Mike Munchak goes into his second season as a National Football League head coach with more knowledge than he had in his first season.
That knowledge extends even to his team.
A year ago, Munchak made his debut as the Tennessee Titans head coach without the benefit of a normal offseason because the NFL lockout robbed what was then the league's newest coach of valuable preparation time.
"Probably the biggest difference between last year and this year is we know our team much better," Munchak said during his Monday press conference. "That doesn't relate to how we work them, but I think as far as our combinations on both sides, offense and defense.
" … Our approach is the same, but I think we understand our players much better to start this season than we did last year."
The Scranton native lost his opener last year when the Titans fell in Jacksonville, 16-14. Tennessee came back to win its next three games and finished 9-7, missing the playoffs on a tiebreaker.
Munchak is part of the usual strong Lackawanna County influence in the NFL.
Old Forge's Ray Rychleski was let go as special teams coach of the Indianapolis Colts in January, but Munchak, Vic Fangio, Joe Marciano, Tom Kanavy and John McNulty remain on NFL coaching staffs.
Munchak, the Scranton Central graduate who is an NFL Hall of Famer for his play at guard, has stayed with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans organization since being drafted out of Penn State in 1982.
The Titans open at home today against the New England Patriots.
"I think we're excited," Munchak said. "There's no reason not to be."
There is plenty of excitement surrounding the San Francisco 49ers, who are considered a strong Super Bowl contender with the help of the defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, a former Dunmore player.
The 49ers are in one of the top matchups of the first weekend, playing at Green Bay today at 4:25 p.m. in a game between defending NFC division champions. Green Bay had a league-best 15-1 record last season when San Francisco was one of three teams to finish second best at 13-3.
A large reason for that success was the defensive work under Fangio in his return to an NFL defensive coordinator job after spending the previous season at Stanford. San Francisco led the NFL in rushing defense and led the NFC in total defense as Fangio's team established itself physically.
Marciano, one of the franchise's original coaches, is entering his 11th season with the Houston Texans, the defending champion in the AFC South.
The Dunmore native is in his 26th season as an NFL special teams coordinator.
The Texans set team records in several special teams statistical categories last season.
Houston is home with Miami today at 1 p.m.
Valley View graduate Tom Kanavy is trying to prepare the Minnesota Vikings for a turnaround after a 3-13 season. Kanavy is in his seven season as Minnesota strength and conditioning coach and his 18th season overall as an NFL coach.
The Vikings are home with Jacksonville today at 1 p.m.
Abington Heights and Penn State graduate John McNulty moves from receivers coach to quarterbacks coach in his fourth season as an assistant on the Arizona Cardinals staff. He spent six earlier seasons in the NFL with Jacksonville and Dallas.
The Cardinals are home today at 4:25 p.m. against Seattle.
In addition to the five graduates of Lackawanna County high schools coaching in the league, there are other connections to active rosters.
Bryant McKinnie and Donald Jones, a pair of former Lackawanna College players, will open their seasons today.
McKinnie, a 6-foot-8, 354-pounder who went from Lackawanna to the University of Miami, is able to begin his 11th season in the NFL after restructuring his contract with the Baltimore Ravens. McKinnie is expected to start at left tackle when the Ravens open Monday night at 7 against Cincinnati.
Jones, who has 41 receptions in 23 games over the past two seasons, is a wide receiver with Buffalo. The Bills are at the New York Jets today at 1 p.m.
When the NFL opened Wednesday, Chris Snee, a graduate of current Lackawanna Football Conference member school Montrose, was in his usual spot as starting offensive guard for the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
Snee began his ninth season by making his 123rd regular-season NFL start in a 24-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.