Titans Fire HC Mike Vrabel

After signficant speculation regarding his future, Mike Vrabel‘s time in Tennessee has come to an end. The Titans fired the veteran head coach on Tuesday, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The team has since confirmed the move.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network terms the news a parting of ways, but in any event the Titans will have a substantial vacancy to fill on the sidelines. Notably, today’s separation has not come about via trade, something many suggested would take place if the decision was made on Tennessee’s part to move on. Now, Vrabel will be free to join a new team without compensation coming the Titans’ way.

Tension was believed to exist between between Vrabel and general manager Ran Carthon, which led to questions being raised about the possibility a move on the sidelines could be made. The former downplayed that factor, and stated a public intention of remaining in Nashville for the foreseeable future. After a meeting with the franchise’s top decision-makers, however, Vrabel is now unemployed. Dianna Russini of The Athletic reports the Titans felt working out a trade would be too lengthy and complex to follow through with it. She adds Vrabel made no request to be traded or step away from his Titans post.

Tennessee posted a winning record in each of Vrabel’s first four seasons, including three playoff appearances and a trip to the AFC title game. He earned Coach of the Year honors following the 2021 campaign, but things have taken a turn for the worse since then. A seven-game losing streak to close out the 2022 season left the team with a 7-10 record after a division title seemed to be in the cards. After an offseason which included Carthon’s hiring and the decision to move on from a number of high-priced veterans, this year was viewed as a rebuilding effort to an extent.

The Titans went 6-11 in 2023, finishing in the basement of the AFC South. Like their divisional rivals, though, the team may have a young passer to build around in the form of Will Levis. The Ryan Tannehill successor showed flashes as a rookie, though signficant improvement will be needed on offense under center and along the O-line in particular for a turnaround to be possible moving forward. A new coach will be guiding the team starting in 2024.

No power struggle took place in Tennessee, Jonathan Jones of CBS Sport reports. Still, Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk has elected to move on from a longtime employee for the second straight year (having dismissed ex-GM Jon Robinson midseason in 2022). Vrabel’s status remained in the air leading into Black Monday, but with his fate now official, he will immediately become one of the top candidates in the 2024 hiring cycle.

With the Patriots considering a move away from Bill Belichick on the sidelines, New England has been linked to a Vrabel pursuit. The 48-year-old had a 14-year playing career in the NFL, including eight seasons with the Patriots. Vrabel has been classified as a ‘home run’ candidate for Pats owner Robert Kraft, but he will no doubt have competition from other teams looking for a HC hire in the coming weeks.

“Earlier today, I spoke with Mike Vrabel and told him about my decision to make a change at head coach,” a statement from Strunk reads in part. “As I told Coach Vrabel, this decision was as difficult as any I’ve made as Controlling Owner. I appreciate Mike’s contributions to the Tennessee Titans both on and off the field. Anyone who has ever met him knows how passionate and genuine he is, and he’s been a strong supporter of the Nashville community.

“As the NFL continues to innovate and evolve, I believe the teams best positioned for sustained success will be those who empower an aligned and collaborative team across all football functions. Last year, we began a shift in our approach to football leadership and made several changes to our personnel to advance that plan. As I continued to assess the state of our team, I arrived at the conclusion that the team would also benefit from the fresh approach and perspective of a new coaching staff.”

The Titans will now join the Falcons, Panthers, Raiders, Chargers and Commanders as teams in need of a new face on the sidelines. It will be interesting to see which candidates they target as a Vrabel successor as the franchise continues to move in a notably different direction than the one in place during the recent past.

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