Mike Vrabel, Titans? Seriously?

I’ve had a night to sleep on it and, yep, I still feel the same way. Hiring Mike Vrabel as its new head coach was a complete disaster for the Tennessee Titans. The only move worse than this would have been to keep Mike Mularkey in charge, which they almost did.

Do I have a crystal ball? Have I built a machine that can form a wormhole that’s connected to some point in the future that I can stick my head through and ask questions only related to football and the Tennessee Titans? The answer to both questions is, unfortunately, no.

What I can see is the results on the field and in Vrabel’s first season as defensive coordinator for the Houston Texans, the performance was absolutely not there. Is he a motivator? Is he a leader of men? If so, then why did his team play like so much refried shit?

“We want to build a culture around winning, competitiveness and toughness,” Vrabel said Sunday. “Everything we do is going to be geared towards winning and being physical. We want to prepare our players so they know what to do, which will allow them to play fast and aggressive.”

Out of 32 teams, mind you, the Texans were the No. 20 ranked defense in giving up yards per game (346.6). They were No. 29 in surrendering yards per play (5.7). They were the worst team in the league, No. 32 if you need me to type that out, in points per game, laying down and letting teams score an average of 27.2 points. For perspective on that, the Cleveland Browns were No. 31, giving up 25.6 points per game. Nearly two whole points LESS than the Texans. That’s how shitty a job Vrabel did running the Houston defense.

You could argue that Vrabel was without his best defensive player, J.J. Watt this season, but Romeo Crennel didn’t have him last year either, yet the Texans were No. 1 in yards allowed (301.3) and No. 11 in points allowed (20.5). Yes, Whitney Mercillus got hurt and Brian Cushing got busted for PEDs again, but these are just a handful of players, elite players, but the scheme has to mean something. Look at all the praise that Sean McVay got for turning making the Los Angeles Rams offense the best in the league after being the worst under the previous regime. Didn’t Vrabel do the exact opposite with the Houston defense? That’s your head coach?

Vrabel was a defensive coordinator for one season and one of the worst in the league. If we’re not going to judge a guy by his resume, what the hell else are we going to use?

To make matters worse, Vrabel’s first hire is likely going to be current Ohio State Co-Offensive coordinator Ryan Day. He’s a guy that, literally, was not good enough to hold the solo OC job at a school that doesn’t run a Pro Style offense. That’s your guy, Vrabel?

The idea with Day is that he was a Chip Kelly disciple, serving as the quarterbacks coach for the 2015 Philadelphia Eagles and 2016 San Francisco 49ers. Let me ask this question aloud, were the quarterbacks for the Eagles in 2015 and the 49ers in 2016 any good? In fact, didn’t shitty offensive play, especially from that position, get Chip Kelly fired from both those jobs in both those years? That’s your offensive coordinator, Vrabel? Good God.

What makes matters so much worse is the Titans interviewed two potential head coaches vastly superior to Vrabel in every conceivable and measurable way.

First off, let’s look at Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks. Like Vrabel, he too had just been a DC for a single season. The difference is his team was No. 7 this year in total defense and No. 11 in points allowed. They were the third best NFL team in sacks. Without looking, name two Panthers defensive linemen. If Julius Peppers is one of them, name two more.

Instead of some stooge like Day, reportedly Wilks was bringing Philadelphia Eagles quarterback coach John DeFilippo to be the offensive coordinator. This was the guy that’s spent the last couple of season crafting Carson Wentz into an NFL MVP candidate. He’s the guy that’s helped rebuild Nick Foles from the shellshocked Jeff Fisher disaster to a quarterback that can take his team to a championship game. What would DeFillipo do with a guy like Marcus Mariota?

I would have made that hire, easy.

But you know who else the Titans interviewed? Matt LaFleur, offensive coordinator for the aforementioned Los Angeles Rams. Now, the knock on LaFleur is that he doesn’t call the plays, McVay does. Here’s what LaFleur does do, he helps craft the gameplan, advises McVay on every down and implements the offensive strategy during the week. Under LaFleur, the Rams went from the worst offense in the league to the best. Todd Gurley II became an MVP candidate and any bust worries on Jared Goff disappeared.

Before he was OC with the Rams, he was the quarterbacks coach for the Atlanta Falcons from 2015-2016. All he did there was take Matt Ryan to the next level and win an MVP last season. You want  a guy that can help your franchise quarterback take a significant step forward, he seems like a solid choice to me. Yet, Amy Adams Strunk and general manager Jon Robinson disagreed.

“I have always had a great deal of respect for Mike as a player and as a coach,” Robinson said. “I saw him up close as a player for the Patriots and saw how he prepared himself to be successful on a daily basis. He was the ultimate team-first player, and he embodies that same mindset as a coach. He is intelligent, energetic, detailed and a leader whose deep passion for this game will resonate with our players. As a coach, I have seen him develop talent at both the college and NFL level, and put players in position for them to be successful. I am excited to get him in front of our team and watch us grow together as a team.”

With the Titans off the board, the only head coaching position left is with the Arizona Cardinals. Just like Tennessee, that Wilks – DeFillipo combo looks solid to me. Don’t be surprised to see that happen and don’t be surprised to see a hell of a lot more success in Arizona than in Tennessee.

Vrabel, who couldn’t craft a gameplan to stop an offense all season, is supposed to somehow win a division with Josh McDaniels – Andrew Luck combined, Deshaun Watson healthy in Houston and the Jacksonville Jaguars with, presumably, a new (real) quarterback. Good luck, Mike. You’ll need it.

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About Adam Greene

Adam Greene is a writer and photographer based out of East Tennessee. His work has appeared in USA Today, the Associated Press, the Chicago Cubs Vineline Magazine, AskMen.com and many other publications.

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