A long list of coaches/players associated with Bill Belichick have gone on to become head coaches in the NFL.
But not many of those coaches have found success.
Most ended up getting fired.
Of the 12 former Belichick players/assistants that have become head coaches, only six are still head coaches (Joe Judge has yet to coach a game for the Giants and Brian Flores and Kliff Kingsbury just completed their first seasons as a head coach).
Only one Belichick disciple still has a chance to win the Super Bowl this season — Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel.
The former Patriots linebacker took over as the Titans’ head coach in early 2018 after serving as the Houston Texans’ defensive coordinator.
Vrabel found modest regular season success in his first two seasons, going 9-7 in 2018 and 2019. But a deep 2019-20 playoff run by the Titans has Vrabel poised to be the first Belichick disciple to reach the Super Bowl as a head coach.
While watching the Titans make their impressive playoff run, which includes road wins against the Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens, I couldn’t help but notice how Vrabel isn’t trying to be Belichick (unlike other Belichick disciples), he’s just being himself.
Sure, there’s obviously some Patriots influence to how Vrabel operates. After all, it’s where he spent most of his professional career.
But the Titans aren’t doing things the “Patriot way”. They’re doing things the “Titan way” and the team is very much a reflection of Vrabel.
— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_NFL) January 12, 2020
Vrabel’s post game routine is an example of the freshness that he brings to Tennessee. This is the type of culture he’s instilled in the Titans’ locker room. It’s something that’s unique to Vrabel.
This is who Vrabel is as a coach. He’s not a surly head coach who mumbles his way through press conferences and dresses like he’s walking his dog at midnight.
He’s Mike Vrabel. He dresses his own way. He talks his own way. And he certainly carries himself his own way.
Which is why I think he’s going to continue to find success as a head coach in Nashville. Vrabel isn’t trying to replicate what Belichick does in New England — because it wouldn’t work.
Belichick’s way of doing things is certainly effective. But Vrabel doesn’t have the same personality as Belichick.
As Zach Bingham mentioned on Monday morning’s edition of A to Z Sports Nashville, Vrabel is still a player at heart. And that’s how he coaches.
Not all of Belichick’s former assistants operate this way.
Bill O’Brien’s operation in Houston, for example, is essentially the Texas version of New England. If you watched Hard Knocks in 2015, you saw a coach that was trying to replicate everything that Belichick does in New England.
Now, O’Brien’s had some success in Houston. The Texans have won four division titles in his six seasons as the team’s head coach. But part of that’s because the division hasn’t been very strong during that time period (an oft-injured Andrew Luck, an up-and-down Jaguars team and a Titans franchise that’s flirted with .500 each of the last four years). Despite O’Brien’s four division titles, the Texans have yet to advance past the divisional round under his leadership.
It took Vrabel two seasons to reach the AFC Championship game. Which is what the Titans were hoping for when they fired Mike Mularkey after the 2017 season.
Tennessee didn’t hire Mike Vrabel to be Bill Belichick. They hired Mike Vrabel to take the team to the next level.
And that’s exactly what Vrabel’s doing.
Featured image via Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports