Mike Munchak crosses himself off Penn State’s shrinking wish list

Matt Hinton

Put it however you like: Depending on who you asked in Penn State circles this week, Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak was "the top pick" to replace Joe Paterno as the Nittany Lions' coach, or "poised" to replace to Paterno, or even a "done deal" to replace Paterno. Whatever the phrasing, it was clear that an awful lot of people in State College — big donors and former teammates included — had already concluded Munchak was their man.

But Munchak didn't need nearly as many ways this morning to tell them they're barking up the wrong tree:

"I love my alma mater, but I have no interest in being the head coach at Penn State," Munchak told The Tennessean this morning. "I never want to leave Tennessee. I have a great deal of respect for Penn State and I hope they find a great coach there. But I am happy where I'm at."
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Munchak said this morning that he's never talked to anyone on the panel, or anyone associated with the school, about their coaching situation. He said former teammates have called him, but that's it.

Munchak, who doesn't have an agent, also said no one has talked to Penn State on his behalf.

No surprise there: Munchak is an NFL lifer who's spent 30 years in the Titans/Oilers organization since being taken in the first round of the 1982 draft, only one of them as a head coach. His rejection notice is the second the Nittany Lions have received from a top target in the past week, following reports that Boise State's Chris Petersen had rebuffed a "relentless" effort for his services just before Christmas.

Which brings us back to the original question: In the wake of the crater left by the ongoing Sandusky child sex scandal, is there a viable candidate actually willing to take this job? At the moment, we only know of two, and that's only if you count interim head coach Tom Bradley as "viable." Considering the university is more or less obligated to purge itself of all remaining traces of the Paterno/Sandusky era — Bradley worked under the former for more than 30 years, the latter for 20 — he probably is not.

That leaves one lingering name: Tom Clements (above), a former three-year starter at Notre Dame who grew up in western Pennsylvania, finished fourth in the 1974 Heisman Trophy race, was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and has spent the last five years as quarterbacks coach of the Green Bay Packers, patiently tweaking and perfecting the lethal machine we know as Aaron Rodgers. (As you may be able to tell from his mugshot, Clements also spent five years practicing law in Chicago before entering coaching. So he has the compliance department's vote.) But he hasn't worked in the college game since leaving Lou Holtz's staff at Notre Dame in 1995.

Most importantly, he seems to want the job. Under the circumstances, that's a pretty strong qualification.

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Hat tip: The Patriot-News.
Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.