Packers Head Coach Candidate: Mike Munchak
In his introductory press conference as the new Packers’ general manager, Brian Gutekunst said he would use every avenue necessary to acquire talent for the Packers. Apparently, the same attitude extends to coaches, where Gutekunst and Mark Murphy are reaching out to coaching candidates who may not immediately spring to mind even among Packers fans who are familiar with most of the common names considered to be high-end coaching candidates.
Mike Munchak is as well-regarded as an offensive line coach can be throughout the league and has some experience as a head coach, though his tenure in Tennessee could hardly be deemed a smashing success.
It could be a challenge to get Munchak out of Pittsburgh. Though he’s been in professional football for almost four decades, he’s only worked for two franchises during that entire stretch: the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s been in consideration for head coaching jobs before, but it seems like it will take a truly special offer to get him to make a move.
The details on Mike Munchak
Most recent job: Offensive Line Coach, Pittsburgh Steelers (2014-present)
Record as a head coach: 22-26
First job: Offensive Assistant, Houston Oilers (1984-1986)
Packers connection: In 2005 and 2006, Munchak worked with Ray Sherman, who was the Packers’ wide receivers coach from 2000 through 2004.
The background on Mike Munchak
Though he’s a highly regarded offensive line coach now, Munchak is still probably best known for his work as a Hall of Fame offensive lineman for the Houston Oilers.
The eighth overall pick of the 1982 NFL Draft, Munchak was an anchor on Houston’s offensive line for more than a decade, earning a Pro Bowl berth nine times and All-Pro nods twice.
After the conclusion of his playing career in 1993, he moved immediately into coaching, taking a job as an offensive assistant and quality control coach. Two years later, he was named Houston’s offensive line coach. He held that job through the 2010 season, navigating the team’s move from Houston to Tennessee in the process. In 2011, he was named the Titans’ head coach, leading the team through three lackluster seasons in which they finished above .500 just once.
Fired after the 2013 season, Munchak moved back to his traditional post as an offensive line coach, this time with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s been with the Steelers ever since, leading them through a solid run of Pro Bowl players, high rushing totals, and limited sacks for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Mike Munchak’s biggest moment
Mike Munchak’s extensive NFL career gives him plenty of big moments from which to choose.
As a player, it’s hard to top the ultimate individual honor: induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His entire enshrinement speech is worth a read, but what stands out is his consistent redirection of individual praise to the others that helped him succeed on the way. Munchak is truly an offensive lineman through and through.
As a coach, Munchak nearly helped the Tennessee Titans reach their ultimate goal in 1999, but in one of the most dramatic endings in Super Bowl history, they came up just a yard short.
In Mike Munchak’s own words
Munchak has been a part of an NFL organization as a player or coach every season since 1982, but the latter half of that very long football career was almost an accident, at least according to the coach himself.
Munchak always thought he’d get into coaching, but planned on working in the lower levels of the sport first.
"I thought if I got into coaching it would be more on the high-school level or something in management or the front office,” he said in 2013. "When I retired I kind of went that direction and thought I'd be moved toward the front office, but that didn't quite work out."
The front office gig may not have worked out, but the coaching job sure did. Munchak’s offensive line units have regularly churned out Pro Bowlers and All-Pros. Pittsburgh’s current starting five linemen have a combined 13 Pro Bowls and seven first- or second-team All-Pro bids between them.
What are the chances Mike Munchak is the next Packers head coach?
Jon’s Rating: 2/5
Gary raised an excellent point in his post about the Packers requesting an interview with Munchak. As a rule, the team seems to be quite open to candidates with a couple of bumps and bruises on their resumes.
Munchak certainly has those. His tenure as head coach of the Titans ended a dismal four games under .500 and he never made the playoffs. He certainly doesn’t look like a shoo-in for that reason alone.
But you can’t dismiss his candidacy out of hand, either. Plenty of coaches haven’t fared particularly well in their first time in the top job, so that poor run in Tennessee shouldn’t rule Munchak out. And beyond that, Munchak has the respect of his players in Pittsburgh to almost an extreme degree. Steelers guard David DeCastro described him as “one of those figures you always remember in your life” for his ability to connect with players beyond their professional relationships. Even the normally truculent Ben Roethlisberger went out of his way recently to praise Munchak, asking Steelers fans to lobby team president Art Rooney II on his behalf to “keep the coach in Pennsylvania.“
In addition to the love of his players, Munchak has been sought after before, as recently as last year. Munchak turned down an opportunity for a second interview with the Arizona Cardinals during the last coaching search go-round.
So where does that leave Munchak in Green Bay? He’s a candidate to be taken seriously, to be sure, but I think the Packers are looking for a little bit more high-end offensive experience than Munchak can offer. He could be a candidate they’re hoping to feel out for a position on the future coach’s staff, but I think asking him to be the head coach would be a bridge too far.
Gary’s Rating: 1/5
An old college roommate enjoyed filling our evenings with complaints about how society “tells us all we can be President, but only a handful will end up that way.” His grievance was less about politics and more about setting appropriate expectations.
I can hear that roommate in my head as I did the research on Mike Munchak. The Hall of Fame offensive lineman was loyal to his franchise so much that both the city and mascot changed from the first day to his last day with the team. He served as the follow-up to Jeff Fisher, but failed to improve on the mediocre record Fisher had produced before his departure.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein noted on a recent podcast that Munchak struggled to hire productive assistant coaches, and suggested his sources confirmed the same struggles may follow him in a potential second go-round as head coach.
Munchak is among an extremely elite group of men who were both excellent players and coaches. What makes Munchak a fantastic offensive line coach, however, does not qualify him as a tremendous head coach. His ceiling as a coach appears to be confined to teaching the position he played.