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.