Although the Chargers secured the first HC meeting with Mike Vrabel, the Falcons came up as one of the other interested parties. Unsurprisingly, Atlanta intends to meet with the recently fired coach.
The Falcons are scheduling a Vrabel meeting for next week, according to CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones. This comes as the Falcons appear to be giving serious consideration to hiring Vrabel mentor Bill Belichick. The latter is in Atlanta for his second interview.
Additionally, the Falcons intend to bring back Jim Harbaugh for a second meeting, NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero tweets. We heard earlier today the team, Belichick ties notwithstanding, is aiming to conduct a thorough search. Vrabel being added to the list, along with a second Harbaugh summit, would help the team meet that criteria. Harbaugh’s meeting is also expected to take place next week.
Harbaugh came in for his first Falcons interview Tuesday. While the Raiders reached out to the coach’s new agent, per The Athletic’s Vic Tafur, they did not bring in any high-profile candidates for an interview. The team has since elevated interim HC Antonio Pierce to the full-time position. Harbaugh, however, has met with the Chargers — the other team closely connected to the Michigan coach as the season wound down.
Both coaches are not subject to the recent rule change that prevents candidates attached to NFL staffs from interviewing in-person for jobs until after this weekend’s divisional-round slate. Vrabel and Harbaugh have met with the Chargers in Los Angeles. The Seahawks are being connected to Vrabel (but not Harbaugh), though they have not met with the ex-Titans HC yet. The Falcons are believed to be prioritizing experience this time around. Belichick, Harbaugh and Vrabel obviously would satisfy this new goal for a franchise that has not hired a former head coach to lead the team since its 1997 Dan Reeves addition. That came before Arthur Blank‘s ownership tenure; Blank fired Reeves in 2003. Blank’s five HC hires came in as first-time NFL leaders.
Harbaugh is coming off a national championship win but has again showed interest in an NFL return. The fiery HC interviewed for jobs with the Vikings in 2022 and Broncos in 2023. Harbaugh’s clash with 49ers brass has been well documented, but the nine-year Michigan coach still carries one of the best win percentages in NFL history; his .695 percentage ranks fifth all time. He has guided the Wolverines to three straight CFP fields, a stretch culminating with the program’s victory over Washington this month.
Vrabel’s Titans run cannot match Harbaugh’s San Francisco success, but the former linebacker gained a reputation for fostering toughness and coaxing the most out of his personnel. Despite the lack of a top-tier quarterback, the Titans ventured to three straight playoff brackets. This included an AFC championship game berth (2019) and a No. 1 seed (2021). Clashes with ownership also brought down Vrabel in Tennessee.
Both coaches have been tied to having personnel input, with Vrabel going so far as to request it — during the period in which the Titans did not have a GM in place — in his final year with the Titans. Harbaugh is not expected to require suitors “to allow him to hire his own GM, understanding that the structure [in] NFL buildings has changed and evolved since he last worked in the league.” A team that hires Harbaugh would presumably only do so — based on his undoing with the 49ers — if the accomplished HC approves of the front office decision-maker in place. With Harbaugh still in talks with Michigan about another extension, interested NFL teams will need to present a compelling offer.
The Falcons have Terry Fontenot going into his fourth year as GM, but with these high-profile coaches coming in for meetings, it should not be assumed the young exec is certain to retain his current role into the 2024 season.