Titans name Mike Vrabel next head coach, tapping Pats line after missing McDaniels
The Titans have tapped Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel to take over as head coach
Robinson stressed throughout this quick search he was looking for a "leader of men" and he believes Vrabel checks the box.
"I have always had a great deal of respect for Mike as a player and as a coach," Robinson said. "I saw him up close as a player for the Patriots and saw how he prepared himself to be successful on a daily basis. He was the ultimate team-first player and he embodies that same mindset as a coach. He is intelligent, energetic, detailed and a leader whose deep passion for this game will resonate with our players. As a coach, I have seen him develop talent at both the college and NFL level, and put players in position for them to be successful. I am excited to get him in front of our team and watch us grow together as a team."
Vrabel has this coaching thing down pretty good: he was able to fire out some key buzz words ("play fast," "aggressive") in his initial statement through the team.
"This is an incredible opportunity and one I have been preparing for my entire football life," Vrabel said in a statement. "I want to thank Amy, Jon and the entire Titans organization for putting their faith in me. I am excited to get to work and that work starts now. We want to build a culture around winning, competitiveness and toughness. Everything we do is going to be geared towards winning and being physical. We want to prepare our players so they know what to do, which will allow them to play fast and aggressive."
Here's four things to know about Vrabel's hiring.
Quick coaching rise
Vrabel's had a meteoric rise up the coaching ranks, retiring from the NFL after the 2010 season and immediately jumping into coaching. He worked under Urban Meyer at Ohio State (his alma mater) from 2011 through 2013 as both the linebackers and defensive line coach with Ohio State before jumping to the NFL.
The former All-Pro linebacker and three-time Super Bowl winner joined the Houston Texans coaching staff as the linebackers coach -- with his former defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel -- in 2014, serving in that role until this year when he was promoted to defensive coordinator (Crennel was bumped to assistant head coach under Bill O'Brien and will reportedly shift back to DC now that Vrabel is gone).
Vrabel is a young coach, at just 42 years old, but he is also 11 years older than Rams coach Sean McVay, who became the youngest NFL head coach when Los Angeles hired him last year. Going from a college linebackers coach in 2011 to being an NFL head coach in 2018 is wild, though. That's a fast move up the ranks.
Teams were trying to lure him away last season to run their defenses, but Vrabel remained. The opportunity to take over the Titans was apparently too much.
Vrabel has strong Patriots connections with GM Jon Robinson, having played for New England from 2001 through 2008. Robinson was in the scouting department with the Pats from 2002-08. Vrabel, an Akron, Ohio native, was drafted in the third round of the 1997 NFL Draft by the Steelers. He would play in Pittsburgh four years before Bill Belichick brought him into New England via free agency. Vrabel thrived as a linebacker in Belichick's system, making the Pro Bowl and All-Pro in 2007.
Bonus: the Patriots turned him into an offensive threat! Vrabel was targeted 14 times in his career and caught 10 passes, all for touchdowns. It was wild how teams would know the Pats (and later Chiefs) were throwing the ball to him in the red zone and no one could stop it. Here's a big old package of highlights set to some terrible music:
Who will run the offense?
The presumption when the Titans fired Mike Mularkey was that they would go out and grab an offensive mind. Vrabel is, quite clearly, not an offensive guy (despite his frequent trips to the end zone as a player). But the Titans have to figure out a way to improve the situation for franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota and to get the most out of Derrick Henry and Corey Davis.
One name to watch is another guy who interviewed for the job: Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur. LaFleur left the Falcons as quarterbacks coach to join McVay in L.A. last year, and the Rams offense took off. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora has reported multiple times on the Pick Six Podcast -- subscribe here on iTunes for all the latest scoops and a dollop of sarcasm from our potentially award-winning crew -- that McVay would likely let LaFleur leave for a lateral job if he was to get play-calling duties. Presumably, Vrabel won't be calling the plays in Tennessee.
It has to be noted when talking about Vrabel's hire: the Titans were widely rumored to be pursuing Josh McDaniels, the Patriots' current offensive coordinator. McDaniels, who continues to draw scrutiny based on how his first stint as a head coach went (he famously flamed out with the Broncos), isonce the Patriots are eliminated from the playoffs.
Assuming it happens, the Vrabel and McDaniels hires set up a fascinating dynamic in the AFC South. McDaniels couldn't have known for sure the Titans job would open up. After all,in Week 17 and again against the Chiefs in the playoffs. Even when the Titans upset Andy Reid and Kansas City, a statement from Strunk was ... .
So now McDaniels is going to be in Indy coaching against a guy in Vrabel who he worked with previously in New England, with the awkwardness of Tennessee probably wanting McDaniels once upon a time and McDaniels maybe wanting the Tennessee job. It's basically like in "Seinfeld" when Kramer and Mickey went on a double date and both ended up with the wrong twin.
Watching how these two franchises perform moving forward will be fascinating in that regard.
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