Through the first four games of the 2018 season, it looked like the Tennessee Titans hit the jackpot by hiring former New England Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel as the franchise’s new head coach.
But after three straight losses, each of them bad in their own unique way, it’s clear that it’s a complete toss up whether or not Vrabel will be a good coach in the NFL.
The Titans started the season by going 3-1 with wins over the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Philadelphia Eagles. And they won those games under tough circumstances. Quarterback Marcus Mariota has been dealing with a nerve injury in his hand all season. Tight end Delanie Walker, likely the Titans’ best offensive player coming into the season, was lost for the season in the week one loss to the Miami Dolphins.
There’s also been a litany of other injuries that Vrabel and his staff have had to deal with.
But those circumstances are no excuse for how the Titans have performed over the last three weeks.
Tennessee didn’t score a touchdown in back-to-back losses to the Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens (they didn’t score at all against the Ravens).
Against the Los Angeles Chargers in London this past weekend, it appeared the Titans were going to erase an ugly first half performance and push the game to overtime.
Instead, Vrabel made what I think was a horrible coaching decision to go for two (and the win) instead of the extra point to get the game to overtime.
Now, obviously had the Titans converted on the two point try, then Vrabel would look like a genius this morning.
But I thought it was a bad decision when I saw the offense remain on the field. I would’ve thought it was a bad decision regardless of the team or situation.
I’ve always been of the opinion that it’s too big of a risk to go for two instead of trying to force overtime. Two point conversions in the NFL have a success rate of just under 50 percent. That’s essentially a coin toss. Should a team really want to leave the outcome of a game up to a coin toss?
If I’m a head coach in the NFL, then I like my chances with multiple plays in overtime. Especially considering the way the Titans won the second half on Sunday.
The future of Mike Vrabel in the NFL
Just because Vrabel made a bad decision and presided over three bad losses doesn’t mean he’ll be a bad NFL head coach. Plenty of coaches (like Bill Belichick) have had bad starts to their coaching careers.
But at this point, there are more signs pointing to Vrabel not being a good NFL coach than there are pointing to him being a good NFL coach.
For example, every job Vrabel’s had as a coach has been because of strong direct connection he’s had. He was hired by his alma mater, Ohio State, for his first coaching job. Vrabel was then hired by former Patriots assistant Bill O’Brien to lead the Houston Texans’ linebackers.
In 2017, Vrabel was promoted to defensive coordinator in Houston. The Texans proceeded to have the worst scoring defense in the league.
Part of that is due to large number of injuries the Texans suffered during the season.
But there were also plenty of Texans fans who blamed the bad defense on Vrabel and wanted Romeo Crennel to return as defensive coordinator.
Maybe it was just bad luck for Vrabel. Maybe it really was just a litany of injuries that caused the drop in play for the Texans’ defense.
Either way, it’s not a good look when excuses are having to be made for a coach. There’s no major success to point to for Vrabel for fans to say “hey look at this, he knows what he’s doing”.
Instead it’s a constant list of reasons why Vrabel wasn’t successful as a defensive coordinator.
Usually when you’re having to make excuses for a coach, there’s a reason.
There’s obviously still a long way to go to determine if Vrabel will be a successful head coach.
But at this point, I can understand if Titans fans are concerned that Tennessee made a bad move by firing a coach who won a playoff game to hire a head coach with very little coaching experience.
The move might pay off in the long run, but it doesn’t look like it’ll be paying off this season.
Featured image via ESPN