Mike Vrabel

This Date In Transactions History: Mike Vrabel Retires

On this date in 2011, Mike Vrabel traded in his pads for a clipboard and whistle. Vrabel, a longtime NFL linebacker, retired from the Chiefs on July 11, 2011 in order to become an assistant coach at Ohio State.

Vrabel was just a few weeks shy of his 36th birthday at the time and was still a productive player on the field. In 2010, he amassed 48 total tackles for the Chiefs and appeared in all 16 games. However, he wasn’t the same player that he was in his prime with the Patriots, and the time he spent with the younger players in KC nudged him in the direction of coaching.

His genuine love for the game, his preparation, his work ethic, leadership and dependability are qualities you want from every player,” then-Chiefs GM Scott Pioli said. “He is a champion in every sense of the word and I’m confident all of these qualities will make him a great coach. I cannot overstate my respect for him as a person and a football player.”

Pioli was right – he had a knack for this coaching thing. Although Vrabel was hired by interim Buckeyes coach (and his former teammate and roommate) Luke Fickell, Urban Meyer elected to keep him on board as a part of his new staff when he took over in December of 2011. In 2014, he hooked on with the Texans as their linebackers coach. In 2017, he was elevated to defensive coordinator in Houston. This past January, the Titans hired him as their head coach after a quick search.

He was the ultimate team-first player, and he embodies that same mindset as a coach,” Titans GM Jon Robinson said after hiring Vrabel. “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.”

Vrabel might have been able to contribute on the field for a 15th NFL season, but he opted to jumpstart his coaching career on this date seven years ago instead. If not for that decision, Vrabel probably wouldn’t have ascended the NFL coaching ladder as quickly as he did to become the Titans’ new head coach this year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

More On The Latest Coaching Hires

The Giants officially hired former Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to be the team’s next head coach earlier today, and Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com offered his breakdown of why Shurmur was selected out of the field of six candidates.

Raanan notes that while the Giants did consider coaches with without head coaching experience, general manager Dave Gettleman made it a point that he wanted someone who has held the position before and could bring coordinator experience to the team, which is two criteria Shurmur clearly checks off. He also notes that Gettleman mentioned in his own statement about the hire that the job seemed like it was “not too big” for Shumur, which speaks to Gettleman’s want to bring in somebody that has been lead positions in football for a long while.

Raanan also passes along a ringing endorsement from Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, who’s Shurmur coached for the past two seasons.

“He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever played for,” said Rudolph. “He’s a guy I had the pleasure of working with in the tight end room before he took over as offensive coordinator halfway through the year, and then working with him day in and day out this year, the way he’s led the offense and took us — even though we faced the adversity [of] losing another starting quarterback, another starting running back — he carried us all the way to a top-10 offense.

It’s not a surprise that Shurmur got the job considering the reports that have been coming out over the past week and with the original criteria that the Giants front office was looking for, it appears that they have hired the type of guy they wanted for the job when they began their search for their next head coach.

Here’s a few more notes from today’s coaching news:

  • Mike Vrabel is well known for his days as a Patriots linebacker, but he now enters the biggest challenge of his post-playing days as the new head coach of the Titans. In today’s introductory press conference, Vrabel touched on many things he intends to do now that he is the leader of a team and coaching staff, reports Terry McCormick of Titans Insider. The first-time head coach stated that he doesn’t “want to put a timetable on it because I want the right guys”. This comes in accordance with the reported front runner for the team’s offensive coordinator position, Ryan Daywill not be hired. Speaking of offense, Vrabel noted that even with the team wanting to properly develop Marcus Mariota, he intends to have a strong ground game to compliment him, but not to the team’s detriment. “I think that we’re going to run the football,” said the head coach. “We’re going to run it from the quarterback being under center, we’re going to run it from the quarterback being in gun,” Vrabel said. “We’re going to give Marcus (Mariota) some easy access throws, whether that be RPOs or run reliefs. We’re not going to run it into eight or nine guys, we’re not going to be silly. I believe in screens, I believe in play action, things that he does well.” Overall, Vrabel wants to establish a “Titans Way” brand of football that the team can point to year in and year out. “I think to get a ‘Way,’ you have to win. You have to be able to win championships before people start giving you ‘Ways’ to do things. That will be our ultimate goal, but I talked about how our players are going to be prepared,” Vrabel said. “They’re going to play fast and aggressive, and that’s what I believe in. Until we can win a championship doing that, then there’s not going to be this ‘Titans Way.’ That will be talked about in the building, but people from outside the building, they won’t believe in us, they won’t have faith in us until you win.”
  • The Cardinals head coaching search ended in the hiring of former Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks being named to the position this afternoon. Wilks has a difficult job in succeeding Bruce Arians, but Kent Somers of AZCentral believes that he will bring a “stead, firm hand” to the Cardinals organization. Somers notes that former players have lauded him for him for his ability to tell it straight and stay mentally tough in difficult situations. Veteran safety Eric Weddle, told Somers that, “The way we worked, the accountability. He stood tall among the big personalities. He didn’t bow down.” The search lasted Arizona’s front office three weeks, the longest of any team in the NFL. While Wilks doesn’t bring a high level of coordinator or head coach experience, he has made a mark on many of the players that he’s coached along the way, including retired cornerback Antoine Cason“I think he is a hell of a coach,” Cason said. “He was the type of guy you just knew was going to be a head coach.” 

Titans Officially Hire Mike Vrabel

It’s officially official now. In a Monday press conference, the Titans introduced new head coach Mike Vrabel to the local media. Mike Vrabel (vertical)

Vrabel is now the 19th head coach in franchise history and the fourth since 2011. He signed a five-year deal with the team, a significantly longer commitment than the organization gave to predecessor Mike Mularkey.

Vrabel met with team general manager Jon Robinson and instantly hit it off, according to Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk.

“You could see their connection right away from the history they have with one another – seeing the game in a similar way and talking the same language. Mike has a commanding presence and a deep knowledge for how he will attack this head coaching opportunity,” Strunk said in a statement issued over the weekend.

Vrabel, 42, served one season as Houston’s defensive coordinator after beginning his NFL coaching career as a linebackers coach with the Texans for three seasons. The 14-year NFL veteran won three Super Bowls as a player, spending the majority of his career in New England. He earned one Pro Bowl and one First Team All-Pro selection (2007).

Despite being highly thought of around the league, Vrabel’s first season as defensive coordinator did not jump off the page. Houston’s defense finished last in points allowed, middle of the pack in yards, and in the bottom ten in sacks.

At the outset of the search, Robinson made it clear he wanted a “leader of men.” Some believed that Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was that guy, but Vrabel wowed Robinson in their meeting on Wednesday and the team never met with McDaniels. The team also interviewed Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, and Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.

Micah Powell contributed to this post.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: Falcons, McDaniels, Titans

The Falcons were set to add Darrell Bevell and Ken Dorsey to their quarterbacks coach interview list, but they might not have gotten around to it by the time they arrived at their decision. Greg Knapp will replace Bush Hamdan as Atlanta’s QBs coach, Alex Marvez of Sporting News reports. The 54-year-old Knapp did not coach in the NFL last season and spent the previous four years coaching the Broncos’ quarterbacks.

Knapp will return to Atlanta in a different capacity; he was the Falcons’ offensive coordinator from 2004-06. Running the most successful of the Michael Vick offenses, Knapp also was OC with the 49ers, Raiders (two stints) and Seahawks. The one-season stay in Seattle (2009) overlapped with Dan Quinn, who was the Seahawks’ defensive line coach from 2009-10. Knapp’s Broncos work may look a bit better now considering how far their quarterback play fell this season, and the Falcons are hoping he can help return Matt Ryan to top-tier status after a down year.

Here’s the latest from the coaching circuit.

  • Mike Vrabel‘s Titans deal is a five-year agreement, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). This is a noticeably bigger commitment to a first-time HC than the franchise made to Mike Mularkey, who was then set for his third go-round as a head coach. Mularkey received a three-year commitment in 2016.
  • Josh McDaniels was only seriously interested in the Colts and Giants‘ jobs, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe notes, adding that the Titans could have had a shot at the Patriots’ OC had they fired Mularkey late in what was an inconsistent regular season. McDaniels and Jon Robinson worked together in New England.
  • Volin adds McDaniels is not scared off by Andrew Luck‘s recent health history despite the Colts having redshirted their cornerstone performer this season. Luck still doesn’t have a firm timetable to return, but McDaniels signing on points to confidence he will be back come 2018.
  • Matt Patricia is not certain to hire a defensive coordinator with the Lions, Volin notes. Patricia will run the Lions’ defense regardless. This was the job he was connected to throughout the offseason, and despite reports emerging the Giants had him among their finalists, Volin notes that wasn’t the case. McDaniels and Pat Shurmur are believed to be the only HC candidates the Giants were considering, per Volin.
  • Paul Guenther‘s deal as Raiders DC is a four-year pact, Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area reports. The Bengals made a “lucrative” offer to try to keep Guenther in his previous position after his contract expired, but after 15 seasons in Cincinnati, the veteran assistant wanted to work with Jon Gruden. Guenther said the Raiders will be running “80 to 90 percent” of what the Vikings run under Mike Zimmer, so the Raiders will have a firmer commitment to the 4-3 than in years past.
  • Josh McDaniels may well look to bring his younger brother with him to Indianapolis, Volin writes. The 37-year-old Ben McDaniels worked as a Bears offensive assistant for the past two seasons. He also served in that role for the 2009 Broncos before Josh McDaniels promoted him to quarterbacks coach in 2010, so it appears likely the brothers will reunite with the Colts soon.
  • The Titans will lose wide receivers coach Frisman Jackson to the college ranks. Jackson served as Tennessee’s wideouts coach for just one season, and he’ll take over the same job at Baylor, Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com reports. The former NFL wideout was a college receivers coach from 2008-16.

Titans Hire Mike Vrabel As Head Coach

Less than a week after the departure of Mike Mularkey, the Titans have found his replacement in Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel, the team announced SaturdayMike Vrabel

The former Patriots linebacker is set to be introduced at a press conference on Monday. Terms of the deal have yet to be disclosed. Vrabel becomes the 19th head coach in franchise history and the fourth since 2011.

Vrabel met with team general manager Jon Robinson and instantly hit it off, according to Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk. “You could see their connection right away from the history they have with one another – seeing the game in a similar way and talking the same language. Mike has a commanding presence and a deep knowledge for how he will attack this head coaching opportunity,” she said.

The chemistry should come as no surprise, as both were members of the Patriots organization –Vrabel as a player and Robinson as a scout.

“This is an incredible opportunity and one I have been preparing for my entire football life,” Vrabel said. “I am excited to get to work & that work starts now. Everything we do is going to be geared towards winning & being physical.”

Vrabel, 42, served one season as Houston’s defensive coordinator after beginning his NFL coaching career as a linebackers coach with the Texans for three seasons. The 14-year NFL veteran won three Super Bowls as a player, spending the majority of his career in New England. He earned one Pro Bowl and one First Team All-Pro selection (2007).

Despite being highly thought of around the league, Vrabel’s first season as defensive coordinator did not jump off the page. Houston’s defense finished last in points allowed, middle of the pack in yards and in the bottom 10 in sacks.

At the outset of the search, Robinson made it clear he wanted a “leader of men.” It was thought Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was that leader, but Vrabel wowed Robinson in their meeting on Wednesday and the team never met with McDaniels. The team also interviewed Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, and Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Rumors: Blackburn, Bears, Browns

The Panthers will be making a change atop their special teams staff. Incumbent special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey is out, Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer tweets, and the Sporting News’ Alex Marvez reports (on Twitter) Chase Blackburn will now run Carolina’s special teams units. A former linebacker who won two Super Bowls with the Giants and finished his career with the Panthers, Blackburn had been working as the Panthers’ assistant ST coach for the past two years.

Here’s the latest from the coaching ranks.

  • For the first time since 2010, someone other than Chris Tabor will oversee the Browns‘ ST units. Amos Jones will relocate to Cleveland to take over as the team’s special teams boss, Marvez tweets. Jones coached the Cardinals’ ST groups during Bruce Arians‘ five-year stay in Arizona. Tabor is now the Bears’ ST coordinator.
  • Rumored to be a candidate to stay in Chicago despite the Bears‘ coaching change, Dave Ragone will indeed stay on as the team’s quarterbacks coach, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports. This comes after the Bears interviewed both ex-Raiders OC Todd Downing and Texans assistant Pat O’Hara for the job. Ragone could be in line for an extension, Biggs notes, with one year remaining on his Bears contract.
  • Biggs also notes Vic Fangio believes most, if not all, of his defensive assistants will remain on staff. The Bears finished as the No. 14 DVOA defense in 2017 and retained Fangio despite his contract having expired.
  • The TitansSteve Wilks HC interview took place Thursday. Both Wilks and Texans DC Mike Vrabel interviewed for this job today. Wilks remains a candidate for the Cards’ HC job.
  • Speaking of the Cardinals‘ HC position, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic tweets James Bettcher likely won’t need a second interview to be hired. Should the Cards determine their current DC is the right man for the job, Somers notes his five years of experience working with the team should be a sufficient judge rather than a second meeting for the HC job.
  • The Raiders continued to add to their coaching staff this week, bringing aboard four new assistants to Jon Gruden 2.0’s first staff. Recently jettisoned Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac will land in Oakland as its D-line instructor, and Byron Storer will be the team’s assistant special teams coach. Trgovac coached Green Bay’s defensive lines from 2009-17. The 33-year-old Storer played for Gruden as a fullback in Tampa Bay from 2007-08 but hasn’t coached in the NFL since working with the 2013 Chargers. Additionally, Tim Berbenich and Travis Smith will be offensive and defensive quality control coaches, respectively. Smith’s been a Raiders assistant for most of this decade. He served as outside linebackers coach in 2017 after being promoted from the quality control group last year.

Coaching Rumors: Titans, Cowboys, Texans

Weather-related concerns are forcing the Titans to shift the timeline of their head coaching search, as Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com tweets. Whereas Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel and Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur were originally scheduled to interview with Tennessee on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, Vrabel and LaFleur will now sit down with Titans general manager Jon Robinson on Thursday and Friday, respectively. Vrabel, LaFleur, and Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks — whose is currently en route to Tennessee for his interivew, per Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer — are the only definitive candidates for the Tennessee job thus far, but reports have indicated the Titans could also have interest in Eagles OC Frank Reich.

Here’s more from the 2018 hiring cycle:

  • Former NFL defensive coordinators John Pagano and Ray Horton will meet with the Cowboys, per Todd Archer of ESPN.com. Pagano, the longtime Chargers’ DC, spent last season as an assistant head coach (and later, interim DC) for the Raiders, while Horton — formerly the defensive play-caller for the Cardinals, Titans, and Browns, didn’t work in the NFL in 2017. Dallas already has a defensive coordinator in Rod Marinelli, but the Cowboys were reportedly willing to promote Marinelli to assistant head coach in order to keep ex-LBs coach Matt Eberflus.
  • While the Cowboys are apparently considering additions to their defensive coaching staff, they’ve made a hire on the offensive side of the ball in new wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal, tweets David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. Lal, 48, originally joined the NFL ranks with the Raiders in 2007, and has since coached wideouts for Oakland, New York, and Buffalo. Former Cowboys wide receiver/current Cowboys scout Miles Austin also reportedly interviewed for the position.
  • The Texans have hired former Raiders special teams coach Brad Seely for the same position, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Seely was forced out in Oakland earlier this month when the Raiders hired Rich Bisaccia as their new assistant head coach/special teams. He’ll replace Larry Izzo, the former NFL linebacker who led Houston to a No. 31 ranking in special teams DVOA a season ago. Seely, 61, has been an NFL ST coach since 1989, and the Texans will be his eighth professional stop. He should have a working relationship with Houston head coach Bill O’Brien, as the pair spent time together with the Patriots from 2007-08.

Titans Request Mike Vrabel Interview

Hours after announcing they now have a coaching vacancy, the Titans have submitted a request to interview Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets. Vrabel is scheduled to speak with team on Wednesday, January 17, Breer adds in another tweet.

Vrabel, whom John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports (on Twitter) will interview for the job, remains a finalist for the Colts’ HC post. However, Josh McDaniels is currently the frontrunner for that job despite Vrabel having made it into the final two.

Titans GM Jon Robinson and Vrabel’s Patriots tenures overlapped. The former linebacker played in New England for seven seasons during Robinson’s run as a Patriots scout or scouting director. The Titans could interview Vrabel on Jan. 28.

The 42-year-old Vrabel has only been a coordinator for one season but booked HC interviews with the Lions and Colts this year, and McClain notes (via Twitter) he’s likely to be a head coach soon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Josh McDaniels, Mike Vrabel Finalists For Colts’ HC Job

Nearly two weeks after firing coach Chuck Pagano, it sounds like the Colts are zeroing in on a pair of potential replacements. NFL.com’s Albert Breer reports (via Twitter) that Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel have “emerged as finalists” for the head coaching gig.

Josh McDaniels (Vertical)The Colts cast a relatively wide net during their search. In addition to Vrabel and McDaniels, our head coaching tracker shows that the organization also reached out to Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard, former Chiefs offensive coordinator (and current Bears head coach) Matt Nagy, Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, and Baylor head coach Matt Rhule. Breer cautions that the Colts could add another name to their list of “finalists.”

McDaniels compiled an underwhelming 11-17 record during his two-year stint with the Broncos, but he’s had a lot more success serving as the offensive coordinator for the Patriots. New England’s offense has ranked in the top-10 for points scored during each of his nine years at the helm. Meanwhile, Vrabel’s first season as the Texans defensive coordinator didn’t lead to stellar results. However, the former Patriots linebacker previously displayed his coaching chops while serving as Houston’s linebackers coach between 2014 and 2016.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Matt Patricia Prefers Giants To Lions

The Patriots are bracing for Matt Patricia to leave, but it might not be for the Lions’ head coaching job. The defensive guru is also up for the Giants’ job and he prefers the G-Men to the Lions, Peter King of The MMQB hears. Matt Patricia (vertical)

[RELATED: PFR’s 2018 Head Coaching Search Tracker]

If Patricia is offered the Giants’ head coaching position and accepts, it will have a domino effect reaching Detroit and beyond. If Patricia goes to the Giants, the Lions may pivot to Houston defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel, King hears. If that happens, Vrabel would be out of the running for the Colts’ HC job.

The Giants were abysmal in 2017, but they have lots of talent to work with on defense including cornerback Janoris Jenkins and defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon. If Patricia can get underperforming youngsters like Eli Apple on the right track, the Giants could return to having one of the better defensive units in the NFL. The Giants also have the No. 2 overall pick at their disposal, so Patricia’s preference towards New York is understandable.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.