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Titans owner keeping Mike Munchak as his coach

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Titans owner keeping Mike Munchak as his coach

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Mike Munchak will be back as Titans coach for another year. Chief operating officer Mike Reinfeldt is out after the franchise's second 6-10 season in three years.

Munchak announced owner Bud Adams' decision at his news conference Monday. The coach said Adams, who turns 90 on Wednesday, understands the challenges the Titans faced when Munchak took over in February 2011. Munchak said he knows his boss for 30 years wants a championship and realizes what the Titans faced in deciding to keep him for the third year on his four-year contract.

``He felt that move (firing the coach) right now wasn't the right move to make so hopefully I'll prove him right,'' Munchak said.

Adams put his team on notice after a 51-20 loss to Chicago on Nov. 4 and said after a 55-7 embarrassment in Green Bay on Dec. 23 he wanted answers from his front office and head coach on what went wrong this season. The Titans routed Jacksonville 38-20 for their second win in three games to finish the schedule.

The Titans went from 9-7 in Munchak's debut season in 2011 to 6-10 after turning the offense over to Jake Locker, the No. 8 draft pick in 2011. They reeled off six losses by at least 21 points or more while giving up a franchise record 471 points - worst in the NFL.

Tennessee has not reached the playoffs since 2008 and last won a postseason game in January 2004. Asked if Adams has given him a mandate of playoffs or else in 2013, Munchak, who will be meeting with the owner and general manager Ruston Webster later this week, had a quick answer.

``Not yet,'' Munchak said.

Reinfeldt, a former Houston Oilers player for Adams, was promoted to chief operating officer and senior executive vice president in January after five seasons as general manager.

Munchak pointed out the NFL lockout wiped out free agency before his first season. Adams ordered the Titans to chase Peyton Manning in March, a wasted move that left Tennessee with little to choose from in free agency. The Titans wound up signing Kamerion Wimbley, whose six sacks did little to boost the pass rush.

That leaves Tennessee eager for free agency and an infusion of veterans to help a roster that was the franchise's youngest on opening day since 2006. The Titans need help at safety, the defensive line and the offensive line. They also will draft at Nos. 10 and 39 to add more youth.

``So we're going to have a chance to add some players,'' Munchak said. ``We have some money to do so.''

Tennessee jumped deep into rebuilding mode in August with the decision to start Locker over veteran Matt Hasselbeck. The Titans suffered through the growing pains as Locker finished completing 56.4 percent of his passes for 2,176 yards, but he also had one more interception (11) than touchdowns (10).

The Titans also need to heal up. They finished the season with 16 players on injured reserve and played the final five games without four of their projected five starting offensive linemen, middle linebacker Colin McCarthy, and their top two tight ends.

Munchak is busy reviewing his assistants, but said he's making no personnel changes right now. With so many firings around the league already, he will have plenty of options to make changes, with defensive coordinator Jerry Gray the biggest question mark.

But Munchak defended Gray, noting the Titans ranked eighth in fewest points allowed in 2011. He said the Titans must fix the defense so it doesn't happen again.

``Do I make a change just to make a change so it looks like I attacked that problem because I added a new coach? Or do we do it because the coach actually gives us a better chance to become better?'' Munchak said.

He fired offensive coordinator Chris Palmer on Nov. 26, giving the job in the interim to quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains. Munchak also brought in veteran coach Tom Moore in December. Moore could be an option for coordinator with Loggains moving back to quarterbacks coach if Moore can be convinced to stick around.

Kendall Wright, their top draft pick, tied with Jacksonville's Justin Blackmon for most catches by rookies, and he had a team-high 64 receptions. Receiver Kenny Britt returned after tearing his right ACL in 2011, but he will be seeing a specialist about swelling in his left knee.

Munchak defended the last two drafts. Linebacker Zach Brown, a second-round pick in April, finished with 5 1/2 sacks and three interceptions.

Chris Johnson gained 1,243 yards rushing for the third-best season of his career and a 4.5-yard per carry average despite the revolving offensive line. The Titans could cut him five days into the new league year in March and avoid guaranteeing $9 million of his $10 million salary, but Munchak has said they see him as a playmaker they need.

Johnson said the Titans need a lot of leadership to get back to the playoffs.

``The leaders on this team need to step up and just work hard during the offseason and then bring the younger guys along with us,'' Johnson said after the finale. ``It's a situation where we have to work harder and continue to come out here and try to get better at each position.''

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Lamar Jackson received congratulatory postgame texts from Doug Williams, Randall Cunningham

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USA TODAY Sports

Lamar Jackson received congratulatory postgame texts from Doug Williams, Randall Cunningham

Lamar Jackson's first NFL start against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday will go down as one of the most memorable days of his career.

Going 13-of-19 for 150 yards in the air while rushing for 117 yards on 27 attempts is a pretty solid day for a rookie quarterback

With several days to reflect, one of Jackson's favorite parts of the 24-21 win was the congratulatory texts he received from two former quarterbacks.

"I got a text from Doug Williams and Randall Cunningham congratulating me," Jackson said Wednesday. "So, that was pretty cool."

Williams, who became the first African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins in 1987, and Randall Cunningham, who had a long career with the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, and Ravens, are seen as trailblazers by Jackson.

The rookie QB noted that he has been in contact with the two prior to earning the starting job in Week 11.

"Those are the guys that paved the way for us," Jackson added.

"Without those guys, you know, we probably wouldn't be in the situation we are [in]. So, hats of to those guys. Them congratulating me, from the GOATS, I'm like, 'yeah, that's cool.'

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Capitals return home still short-handed, but with momentum after strong road trip

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Capitals return home still short-handed, but with momentum after strong road trip

The Capitals return home to play the Chicago Blackhawks (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington) after a successful road trip (3-1-0), but will still be without forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie (upper-body injuries), who remain day-to-day, according to coach Todd Reirden.   

Here are four things to watch:

Holtby’s back

After missing three games with an upper-body injury of his own, Caps goalie Braden Holtby was thrown into the fire down 4-2 at Montreal on Monday. But he played lights out and matched Habs goalie Carey Price save-for-save, finishing with 22 as Washington rallied for a 5-4 overtime win. Holtby now feels good enough as he will start against the Blackhawks tonight. In his past four appearances, Holtby has stopped 116 of 122 shots on goal.

New-look Blackhawks

Chicago’s slow start cost Joel Quenneville his job on Nov. 6. An NHL coach getting fired is rarely news. But when it’s a guy who’s been in his post for more than a decade and has won three Stanley Cups it is still jarring. The results are mixed since Jeremy Colliton took over. Chicago lost his first two games behind the bench, but is 2-0-2 in its past four games. That’s a small step in the right direction, but the Blackhawks are in sixth place in the Central Division.

Wilsonnnnn!!!!!

This was supposed to be the day Tom Wilson returned to the lineup after his 20-game suspension. An arbitrator cut that short last week so Wilson played on all four games of the road trip and had a goal and four assists. Not a bad start. Wednesday he gets his first home game of the year and what should be a raucous reception from the faithful at Capital One Arena. 

Old mates

On Monday, the crowd at Bell Centre booed former Canadien Lars Eller, who promptly took the puck up ice and scored the game-winning goal in overtime. It was a great moment for a player who felt Montreal gave up on him way too soon when trading him to the Capitals. Michal Kempny knows how he feels. 

Languishing on the bench for most of last season in Chicago as a healthy scratch – he played just 31 games - Kempny sees his old team for the first time since helping Washington win a Stanley Cup. Quenneville is gone, but the defenseman would love to show the rest of the organization trading him was a mistake. 

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