Titans need to key on improving, not media

August, 19, 2013
8/19/13
7:29
PM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- I know you don’t care whether a team has open practices or not. It’s inside baseball, so to speak, and any previous mentions of it have produced a chorus of “Don’t be a baby,” “Let it go,” or “I couldn’t care less.”

Many of you will actually praise it. Why should local press see what’s going on? They are just going to spoil the game plan, reveal injury information, tell the opponent too much.

[+] EnlargeMike Munchak
Troy Taormina/US PresswireWill closing practices to the media help Mike Munchak and the Titans improve on last season's 6-10 mark?
But in my 17 years around the Titans, there has been an occasional threat of closing it down but never a follow-through. I have not been to practices outside of training camp in the past five years. With a job that had me covering four teams, not just the Titans, I didn't have a giant objection to the idea that I'd have access to info that could slip into conversations with the Colts, Jaguars and Texans. With my job narrowing now, I was in line to return when I could.

Coach Mike Munchak had an off-the-record conversation with several of us today after the team’s final open practice. We were heard. He was heard.

Here is what the new media policy will have no bearing on: The success or failure of the 2013 Titans. Here’s what it can conceivably dent: The team’s ability to get out a good message and sell tickets even if things are going poorly.

As David Boclair of the Nashville Post says, a team with a minimal profile doesn’t help itself with this decision.
Keep in mind, the Titans have not had a player earn a Pro Bowl invitation in two years. They have not played on Sunday Night Football (the league’s showcase broadcast) since 2009 and for the second time in three years they have been left out of the Monday Night Football package.

There are two primary ways for them to generate headlines and national publicity for themselves.

One is through a well-informed local media, which can then provide deep and broad coverage of the individuals, coaches and staff personnel who make them unique. In the internet age, good local stories don’t stay local for long. They spread for and wide — and fast.

The other is to win a lot of games.

The latter has been particularly difficult for them in recent years. The former is the easiest thing for anyone to do.

They are coming off a miserable 6-10 season and showing few signs of a turnaround so far in the preseason. If they think keeping reporters from practice is going to be even a small piece of a cure, they’re quite na´ve.

They’ve not offered much rationale. Practice has been open for the past two years and Munchak has never raised an issue about it. There hasn’t been a case of a protocol violation where something has unfolded in an off-the-record setting and they’ve gotten burned.

It qualifies as more change for change’s sake by a coach heading into his third season with a job that will be in jeopardy if there is not a major turnaround. By the Titans' count, 25 other teams only open practice for the league-dictated minimum, typically stretch and position work. If they are falling in line with what other teams do, they ought to try what the Texans and Colts did last year and check out the playoffs.

It’s Munchak’s prerogative to make such a change.

If he doesn’t make a lot more that have a lot bigger bearing on results, those of us who cover the teams will be discussing media policy with a new coach in January.

Bemoaning and venting over. Onward.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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