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Titans stay with the familiar, promote Munchak to head coach

Usually conservative Mike Munchak showed off much more of his personality Monday during his first news conference as the Tennessee Titans' head coach.

He made jokes about how he expected a gold watch after 30 years with the franchise, how it will be easier for his mother to see him on the sideline now and even poked fun at his quiet manner.

"This is my excited face," Munchak said at one point.

The new coach also made one thing very clear: Change is coming, even though he coached under Jeff Fisher the past 14 seasons.

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"I'm going to be my own man, and I'll be judged by what I do and not what was done before me. I'm not looking here to blame anybody about what was left for me," Munchak said. "I think it's a great opportunity here with what we have, and I think I'm the guy to pick up the pieces and hopefully get us in the right direction."

Munchak is the franchise's 16th head coach. Neither he nor the Titans would comment on his new contract.

The Titans decided to promote from within after Fisher parted ways with the team following a 6-10 season.

Titans owner Bud Adams called Munchak's move a special day as the Hall of Fame offensive lineman became the first former player to coach the team.

"He has been a hard worker, and he has only known success and how to achieve success," Adams said by telephone from his Houston office. "He made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He has the respect of people he played with and those who have played for him. He is a smart football man and leader who will guide us again into the playoffs."

Munchak was the first man interviewed to replace Fisher and had been considered the top candidate for the job.

This is the first head-coaching job for Munchak, who turns 51 in March, with the only franchise he has ever played or worked for since being selected eighth overall by the then-Houston Oilers in 1982.

Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt and senior executive vice president Steve Underwood also interviewed offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger and wrapped up interviews Friday by talking to Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell in the same day. New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams declined to interview for the job.

But Munchak is well respected in the franchise.

Reinfeldt, a former teammate, called Munchak a smart football man who commands respect and accountability.

"He is a leader," Reinfeldt said. "I think he has a vision, and he has great passion for it. I think it's good. He has an understanding of our people, what we've done here, and I think he has a vision of how he'd take it to the next level."

Munchak will have flexibility to fill his staff as he wants, even though 13 current assistants are under contract. That includes Heimerdinger, who said by text message to The AP that he is happy for Munchak and expects him to do a good job.

Heimerdinger said he would like to stick around under Munchak.

"I'd be happy to work for (Munchak). I think he does an excellent job," Heimerdinger told the *Tennessean* on Monday, adding that he had no plans to leave: "Not unless they make me."

Munchak isn't committing to anyone just yet.

"I feel like we're starting fresh," he said. "It's not same old, same old. We come in, sit down and figure out what's best for the Titans going forward with what we have ... Anything's possible."

Munchak must fill at least five positions left open by his promotion from offensive line coach, the firing of defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil and departures of assistants coaching defensive line, running backs and wide receivers. Munchak's best friend and former teammate, Bruce Matthews, is considered a possibility to replace him on the line, but he is an offensive assistant coach with the Houston Texans.

Munchak's promotion is being praised by those who know him, with Penn State coach Joe Paterno calling him a hard worker. Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz said he didn't realize how respected Munchak is throughout the NFL until he left Tennessee.

"I am known as someone who burns the midnight oil, and consistently Mike Munchak's car was the only one left in the parking lot when I left," Schwartz said in a statement. "Titans fans can sleep well knowing Munch is at the helm. I know I did."

Coming out of Penn State, the left guard blocked for fellow Hall of Famers Earl Campbell in a pounding Oilers running game and Warren Moon in the run and shoot. Munchak played 159 regular-season games with the Oilers before retiring in 1994, and he became the fifth player from the franchise -- but the first to spend his entire career with Adams' team -- inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Munchak also had the franchise record with nine Pro Bowl berths during his career. Adams retired Munchak's No. 63 in 1996, joining Campbell, Jim Norton and Elvin Bethea in rare company with that honor.

Munchak started at an entry-level position as quality control assistant with the offensive staff through 1996. Fisher promoted Munchak to offensive line coach in 1997, a job he held the past 14 seasons. Munchak thanked Fisher for the opportunity.

Munchak has coached the same starting five offensive linemen from one season to the next just twice during his 14 seasons. But he has helped four linemen earn 10 total Pro Bowl invitations while blocking for five different running backs, ranging from Eddie George to Chris Johnson, in 11 1,000-yard seasons.

With Munchak coaching the offensive line, the Titans allowed the second-fewest sacks in the NFL with 28.3 per season and ranked seventh in the league in that time by averaging 124.5 rushing yards per game.

Left tackle Michael Roos was a second-round pick in 2005 and has started every game since being drafted. The Titans' right tackle is David Stewart, a fourth-round selection in 2005, and center Eugene Amano was a seventh-round pick in 2004.

"He is an intense guy, but he is not a screamer or a yeller," Roos said of Munchak. "He just gets the most out of his players because you want to do well for him."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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