The Tennessee Titans made a bold decision this past off-season by hiring Mike Vrabel to replace Mike Mularkey as the franchise’s head coach.
Vrabel, a former NFL linebacker who retired after the 2010 season, didn’t come to Nashville with an abundance of coaching experience. The former Pro-Bowler started his coaching career at Ohio State, his alma mater, in 2011. He made it to the NFL in 2014 as a linebackers coach for the Houston Texans. Vrabel took over as Houston’s defensive coordinator in 2017, a season which was mired by injuries.
Hiring Vrabel was obviously a gamble by the Titans. While he was a celebrated NFL player who helped lead the New England Patriots to three Super Bowl wins, there was no way to know how he’d fare as a NFL head coach.
But the decision to hire Vrabel wasn’t unique. The Titans were essentially following the same script the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams had already laid out.
The Eagles hired Doug Pederson as their head coach in 2016. Pederson, like Vrabel, is a former NFL player who didn’t get his first on-field coaching job until 2011 (he was hired as the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach after spending a couple of years as a quality control coordinator).
A year later, the Los Angeles Rams hired Sean McVay, a young coach who also became a full-time position coach in the NFL in 2011 (with the Washington Redskins).
By typical NFL standards, Pederson and McVay didn’t have a ton of coaching experience.
But the moves are clearly paying off for both teams. The Eagles are the defending Super Bowl champions and the Rams are 15-5 since hiring McVay.
The Titans, four games into the Vrabel era, appear to be on the same trajectory. Tennessee is 3-1 with wins over two of the last four teams standing in the 2017 NFL playoffs (the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Eagles). And what’s most impressive is the Titans have experienced success while dealing with a litany of injuries, including a season ending injury to star tight end Delanie Walker.
There’s something special about this Titans team. They haven’t played their best football and yet they’re somehow 3-1 and looking like the favorites to win the AFC South.
I can’t help but think it’s because of the decision to hire Vrabel. If Mike Mularkey was still Tennessee’s head coach, it’s possible the Titans would be sitting at 1-3 or maybe 1-2-1 (Vrabel’s decision to eschew a game tying field goal and go for the win on Sunday afternoon was one of the best coaching decisions I’ve seen this year).
It’s been a fun season for the Titans so far. But I have a feeling the fun is just getting started.
Featured image via Bleacher Report