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Report: Munchak Penn State’s top pick to replace Paterno

Tennessee Titans v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

While it may still take a week or more to name their new head coach, it appears Penn State has zeroed in on a replacement for the legendary Joe Paterno.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak is the top choice of PSU’s search committee to become the Nittany Lions permanent head coach.  This report comes on the heels of one from the Patriot-News last night, with that paper writing that “[h]igh-level donors have been buzzing as if Munchak’s hiring is a done deal”  and an agent with coaches as clients stating in a text to the paper that “a lot of NFL people think it’s Munchak.”

With the Titans in the midst of a hunt for a playoff spot, Munchak’s only public comments on the speculation is he’s focused on the task at hand and, in essence, he has not been in contact with university officials.  Tennessee will know their playoff fate this weekend, which could allow this situation involving Munchak to play itself to a conclusion one way or the other early next week.

Interim head coach Tom Bradley stated in an interview recently that the search committee said a new head coach would not be named until after the Nittany Lions’ bowl game; Penn State will play Houston in the TicketCity Bowl this coming Monday.

Munchak would appear to be the ideal candidate for the job: an individual familiar enough with the tradition of the Penn State program but with enough time and distance from the school — his final season as a Nittany Lions player was in 1981 — that he’s not “tainted” by the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.  One of Munchak’s former teammates seems to agree.

“Mike would be a great fit,” ex-PSU running back Curt Warner told the paper. “He’s a Penn State guy. I don’t think any of his old teammates would be upset about him getting the job at all. He has my support. I’d love to see him get it.”

In addition to Munchak, the Post-Gazette reports that Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements “appears to be the second choice in case Munchak opts to remain in the NFL.”  Also a former player, Clements reportedly interviewed for the job and has made it very clear publicly that he wants the position.

UPDATED 9:36 a.m. ET: In a text to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, Munchak wrote that “[n]othing is going on-people like to speculate.”

That sound you may have heard was Nick Saban nodding his head in approval.

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11 Responses to “Report: Munchak Penn State’s top pick to replace Paterno”
  1. woebegong says: Dec 28, 2011 9:08 AM

    I am left to wonder, just how much they are willing to pay, to lure a NFL head coach, to leave his job and go back to college coaching. I would think it had to be mighty substantial considering the burden it is going to be to coach and recruit for the next couple of years at PSU. I don’t think, given the time frame that the NCAA is going to do a whole lot to PSU, but the media has already pretty much condemned PSU to hell and back, so it is going to be tough to over come.

  2. burntorangehorn says: Dec 28, 2011 9:22 AM

    woebegong, he’s never coached at the college level, which is what puzzles me. Why would a college want to go that route? Sure the guy’s a legend at PSU, having been a star lineman there and then a long-time star in the NFL, but they’d better retain a lot of college assistants with great recruiting and player issues experience if they want to keep the ship together. NFL coaches can often be superior schemers, especially in subtleties of the vanilla offenses of the NFL, but they’re often ill-equipped to take on the challenges of about a hundred amateurs who are playing AND going to school full-time.

  3. gmc173 says: Dec 28, 2011 9:22 AM

    Good article, just one item that needs revised. PSU isnt playing Northwestern in their bowl game… they play Houston.

  4. 78lion says: Dec 28, 2011 9:30 AM

    Woebegone, Munchak is paid less than many college coaches.
    BurntOrange, I suspect a few of the current assistants will be retained. Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden are two that carry little baggage. The academic support system that is in place at PSU won’t be going away. It is one of the best in the country. College coaching will still take some getting used to for Munchak. The egos might not be as big, but the immaturity level is higher.

  5. woebegong says: Dec 28, 2011 9:41 AM

    I suspect that for PSU, this would be a great PR move. College ball is completely different than the Pros. for sure. In the pros. you don’t necessarily have to push and prod them as much, because it is a job. In college, you have to mold them, guide them and help them reach the next level. I think he can coach but I don’t know how it will be for him, when he has to help and recover a schools rep. Is he the ambassador type or does he just think, like a pro. coach does, and that is like Al Davis, used to say, “Just Win Baby”. He will be responsible for convincing the kids as well as their parents, that PSU is a place they want to go.
    It will be a daunting task for sure, because it looks like the Sandusky incident will ride through the courts for a couple of years, and that will be the main thing on recruits minds until it all settles down.
    I don’t have a dog in the fight personally, but I do hope PSU gets back to normal after a couple of years. I just wonder if he is the guy that can do it for them.

  6. dkhhuey says: Dec 28, 2011 9:52 AM

    This is purely my opinion but it appears to me that PSU is just looking to stop the bleeding and try to pick up some of the pieces at this point in time. They are not going to get a big named coach given the current environment so they are basically looking for a sacrificial lamb with a tie to the university but not too close the current scandal drenched administration.

    Following a legend like Paterno is hard enough but heaping on all of the baggage associated with current situation is almost a complete lose-lose situation for Munchak. The program is in shambles, big talent recruits are bailing now, future big time recruits aren’t going to come like before, and it will not be healing any time soon. Next year, the fans, students, and alumnus will expect their team to perform as before the scandal broke and that is just not going to happen.

    I give this guy four years tops before he is fired and the real coach is hired since the campus will not be as toxic as it is today.

  7. lbijake says: Dec 28, 2011 9:52 AM

    Either gentleman would be a class hire. It will be interesting to see if any of the present staff is allowed to stay on. They have great coaches Johnson, Bradley,Vanderlinden. It will be a long road but but it has to begin sometime.

  8. woebegong says: Dec 28, 2011 10:18 AM

    I think that is a spot on assessment for sure. He will have to be more of a good PR man than a coach. I hope his name translates into a good PR man, and hopefully, down the road, PSU picks up again. It is going to be a struggle, especially in recruiting, but the verdict will have to be held off for at least the first two years as to where the program is headed now. If he can help PSU recover their rep. he might be worth the price they will pay.

  9. cfbfaninbadnfltown says: Dec 28, 2011 9:54 PM

    @ burntorangehorn

    Munchak wasn’t a legend at PSU, he was injured most of the time he was at the school. Joe didn’t even remember him than much, because of his limited playing time back in the day. Mike was a legend in the Pros where he made it into the Hall or Fame.

  10. latrobe21 says: Dec 28, 2011 10:07 PM

    @ cfbfan,

    What are you talking about? Munchak was great at PSU. He was somewhat overshadowed by Sean Farrell, but the two were a great guard tandum. No different than Franco Harris having a better NFL career than Lydell Mitchell but, again, both Harris and Mitchell were a great back tandum.

  11. cfbfaninbadnfltown says: Dec 28, 2011 11:11 PM

    @ latrobe21

    Plain in simple Mike wasn’t a legend at PSU & Joe didn’t remember him well. What about that is confusing? I’m not making that up Joe said it very clearly this past season.

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