It appears as though the Tennessee Titans won’t be giving anyone the title of “defensive coordinator” heading into the 2020 season, but that departure from the NFL’s norm may not be a bad thing.
Or, at least, there’s no reason to expect that will be the case.
It’s a unique decision, one that only one other NFL team (New England) has made, and one that probably means that head coach Mike Vrabel will be calling the Titans’ defensive plays in 2020.
But head coach Vrabel doesn’t deserve trepidation or concern stemming from this decision. He’s earned himself the benefit of the doubt.
The Titans announced in a press release on Thursday afternoon that, following the hires of Jim Haslett as inside linebackers coach and Anthony Midget as secondary coach, the team’s coaching staff is “finalized.”
That would seem to imply that the Titans and, more specifically, Vrabel won’t be hiring a defensive coordinator to replace the retired Dean Pees and that they won’t be giving that title to anyone in-house.
Luckily for the Titans, Vrabel has always made the right choice when it’s come to his staff.
GOOD TRACK RECORD
He may have proven to be impulsive when it comes to matters of in-game decision making such as managing the clock and answering questions like, “should we kick a field goal here?” When it comes to staff decisions, though, he’s been very successful.
The first coach that Vrabel called to join his staff when the Titans hired him in January 2018 was Pees, who was a successful coordinator and a beloved figure within the organization over his two years in Tennessee.
His first choice for offensive coordinator was reportedly current Ohio State University head coach Ryan Day, who stayed at OSU after being offered their head job in the wake of Urban Meyer’s retirement.
Choice No. 2, and the coach Vrabel actually was able to hire, was Matt LaFleur, who spent just one season as the Titans’ OC before the Packers hired him to be their head coach.
Vrabel replaced LaFleur with Arthur Smith, an in-house hire who guided the Titans offense to being one of the NFL’s highest-scoring and most efficient units.
The consistent theme of all of these examples? Vrabel knows how to make good coaching hires.
This time, he’s hiring himself.
If there were someone better suited for the job, Vrabel would undoubtedly hire that person.
CREATOR OF CULTURE
In addition to his impressive two-year track record of hiring coaches, Vrabel deserves the benefit of the doubt because of his ability to instill a culture within the Titans organization.
It’s no secret that a major factor behind the Titans’ run to the AFC Championship earlier this year was the team’s cultural framework, most of which Vrabel put into place.
Vrabel has established a family-like atmosphere within the Titans’ building. He’s established an atmosphere in which fair criticism is encouraged and teammates believe in each other.
To think that Vrabel is going to be some kind of schematic genius based on the fact that he’s established a quality culture would be an overreaction, but it would also be an overreaction to believe that Vrabel’s decision to call his own number is ludicrous, simply based on the fact that 30 other NFL teams don’t operate that way.
Vrabel wanted to make a decision in favor of continuity, and he clearly felt that not naming a true “defensive coordinator” was the best means available to achieve that end.
He knows his team. He knows what his team needs better than anyone else.
Based on his track record, he deserves the chance to prove that, yet again.