Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak is in a Hail-Mary situation in terms of his job security. Hiring Gregg Williams fresh off a year-long suspension is one of the better things he could have done to try to save his job.
Williams, the former Bills coach, is a good defensive coach. If anybody can breathe some life into the Titans' woeful defense, it's Williams.
Tennessee allowed 29.4 points per game last season, tied for fourth worst in the NFL over the past decade. They were 27th in yards allowed. They need at least three new defensive starters. Munchak has gone 9-7 and 6-10 in his first two seasons. He needs to improve to last beyond 2013.
Williams was hired this week as a senior assistant coach for defense and will work with incumbent defensive coordinator Jerry Gray, who was Williams' defensive chief in Buffalo. Gray will call the defensive plays. But make no mistake, Williams is above Gray on the authority chart. Given Munchak's thin ice, Williams is the best defensive mind the head coach was going to find to come in on a one-year deal.
Williams' hubris ran amok in New Orleans, where his oversight of the bounty scandal got him suspended. Nevertheless, Williams has helped the defense everywhere he has coached in the NFL. He crafted a defensive game plan that beat Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl. Nobody ever will be able to take that away from him.
Williams said this week he has learned from his suspension.
“I take full responsibility and apologize for my previous actions,” said Williams, who lost a significant amount of weight and now sports a goatee. “And I've used this year to reorganize my life, and put focus on positive energies and positive ways to inspire and coach and motivate in this profession.”
“We always have to change, and I'll have to change some things verbiage-wise, some things tact-wise, and I am excited about doing that,” Williams said, making a veiled reference to his “kill the head and the body will follow” line from New Orleans. “But the bottom line is getting players to perform.”
QBs didn't shine
The NFL Scouting Combine starts in 11 days, and it will be a second postseason chance for quarterbacks to make a good impression on NFL scouts. The QB crop didn't wow scouts at the Senior Bowl three weeks ago.
Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib wasn't thrilled with his week. He didn't make good downfield throws, and ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay called Nassib's arm strength “vastly overrated.”
Nevertheless, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock gave Nassib a good review overall: “Ryan Nassib I thought had a really solid week. To me Ryan Nassib is the kind of kid that's a lot like an Andy Dalton. He will just slowly continue to rise. As teams get to know him, they watch his tape, he can make every throw. Yeah, he's 6-2, 223, he's not a screamer or yeller. But trust me, he can make the throws.”
Mayock on North Carolina State's 6-foot-7 Mike Glennon: “There wasn't anything I saw about his week where I'd pound the table and say I feel like from an arm talent or a leadership perspective that this is a first-round quarterback.”
Once upon a time, the Super Bowl was a snooze. Ten out of 12 Super Bowls from the 1983 season through the 1994 season were blowouts. Now 10 of the last 14 have been decided in the final four minutes. In each of the last 10 games, one team has had the ball in the fourth quarter while trailing by one score.
No wonder the going rate for a television commercial – now at $3.8 million for 30 seconds – keeps going up. Seven of the last nine World Series have been decided in four or five games. Only two of the last 18 NBA Finals have gone to seven games.
Why the drama? The salary-cap era is the biggest reason. Before unrestricted free agency began in 1993, it was easier for great teams to horde quality depth. The best-managed teams were able to become deeper juggernauts. In terms of points scored and allowed, the '93 Cowboys were second on offense and defense. The '91 Redskins were No. 1 on offense and No. 2 on defense. The '86 Bears were No. 2 on offense and No. 1 on defense. The '84 49ers were No. 2 on offense and No. 1 on defense. All of those teams were more dominant on both sides of the ball than any of the past dozen champions.
This year's Super Bowl drew 108.3 million viewers, third most ever behind last year's game (111.3 million) and the 2011 game (111 million).
Since the 2001 season, 11 of 16 teams have represented the NFC in the Super Bowl.
“That's what the NFL wants,” said former Niners coach Steve Mariucci. “It wants every city to stay alive.”
Niners were healthiest
Hail Redskins coach Mike Shanahan and Packers coach Mike McCarthy. They got their teams in the playoffs despite losing the most starters to injury in the league. The Packers lost 83 games to injury by starters, most in the league, according to the Dallas Morning News. The Redskins lost 75 games by starters, second most in the league.
Buffalo finished with the 11th-most games by starters lost to injury (55), based on the opening-day rosters.
It's good to be healthy. Seven of the top 13 healthiest teams made the playoffs. San Francisco was the healthiest team in the league, losing only four games to injury by starters. Super Bowl champion Baltimore was 13th “most healthy.”
The top 10 healthiest teams: 1. San Francisco. 2. Seattle. 3. New Orleans. 4. Chicago. 5. Miami. 6. Houston. 7. Minnesota. 8. St. Louis. 9. New England. 10. Atlanta.
Raiders cover seats
The Oakland Raiders are reducing their stadium capacity by almost 10,000 to 53,200 next season. It will make the Raiders' O.co Coliseum the smallest venue in the NFL. A big block of seats high in the upper deck likely will be covered by a tarp, similar to what Jacksonville did several years ago. The Raiders described the move as a way to prevent television blackouts and promote a more family-friendly atmosphere. The tarps will require 4,850 season-ticket holders to be relocated.
It's a bad commentary on the state of the Raiders, who have missed the playoffs every season since 2003. Since 1995, 64 Raiders home games have been televised locally and 80 have been blacked out. The average regular-season attendance for the Raiders in 2012 was 54,217. The Oakland A's have tarped off sections of the stadium since 2006 and have a capacity of 34,000. The Raiders' lease at O.co Coliseum expires after the 2013 season.
Meanwhile, the Bears will raise prices again, ranging from $3 to $10 per ticket. Chicago's average ticket price last year, not counting club and premium seats, was $111.
• Former AFL star Walt Sweeney died last week at age 71 after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. Sweeney was an AFL all-star or NFL Pro Bowler every year from 1964 through 1972. He was first-team All-AFL in 1967 and '68. He made Syracuse University's all-century team in 2000. Sweeney chronicled his battles with drug addiction and alcoholism in a book titled “Off Guard,” published two years ago.
“My drug addiction is directly related to the game,” he wrote. “It was the San Diego Chargers' trainers and doctors who gave pregame amphetamines to rev me up, postgame sedatives to bring me down, pain killers as 'needed' and steroids, said to be vitamins, for better health. I considered taking drugs as normal for game-day preparation as putting on my game face.”
• Ray Lewis III, son of the Ravens' star middle linebacker, followed in dad's footsteps by committing to play football for the University of Miami. Lewis played primarily as a running back in high school, gaining more than 9,000 yards and scoring 93 touchdowns. He says he will play “wherever” Miami coach Al Golden wants him.
• The Southeastern Conference had six of the top 10 recruiting classes for 2013, according to 247Sports. They are No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Mississippi, No. 4 Florida, No. 6 Louisiana State, No. 7 Texas A&M and No. 10 Auburn. Rivals.com had similar rankings. The Jacksonville Jaguars have not drafted an SEC player in the last four years.