Another big name is on the Chargers’ HC interview docket. Following the Bolts’ Jim Harbaugh meeting, they have scheduled a summit with recently dismissed Titans leader Mike Vrabel.
Vrabel is in Los Angeles today for an in-person interview, NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero reports. This is Vrabel’s first known interview since his Tennessee exit. Not attached to a team presently, Vrabel is free to meet in-person with any team.
The Bolts, who have not hired a retread HC since they replaced Marty Schottenheimer with Norv Turner in 2007, have placed a priority on coaches who have been in the top spot before, Pelissero adds. Vrabel joins Harbaugh, Dan Quinn and Leslie Frazier as ex-NFL HCs on the Bolts’ radar. Chargers-Bill Belichick connections emerged early, but the former Patriots icon has only met with the Falcons thus far in his first time on a coaching carousel in 24 years.
As expected, multiple teams are interested in Vrabel for their HC gigs. The Falcons and Seahawks have Vrabel on their respective radars, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, though no meetings have been scheduled just yet. While coaches attached to a team presently must wait until the divisional round’s conclusion to meet in-person with clubs, Vrabel being fired last week exempts him from these newly imposed restrictions.
Clashes with Titans ownership played the lead role in Vrabel’s Tennessee demise, but after the AFC South team had been connected to seeking compensation in a trade, it was surprising to see him fired. The former Super Bowl-winning linebacker proved a natural HC fit early, guiding the Titans to four straight winning seasons without a top-tier quarterback in place. The team ventured to an AFC championship game for the first time in 17 years and won the AFC South over the next two years, earning the conference’s No. 1 seed in 2021. The past two seasons showed some cracks in the Titans’ armor, as a rebuild appears to loom. Despite back-to-back losing seasons, Vrabel is still 54-45 as an NFL HC.
Amy Adams Strunk expressed disappointment when Vrabel trekked to New England to be enshrined in the Patriots’ Hall of Fame in October, and the latter not being onboard with the Ran Carthon GM hire also rankled the second-generation owner. Vrabel, 48, is believed to have sought full roster control prior to the Carthon hire. The Titans refused, keying a downfall for the well-respected leader.
The Chargers are seeking both a head coach and GM, and considering the high-profile names on the radar, it would stand to reason the team will not stick its next sideline leader with an unapproved front office boss. It did not seem a Vrabel-Carthon conflict brought down his run with the Titans, but the former not viewing the latter as ready for the job certainly did not help matters. The Los Angeles job brings natural interest, with Justin Herbert by far the best quarterback tied to a team with a coaching vacancy. The Chargers have not seen their run of first-time hires post-Turner — Mike McCoy, Anthony Lynn, Brandon Staley — move the needle, though it will also be interesting how much control they are willing to give a more experienced head coach.
Seattle’s roster also invites intrigue, with Geno Smith still playing like an above-average quarterback and the team deploying one of the NFL’s better skill-position cadres. The Seahawks’ Pete Carroll-led defense has struggled for many years; the past two, in particular, have provided cause for concern. Vrabel did not spend extensive time calling defensive plays in Tennessee, but that is obviously his area of expertise.
The Falcons appear serious with Belichick, setting up a second interview, after Arthur Blank‘s run of first-time hires failing to deliver a Super Bowl win. Though the Falcons have been successful at points in the Blank era (under Quinn, Jim Mora Jr. and Mike Smith), Belichick obviously resides in a different genre as a coach. Vrabel spent eight seasons playing under Belichick, adding appeal, and is 23 years younger than his former mentor. Atlanta has a high-end offensive line, three top-10 skill-position draftees on rookie contracts and saw its defense improve in 2023. The matter of the quarterback remains an issue, however, separating that job from those in L.A. and Seattle.