The Tennessee Titans did something they had not done in a while this season: make the playoffs. Although it wasn’t necessarily the smoothest ride, the Titans were there and a part of the festivities. Even with that achievement, there was tension between the coaching staff and the organization. Titans head coach Mike Mularkey had did things his way and it led them to the playoffs, but his way was obviously not visually appealing to the organization, as it was rumored he would be fired if the Titans did not beat the Jaguars to make the playoffs and win their Wild Card game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Mularkey was able to pull both off, but still there was no clarity as to if he would be back in 2018 until there was a statement released about them working on an extension for Mularkey. Unfortunately for Mularkey, that extension never happened. Apparently there was a breakdown in contract negotiations and both sides decided it was best to go their separate ways, leaving the Titans without a coach for next season. There were many names mentioned as to who would come in and coach this team next, but eventually the Titans chose one that was not on a ton of team’s radar: Mike Vrabel.
The former New England Patriots comes to Nashville, Tennessee after being the defensive coordinator for the Houston Texans last season. The one obvious reason he is here is because of general manager Jon Robinson. The former New England staffer was trying to find the best candidate to take the job in his mind and what better person to pick than someone than someone you used to be around. Vrabel comes in without any head coaching experience at any level, but with a ton of playoff experience as a player and with some experience winning something the Tennessee Titans have never won: a Super Bowl. That in itself is something that has to appeal to the players that will surround Vrabel. Another thing that should help Vrabel is that he is not that far removed from his playing days. Lots of times there are coaches that have a hard time identifying with the players they coach and that eventually gets them fired. In this instance, from the terminology to the practices, Vrabel should be very relatable to this team.
While there are good things are his experience as a player and his closeness to the age of his team, but there are some obvious downsides to this hiring as well. Marcus Mariota is going into his fourth year as the starter in Tennessee and there are still some questions about him. While Vrabel may end up being a good head coach, there is some concern about who will help develop Mariota. As of this moment, Vrabel has not named his offensive coordinator yet, but when he does, he better be someone that can utilize all the skills Mariota had. Too many times in this offense this past season, the Titans did not use all of his abilities and that was a part of the reason the offense was stagnant and inconsistent. If Vrabel is smart, he will bring in a guy that can provide elements of Mariota’s college offense and marry it to some things at the NFL level.
One other issue that has to be looked at is the defense. It has been announced that Dick LeBeau is not coming back next season as the Titans defensive coordinator. Although it was expected that he would not be back, it is still a hit for Tennessee. So with him being gone, Vrabel also has to replace a defensive coordinator. He probably has some names in mind, but he also has to scare people a little bit that he is one of the defensive minds in charge of the defense (as well as the rest of the team). When he took over as defensive coordinator in Houston for Romeo Crennel (Crennel was reassigned in the organization) in 2017, he inherited a defense that was number one total defense in the NFL. Well, they tumbled from first to twentieth under Vrabel in his lone season as the defensive coordinator. Some will mention that he was without JJ Watt for this past season, but you also have to remember that Houston achieved being the number one defense in 2016 with JJ Watt hurt as well. Whoever is brought in will have a lot to live up to when it comes to the defense because LeBeau made that defense work despite not having a top pass-rusher.
The new era is here and Mike Vrabel is leading it in. He inherits a team that made the playoffs but obviously has some questions to answer. It will be interesting to see how he gets the job done and what he does to try and make this team better and even more successful.
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