coaches are a bit different -- Caldwell and Whisenhunt went to Super Bowls, Gruden won Arena titles and Munchak never made the playoffs in Tennessee -- but they have success leading a franchise.

They also all have some sort of offensive pedigree. Caldwell, Whisenhunt and Gruden are all considered coaches who can develop or refine quarterbacks. Munchak does not have that background.

He is an offensive line specialist, having played guard for the Houston Oilers from 1982 to 1993 before going into coaching with the Oilers, first as a quality control coach and then with the Oilers-turned-Tennessee Titans as an offensive line coach from 1997 to 2010.

Then, when Jeff Fisher departed Tennessee after the 2010 season, the Titans promoted Munchak to the head-coaching position. He went 22-26 over three seasons with the club and was fired last week for refusing to make staff changes.

Now, as Werder reports, he'll bring his offensive coordinator in Tennessee, Dowell Loggains, with him to the meeting with the Lions. Loggains was a quarterback at Arkansas and has spent his entire coaching career with the Titans, first as a quality control coach, then the quarterbacks coach from 2010 to 2012 before being promoted to offensive coordinator with five games left in the 2012 season.

Some concerns about Munchak would be that he -- or Loggains, for that matter -- has not shown the ability to truly develop a quarterback. Also, for an offensive coach, he never had an offense ranked higher than 17th in total offense in his three seasons.

The quarterback Tennessee did draft to develop, Jake Locker, played as a backup to veteran Matt Hasselbeck in 2011, beat out Hasselbeck for the job in 2012 but ended up being injured during that season. Then he suffered two injuries in the 2013 season, so it is unknown how much Locker could have developed under Munchak and Loggains’ tutelage.

Locker showed some statistical improvement each season, but was never healthy enough to show true development.

Another likely random coincidence is where the Lions looked the last time around when they hired a head coach: Tennessee. Former coach Jim Schwartz, who was fired last week after five seasons, was hired by the Lions after being the Titans defensive coordinator under Fisher.

Werder reports Whisenhunt, who will interview this week, continues to the be the front-runner for the position, but Munchak appears to be another option Detroit is at least considering.

What is telling is who Detroit hasn’t reportedly asked to speak with as of now: Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Neither one has head-coaching experience despite being considered top-end coordinators.

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter

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