Titans President & CEO Tommy Smith on Friday offered a multiyear extension to coach Mike Munchak at almost double his $3M salary, "conditional upon Munchak making more than a dozen staff firings and demotions," but Munchak "stood on principle" and refused, leading to his dismissal, according to sources cited by Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com. Sources said that Smith's "guarded optimism" after the meeting that Munchak would "agree to the conditions and return was in part tied to the belief that after Munchak slept on it, he would have a change of heart Saturday." But that "never happened." In the organization, there was "additional concern about its offseason marketing campaign." Sources said that Munchak "wouldn't buy a concept of change for change's sake." That "led to his dismissal on Saturday" (ESPN.com, 1/5). In Nashville, Jim Wyatt noted Munchak was "told he’d have to make changes that would involve firing some of his best friends." There also was "uncertainty about a contract extension, which he’d need to bolster efforts to improve the staff and roster." The Titans parted with Munchak "after three seasons of struggling to rise above mediocrity." Munchak was "with the franchise for 31 years -- as a player, then an assistant coach and finally as head coach" -- and "essentially fired himself with one year left on his four-year contract." Titans Exec VP & GM Ruston Webster will "spearhead the process" of finding a replacement (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 1/5). Munchak: "I can’t fire someone when I don’t believe they should be fired. Firing someone is awful. Too many people were going to be affected. I didn’t do anything to look like I was a great, loyal guy who went above and beyond the call of duty by not firing coaches. I did what you should do and what I thought was right." Munchak added, "I’ll make tough decisions, but not if they’re not right" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 1/5).
THE DECIDING FACTOR: ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky wrote Munchak is an "admirable, dignified and honest man." He was "fresh air at the start." But while he "maintained the respect of his players, Munchak and his staff were poor at adjusting to game circumstances that strayed from the initial plan" (ESPN.com, 1/4). Kuharsky noted the Titans "didn't outright fire one of the most beloved and important figures in the team's history," instead putting him in a "situation where he was the one making a decision" (ESPN.com, 1/4).
Redskins Owner Daniel Snyder is "still trying to get it right, embarking on yet another search for a head coach he hopes might change" the team's fortunes -- 15 seasons after "securing the keys to one of the NFL’s most storied franchises," according to a front-page piece by Rick Maese of the WASHINGTON POST. The Redskins "have reached the playoffs just four times in Snyder’s 15 seasons as owner and have churned through seven head coaches in that period." Maese interviewed 19 former employees for the story, and nearly all of them "described Snyder as a man whose passion for the team is both an asset and a flaw and whose personality and leadership style touch every corner of the Redskins organization." While some suggest that he "receives unfair blame for some of the team’s missteps, many say his strong personality has fostered a culture within the organization that makes it hard for any employee to thrive." Even Snyder’s defenders note that the franchise’s "perennial struggles feature the owner’s fingerprints and say the organization is very much a product of his design." Those inside the organization "laud Snyder’s marketing instincts and ability to identify new revenue streams," but from the outside, Snyder’s tenure "has been marked by big splashes and bigger flops, impulsive decisions that didn’t pan out and a bit of bad luck." Former Snyder employees said that he "runs his billion-dollar business in a unique way, promoting competition within the building, maintaining few close advisers and allowing his own passion and personal interests to get in the way." Snyder by many accounts has "has taken several steps in recent years to remove himself from the day-to-day operation of the team, and critics and supporters alike say if he truly remains in the background the team could turn the corner under a new coaching staff." However, others caution that despite his "regular pronouncements of personal growth and professional change, the same mistakes continue to hamper the Redskins."
A CULTURE OF FEAR: Those familiar with the team’s inner workings said that there is "not necessarily a problem with the structure, but rather that those tapped to do their jobs frequently are not allowed to do them." Several employees said that while Snyder "likes to ask questions, he does not always seem receptive to advice." Several former Redskins employees said that job security "was a constant fear." Employees "describe Snyder as 'moody,' 'mercurial,' and 'unpredictable,' and former coaches say Snyder’s mood is particularly volatile when the team struggles." They described "getting berated in the facility’s workout area and approached in the locker room in the minutes following games." Meanwhile, Snyder's inner circle "has shrunk over the years." Exec VP & GM Bruce Allen "is the principal now, and he's often the one who represents the owner in league matters." Allen now "is expected to assume more power within the organization." But NFL sources said that it is "too early to know how successful the organization will be now that Allen wields more power." (WASHINGTON POST, 1/5).
The Vikings have retained prominent Minneapolis-based law firm Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi Partners Eric Magnuson and Chris Madel "to lead an investigation into the allegations" made by former P Chris Kluwe, according to John Vomhof Jr. of the MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL BUSINESS JOURNAL. Kluwe in an article for Deadspin "blamed his release on his support of legalizing same-sex marriage" and "accused Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer of making anti-gay comments" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 1/3). ESPN.com's Ben Goessling reported the investigation as of Friday afternoon "had already begun" and it "could move quickly." The Vikings "likely want to get to the bottom of the issue in time for a new coach to decide if Priefer could join his staff." But the "lingering question" is "What, exactly, will the review be able to uncover?" Magnuson and Madel "won't be able to force players to comply with the investigation, or testify under oath to what they might have seen or heard" (ESPN.com, 1/4). In St. Paul, Brian Murphy wrote hiring Magnuson and Madel was a "shrewd and timely public relations move by the Vikings," but their "inability to compel sworn testimony from potential witnesses might make the truth more elusive." A source said that the preliminary witness list "includes about 30 names" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 1/4).
HIRING PRACTICES: In Minneapolis, Jim Souhan wrote Vikings Owner Zygi Wilf is "about to make his first coaching hire as an experienced, sentient NFL owner." This will be "the hire that defines him." Wilf "should be able to separate hype from reality, and allow knowledge and experience to overrule his excitable nature." He "should be ready for his close-up" and "should be ready to prove he can do more than write out a check" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/5).