NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans (2-3) lost their third game of the season against the Bills in Week 5, and their head coach had a lot to do with it.
Mike Vrabel has a lot of strengths as a head coach, but he also has a fundamental flaw. Instead of coaching with a sense of realism, Vrabel coaches with a sense of hopefulness.
He doesn’t see things as they are. Rather, he sees situations as they could be in an ideal universe.
Take his decision to allow Cairo Santos to attempt a 53-yard field goal with 6:35 left in the game against Buffalo as the Titans were behind by 7. Santos had already missed three kicks in the game, but Vrabel had “confidence” that the kicker could get the job done this time.
Spoiler: Santos didn’t get the job done and missed his fourth straight field goal attempt.
This is Adoree’ with punt returns all over again. It is incumbent upon Mike Vrabel to remove himself from the attachment to these guys personally and make the best decision….this “rep it out” nonsense needs to die #Titans https://t.co/ZpmDCrS0af
— Buck Reising (@BuckReising) October 6, 2019
Why did Vrabel have faith in a kicker who was 0-3 in the game and had just signed with the team as an injury replacement a month ago? He didn’t see reality, but an ideal future.
“We like to think that if you make mistakes we can get them fixed and corrected, whether that’s on the field, whether that’s coaching,” Vrabel said.
Yes, it certainly would be nice if everything that’s wrong with an athlete can be fixed and corrected. But that’s not reality, even though Vrabel continuously acts as though it is.
Vrabel’s reliance on hopefulness extends far beyond Santos’ fourth-quarter kick.
It’s the reason that CB Adoree’ Jackson was allowed to remain the Titans’ primary punt returner through the first three games of the 2019 season even though he was consistently ineffective and far too prone to making mistakes.
It’s the reason that RB Dion Lewis continues to inexplicably have a role within the offense even though he frequently drops passes and loses yards when he does catch them.
Most notably, though, Vrabel’s reliance on hopefulness is the reason why the Titans have yet to get out of the “one week good, next week bad” rut that they’ve been in for quite some time.
“In the end, we didn’t make enough plays to help us but that’s not going to change how we approach next week,” Vrabel said after the game.
When you’ve been in a rut of inconsistency for over a year, change is necessary.
Yet, thanks to his attitude of hopefulness, Vrabel continues to believe that, someday, the process he’s been using for so long will begin to work.
Vrabel on the decision to attempt the 53-yarder with Santos: “I had confidence in him.”
— Luke Worsham (@luke_worsham) October 6, 2019
Common sense and Einstein’s famed definition of insanity point toward that being a misguided belief.
It’s time for a change in how the Titans do things, as Pro Bowler Taylor Lewan said after the game.
“As an offense, we need to get in gear,” Lewan said. “For the last however long that I’ve been here, this has been the story. We need to get in gear, we need to get going. Everyone’s upset, everyone’s pissed off.”
Vrabel can continue seeing everything in its ideal form for as long as he wants. But as long as he does that, the Titans will continue their never-ending dance with mediocrity and his days with the organization will be numbered.
Cover image: Jim Brown/USA Today