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Thursday at the Combine: Parting ways with an icon is never easy

Posted Feb 20, 2014

Mike Munchak was one of the faces of the Oilers/Titans franchise for 30 seasons. The association ended, however, when former Seahawks VP Ruston Webster had to fire his friend and now former coach.


INDIANAPOLIS – Imaging hiring Steve Largent, or Cortez Kennedy, or Walter Jones to coach the Seahawks and then having to fire him three years later.

That’s the situation Ruston Webster found himself in this offseason, when the general manager for the Tennessee Titans had to part ways with Mike Munchak. There was just cause, as the Titans were 22-26 in Munchak’s three seasons, including a 2-20 record against teams that finished the season with winning records.

But this was Mike Munchak, who was the Houston Oilers’ first-round draft choice in 1982 and was a 10-time All-Pro selection as an offensive lineman before retiring after the 1993 season and being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was then an assistant coach for three seasons before becoming the offensive line coach for the Oilers and Titans from 1997-2010 and then head coach. That’s 30 seasons that made the name Munchak synonymous with the franchise, regardless of which name it played under and in which city it played in.

“Whether it’s a player or a coach, that’s the toughest thing I have to do,” Webster, who was the Seahawks’ vice president of player personnel from 2006-09, said Thursday after his podium stint at the NFL Scouting Combine. “The toughest day to me is cut-down day (to 53 players).

YOU DON'T SAY

“It’s a challenge, like holding Jell-O.”

Broncos coach John Fox, when asked about monitoring his players in the wake of the harassment situation involving the Dolphins

“With Mike, that was tough because I was close to him. We were good friends. We still are. But it just was one of those things that we had to do. You can avoid it, if you’re not in my job. But in the end, we had to do that.”

Softening the situation somewhat was that the Titans hired former Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt to replace Munchak, who is now the offensive line coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“And we knew we could do that, which is great,” Webster said. “To be able to get Whis, and for him to be interested in us in the same way we were interested in him, that was awesome.”

What led to that mutual interest, not so much.

THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING AUSTIN SEFERIAN-JENKINS

STAT DU JOUR: UNDERCLASSMEN GALORE

The 98 players who have been granted early entry into the NFL Draft are far and away the largest in the past 10 years. Here’s a look at the largest groups of underclassmen:

Year Players
2014 98
2013 73
2012 65
2011 56
2010 53
2008 53
2006 52

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the John Mackey Award-winning tight end from the University of Washington, checked in at the Combine shorter and lighter than he was listed for the Huskies last season. The weight loss, he knew about. The loss of half an inch in height, he wasn’t ready for.

“I was 6 foot 5½,” Seferian-Jenkins said when asked what he measured in at. “I thought I was 6-6 for the past two years of my life.”

He also weighed 262, some 20 lighter than he played at during the 2013 season, and his body fat is down to nine percent.

“It was a concerted effort, just because I needed to lose the weight. I wanted to shape myself back into the player that I know I can be at a high level and be a big-time playmaker – and this is the weight I feel comfortable at,” Seferian-Jenkins said.  

As for the weight gain, he said, “We changed our offense a little and I was asked to block more, so I decided to gain weight and it helped me out blocking.”

BAD RUMOR CENTRAL

During the playoffs, a rumor surfaced about the Arizona Cardinals trading Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to the New England Patriots. No one was caught more by surprise than Cardinals general manager Steve Keim.

Asked about the situation Thursday, Keim offered, “I was driving to work one morning and I heard the rumors about the trade. And I was trying to find someone to fire because they never called me.”