Twice before, Mike Munchak had said he had no interest in becoming the next football coach at Penn State.
Yet, the story surfaced a third time Wednesday with reports from Pennsylvania strongly suggesting that Munchak was the Nittany Lions' man to replace Joe Paterno in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal at Munchak's alma mater.
Not surprisingly, Munchak said no a third time Wednesday afternoon, saying he is flattered by the thought that Penn State fans and its board would consider him worthy, but he is quite happy where he is as the Tennessee Titans head coach.
"You all know Penn State means a lot to me. I obviously went to school there and I'm real concerned for what they've gone through the last couple of months," Munchak said. "I'm flattered that people think I'd be a great fit for the coach there. They have not contacted me in any way or talked to me about the possibility of working there. I have not reached out to them. I have a job that I enjoy quite a bit."
Munchak's job could become even more enjoyable if he can somehow coax the 8-7 Titans past Houston on Sunday and gets enough help from other teams to squeeze his team into the final AFC wild-card playoff berth. He was hoping not to have any distractions this week, especially one that is unfounded.
"That's what I'm really thinking about and excited about," Munchak said of the playoff possibilities. "It's unfortunate that it came up this week because I don't want the focus taken away from what we're trying to do as a team here."
Munchak did say that he briefly considered the "what-ifs" of taking the Penn State job but that was as far as the matter got with him and his family.
"I think that's something that, when things happen, you always think of the 'what-if,' what would that be like, going to college (coaching) or moving back to Pennsylvania, and I think that's when we realized how much we don't like the winters and how hard that would be moving back with the snow and how we do like Nashville quite a bit more," Munchak said. "You think about it and how it would be fun to be a part of something. I feel like I grew up there, but that's kind of where it stops. I'm happy with what I'm doing and the opportunity I've been given here has been awesome."
Titans players seemed plenty happy that Munchak immediately put the speculation out of Pennsylvania to rest.
"Honestly, my heart was kind of beating this morning when I saw that go across the ticker on the bottom of the screen, because you don't know what's going on," receiver Nate Washington said. "But he's not a guy that gets caught up in that sort of thing. He's very happy where he's at and I'm very proud of Coach Munchak and very happy with the leadership he has given us throughout the year."
For the most part, the Penn State situation was wishful thinking on the part of the university and its fans. While Munchak is a native of Scranton, and spent three seasons at Penn State, he has been with the Titans organization since he was a first-round draft pick of the Houston Oilers in 1982. Following a Hall of Fame career, Munchak went into coaching, serving as offensive line coach before ascending to the head coaching spot this year.
SERIES HISTORY: 20th regular-season meeting. Titans lead series, 13-6. Houston routed the Titans in an earlier meeting, 41-7. If Tennessee wins and somehow makes the playoffs, the Titans would go right back to Houston for the wild-card playoffs.
--TE Jared Cook's potential had been a never-ending topic around the Titans for nearly three years, but the results had been decidedly spotty.
Finally, in the past two games, Cook has begun to put things together with back-to-back 100-yard receiving games. Cook set a franchise record for receiving yards by a tight end with 169 on eight catches against Jacksonville.
He needs just 73 more yards receiving to break Frank Wycheck's team single-season record of 768 yards receiving as a tight end.
"It feels good. Hopefully, this is kind of a preview of what's to come for the offense," said Cook, who has 17 of his 45 catches this season in the past two weeks. "It feels good to be out there and offense is clicking and everybody is catching balls."
--WR Nate Washington makes no bones about it. He is 69 yards short of his first 1,000-yard receiving season, and he wants the milestone with one game left in the regular season.
"It means a lot to me. Honestly, we've been winning ballgames, and I've been doing everything I possibly can to help us win, but I've never in my career been this close to his kind of success," Washington said. "I'm honestly focused on trying to reach this mark, not just for me but for this coaching staff that has come in here and these guys that are playing next to me."
The Titans have not had a 1,000-yard receiver since both Drew Bennett and Derrick Mason went over the barrier in 2004.
--DE Jason Jones could be a question mark for Sunday after having his left foot in a walking boot because of a high ankle sprain.
"I'm doing all right. My ankle is hurting a little bit right now," he said. "It just depends on how my ankle responds to treatment this week. Hopefully, I can play. It's one of the biggest games of the year. If not, then we've got a lot people in our room that can play and step up. It's a high ankle sprain. We'll see how I respond."
BY THE NUMBERS: 0 -- Number of Pro Bowl players selected from the Titans. No players even were told they are an alternate for the game.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I can't be disappointed for other people. Of course, I'm disappointed that I haven't had the year I was hoping for." -- RB Chris Johnson on no Titans players making the Pro Bowl.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Titans have to put everything on the line to come out with a win Sunday, whether the Texans play all out or not. Houston has lost two straight, and is locked into the No. 3 playoff seed in the AFC South.
Normally, a team in that situation might want to rest players, but the Texans have lost two in a row and have a rookie fill-in quarterback in T.J. Yates, whom they might want to get another full game of work.
--WR Nate Washington hopes to get 69 more yards receiving to earn his first 1,000-yard receiving season in his seven-year NFL career.
--TE Jared Cook has had back-to-back 100-yard receiving games for the Titans, the first 100-yard receiving games of his career.
--QB Matt Hasselbeck lit up the Jaguars for 350 yards on Sunday, his third 300-yard passing game of the season, but first since Sept. 25 against Denver.
--DT Karl Klug leads the Titans as a rookie with seven sacks this season. The next closest Titan has only three sacks.
--RB Chris Johnson needs just 14 yards to reach 1,000 for the fourth straight season.
--DE Jason Jones has a high left ankle sprain, and was in a walking boot. He could miss the game.
--WR Lavelle Hawkins did not practice Wednesday, but could practice and play this week on his injured ankle.
--RB Chris Johnson was rested on Wednesday and is concerned about his ability to cut on his injured ankle.
--DT Shaun Smith missed Wednesday's practice and will have to wear a brace on his injured knee, but should play.
--LB Gerald McRath has been dealing with knee and ankle sprains, but returned to practice and has a chance to play.
GAME PLAN: The Titans have to make rookie QB T.J. Yates beat them by getting pressure on him and being successful enough in stopping Arian Foster and the Texans' running game to make play action ineffective.
On offense, if it's broke, why fix it at this stage? The Titans' running game has been spotty all year, so if they can have success throwing the football like they did last week against Jacksonville with Matt Hasselbeck going for 350 yards, they should continue down that path. The Texans' pass defense is tough, but the Titans have to use the weapons that have been coming up big for them like Nate Washington and Jared Cook.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Titans CB Cortland Finnegan vs. Texans WR Andre Johnson -- Last year, these two got into an on-field fistfight. This season, Finnegan has been better behaved and Johnson is just coming back from his second hamstring injury and might not play much.
Titans RB Chris Johnson vs. Texans LB Brian Cushing -- The Texans defense has been solid, at least when Wade Phillips has been around to call the plays. Johnson has had a disappointing season, but the Titans will probably give him the ball at least early on to see if he can find any running room.