The most popular tale in Pittsburgh right now is the one about the head coach who simply couldn’t do anything right, no matter how much or how little he tried. He was so bad that he even drove off the best of what the team had to offer.
It’s a popular tale because it feeds into the current of anger that exists within the broader Pittsburgh Steelers community after the team failed to reach the postseason for the first time since 2013. It’s also popular because there are grains of truth in it.
But none of those grains say anything about Mike Munchak wanting to get out of Pittsburgh, and the mere fact that he accepted a lateral position with the Denver Broncos (likely for a nice raise) is not sufficient evidence to support the idea that he left like a rat on a sinking ship.
After all, there was plenty of drama during the 2017 season. He likely could have had the head coaching job with the Arizona Cardinals if he wanted it. He went so far as to pull himself out of the running. This offseason, he reportedly received interest from at least four teams about head coaching vacancies. He only bothered to interview with one of them.
It’s not a coincidence that the one job he pursued was with the team that plays in the same city in which his daughter and granddaughter live. The Cleveland Browns, the Green Bay Packers, and the Miami Dolphins were reportedly the other teams that requested interviews with him, yet the Broncos are the only interview he went through with, as far as we know. Denver’s is not the best of those jobs, either. At least the other teams have franchise quarterbacks.
As Adam Schefter wrote back on January 5, Munchak “has been incredibly selective because of his feelings for the Steelers”. Aditi Kinkhwabwala wrote on the 7th that Munchak turned down an interview request for the Dolphins and that he would only leave “for the exact right fit”.
The idea that he is rushing out of town because he sees the end is near is a narrative that is wholly constructed from the wishful thinking of those who similarly believe that the Steelers are at a standstill with Mike Tomlin running the sinking ship and seeing an irredeemable locker room in chaos.
The perfect talking point would be for the team’s most respected and well-liked coach under Tomlin to abandon ship. With Munchak leaving, it fits right into that theme, so it doesn’t matter what his actual reasons are. Of course he wouldn’t come right out and say it. Because the team has done such a good job of preventing things from leaking to reporters, so there’s no way we would hear of him being unhappy if that were the case.
Nevermind the fact that the Broncos are a team that just lost their offensive line coach, that the Steelers are a team that already had one in waiting, and that Denver offers Munchak the opportunity for upward mobility. After all, he was a finalist for head coach. If Vic Fangio doesn’t work out, he could be next. This is a team that just pulled the plug on Vance Joseph after two seasons. He could be head coach there by the time he’s 60.
And he (and his wife, a pretty important detail) can have dinner with their granddaughter as often as they like. Ben Roethlisberger said that the Denver job was the one he was worried about Munchak wanting to take because he knew just how important a factor it would be for him to be close to his daughter and to watch his granddaughter grow up. Because, you know, that’s what grandpas do.