Mike Munchak. AP photo.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars already cost one NFL coach his job this season.
It could happen again.
The reeling Tennessee Titans (5-9) visit Jacksonville on Sunday, quite possibly with coach Mike Munchak’s future at stake. The Titans have lost three in a row, five of six and eight of 10. Five of those eight losses were by eight points or fewer, but playing close games seemingly has done little for Munchak’s job security.
New president and chief executive officer Tommy Smith said last week he will thoroughly review the franchise after the season and make any changes deemed necessary. Munchak surely doesn’t want getting swept by Jacksonville (4-10) on his resume.
“You get numb to it because you know that it’s part of the process the last month of the season,” said Munchak, who has been with the franchise as a player and coach for three-plus decades. “If you’re not in the playoff hunt, then there’s only one other thing to dwell on, and that’s what changes do you make. So you’ve got to endure that a little bit, so that’s what we’re going through here now.”
Winning out certainly would help Munchak’s case. After all, Tennessee is 0-4 in the AFC South and is the only team in the league with losses against Houston (2-12) and Jacksonville this season. The then-winless Jaguars beat the Titans 29-27 in Nashville last month.
“I think they will like what they see if we finish strong,” Munchak said. “We need to finish and get the job done. ... I can’t do anything about that now other than win football games.”
Tennessee turned the ball over four times in the first game against the Jaguars. Those mistakes led to 17 points and Jacksonville’s first win under coach Gus Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell.
It also proved a turning point this season for a team that lost its first eight games by double digits. The Jaguars have won four of six since that 0-8 start, including two wins against the Texans that helped get coach Gary Kubiak fired. Owner Bob McNair said the Texans have a “lot better talent” than the Jaguars and losing to them twice was unacceptable.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to think Tennessee’s front office feels the same way.
“So much of that stuff is out of our hands,” Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “We’re going out there to play and try to get wins. I’m trying to play my best game. ... I don’t think we’re going out here trying to save a particular job. I think we’re just going out there to win a particular game.”
In addition to Munchak’s future, here are five things to know about the Titans and Jaguars heading into Sunday’s game:
MEESTER’S GOODBYE: Jaguars center Brad Meester is retiring after 14 seasons, all in Jacksonville. His home finale is Sunday, and the team is planning a memorable send-off for the franchise’s all-time leader in games played and games started (207 and counting). Meester is walking away to spend more time with his wife and six daughters. “It’s a sad day,” running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. “It’s a guy that I thought could play forever. He’s one of the ones I thought could play until they’re in their 80s.”
CJ’S FUTURE: There is speculation the Titans will release star RB Chris Johnson in the offseason to avoid paying him $8 million in 2014. But Johnson is proving his worth in recent weeks, scoring seven touchdowns in the last seven games. Only Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles has scored more times (10) during that stretch.
SUBS EVERYWHERE: For the most part, Jacksonville’s second-team offense will be on the field against Tennessee. The Jaguars likely will be without seven players who were projected starters before the season: running back Maurice Jones-Drew (hamstring), receiver Cecil Shorts III (IR/groin), receiver Justin Blackmon (suspended), left tackle Eugene Monroe (traded), right tackle Luke Joeckel (IR/ankle), guard Will Rackley (IR/concussion) and quarterback Blaine Gabbert (benched).
FITZPATRICK’S RECORD: Fitzpatrick is 1-6 as a starter for the Titans, with his lone win at Oakland on Nov. 24, and it’s a mark that is aggravating the quarterback. Fitzpatrick said ultimately quarterbacks are judged by their win-loss records, and having only one win in Tennessee really disturbs him. “I’m very aware of it,” he said. “It’s something that doesn’t sit well with me.”
LEWIS’ ROLL: Without Shorts and Blackmon, the Jaguars have turned to tight end Marcedes Lewis down the stretch this season. Lewis, who missed most of the preseason and the first seven games with a nagging calf injury, has 16 catches for 202 yards and three touchdowns in the last six games. He has scored in each of the last three weeks. “I think we just continue to utilize him,” offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said.
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