Syndication: The Tennessean
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Mike Vrabel is out as the Titans head coach after six seasons, the team announced Tuesday, citing an effort to build more "aligned and collaborative" leadership atop the organization.

Vrabel, 48, is just days removed from leading Tennessee to an upset of the AFC South rival Jaguars in Week 18, and the former Coach of the Year led three playoff appearances in his first four years on the job. But the Titans recently finished 6-11 to miss the postseason for the second straight year, raising questions about Vrabel's future alongside general manager Ran Carthon.

"As I told Coach Vrabel, this decision was as difficult as any I've made as Controlling Owner," Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk said in a team statement. "I appreciate Mike's contributions to the Tennessee Titans both on and off the field. Anyone who has ever met him knows how passionate and genuine he is, and he's been a strong supporter of the Nashville community.

"As the NFL continues to innovate and evolve," she continued, "I believe the teams best positioned for sustained success will be those who empower an aligned and collaborative team across all football functions. Last year, we began a shift in our approach to football leadership and made several changes to our personnel to advance that plan. As I continued to assess the state of our team, I arrived at the conclusion that the team would also benefit from the fresh approach and perspective of a new coaching staff."

The most notable shift to which Strunk alludes? The Titans' hiring of Carthon, 42, after abruptly dismissing former GM Jon Robinson during the 2022 season. Some had speculated in recent weeks that Carthon and Vrabel did not see eye to eye on short- or long-term visions for the Titans, who are expected to part with notable veterans like Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry this offseason.

Vrabel, who was hired in 2018 after a four-year run as an assistant with the Texans, went 54-45 over six seasons atop the Titans' staff, most notably logging back-to-back 11-win seasons from 2020-2021. Vrabel also oversaw a surprise run to the AFC title game in 2019, where Tennessee fell to the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs. He went just 13-21 the last two years, rotating between Tannehill and rookie Will Levis at quarterback throughout 2023.

Where might Vrabel go next? Here are five potential 2024 suitors:


Los Angeles tried to find the "next big thing" when it hired Brandon Staley back in 2021, banking on Staley's smarts and defensive background. Now they may be more inclined to bet on the "sure thing" on that side of the ball. Vrabel is a proven winner who's also proven capable of assembling an offensive staff that maximizes QB potential (see: Tannehill's 2019 breakout), making him a potentially big-name pairing for Justin Herbert and their playoff-caliber roster.


There is perhaps no team deploying a more high-profile search, with new owner Josh Harris enlisting former NBA executive Bob Myers and former NFL GM Rick Spielman to identify top candidates. And from Vrabel's perspective, there's potentially no better place to start fresh, with Washington owning the No. 2 pick in the 2024 draft, plus a league-leading $78 million in projected salary cap space. Yes, the Commanders just relieved a defensive-minded coach, but Vrabel is still widely respected around the NFL.


It's the match made in heaven, according to many folks around the NFL. Vrabel spent the majority of his playing career in New England, winning three Super Bowl rings under Bill Belichick. Now, with Belichick reportedly facing an uncertain future after 23 seasons on the job, Vrabel profiles as a seamless successor for owner Robert Kraft. The question is, will Belichick actually go? And if so, when? It's possible the Pats could look to trade the all-timer; they'd obviously need to do that before hiring his replacement.


Speaking of Patriots connections, what about Tom Brady connections? The longtime New England star is still tied to Las Vegas as a hopeful minority owner alongside controlling stakeholder Mark Davis, and it's not hard to imagine him making a pitch for Vrabel to embrace the silver and black. Davis obviously tried the Belichick tree before, and the Josh McDaniels experiment backfired. But Vrabel is a different kind of leader on a different side of the ball.


If Mike Tomlin wants to stick around, then there's no discussion to be had here. But does Tomlin want to stay? Rumor has it the longtime coach could consider stepping away from Pittsburgh -- or the NFL entirely -- after the playoffs. If that happens, Vrabel could be a prototypical successor. He began his playing career with the Steelers, embodies the franchise's old-school mentality and could serve as a continuation of Tomlin's defensively minded leadership.