Mike Vrabel

Titans Expect Derrick Henry To Be Fully Healthy In 2022

The Titans were indeed able to get superstar running back Derrick Henry back in the lineup on Saturday, marking an impressive return to the field after suffering what was initially thought to be a season-ending injury. While Tennessee wound up on the losing end of that game, it is expected that he will be fully healthy for the beginning of next season. 

As Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk writes, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel addressed his star’s health status at a press conference on Monday. He said, “I think he’s fully healed. I know he’s fully healed”, referring to the Jones Fracture Henry suffered in Week 8. Vrabel added, “I’m sure he’ll have a great offseason”, paving the way for the 28-year-old to carry on as the league’s preeminent workhouse back.

When asked whether wear and tear led to the injury, Vrabel responded that he “didn’t get that sense from any doctor”. Henry had 219 carries in those first eight games, putting him on pace for the highest total of his career. He was ultimately able to work his way back to full health in time for the Divisional Round, allowing the team to give him 20 carries against the Bengals, although he managed to turn those into just 62 yards.

Considering the production Henry had in less than half of one season (a league-leading 937 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns), it would of course be a huge boost to the Titans if he were to be healed and able to pick up where he left off in 2022.

This Date In Transactions History: Titans Hire Mike Vrabel

Four years ago today, the Titans tapped Mike Vrabel as their next head coach. The former Texans defensive coordinator wasn’t thought to be a frontrunner for the job, but he proved to be the “leader of men” that GM Jon Robinson was looking for.

Early on, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was said to be at the top of the Titans’ list. A few weeks later, it was clear that they made the right choice. McDaniels, of course, was announced as the next HC of the Colts, only to leave them at the altar that same day.

Robinson, a one-time Patriots scout, immediately clicked with the longtime Pats linebacker, according to Titans 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,” Strunk said. “Mike has a commanding presence and a deep knowledge for how he will attack this head coaching opportunity.

With that, Vrabel became the 19th head coach in franchise history and the fourth since 2011. They also managed to snag runner-up Matt LaFleur, luring the Rams OC to Nashville for the same role. LaFleur would leave one year later to become the Packers’ HC, but Vrabel continued to deliver results.

Vrabel’s first Titans team went 9-7, even without Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker on the field. Since then, he’s taken the Titans to the playoffs in each of the last three seasons with AFC South titles in each of the last two years. With a win over the Bengals tomorrow, Vrabel can bring his club back to the AFC title game and one step closer to winning its first Super Bowl in over 20 years.

Latest On Derrick Henry

Titans’ head coach Mike Vrabel informed reporters that running back Derrick Henry‘s 3-week return window could start this Wednesday after doing some work today, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter). The reigning holder of the rushing title has missed the last 8 games of the season with a foot injury. 

Henry opted to undergo potentially season-ending foot surgery after breaking the fifth metatarsal bone in his foot in the first half of Tennessee’s win in Indianapolis. His timeline for a return sat at around 6-10 weeks, which is turning out to be fairly accurate, meaning he could return for a Titans playoff run.

At the time of his injury, Henry led the league in rushing yards, with 937, and rushing touchdowns, with 10. Through 8 games, those numbers are astounding. In fact, if he had not been injured, and continued to hold that same pace of production, Henry would still lead the league in rushing yards and touchdowns and would be pushing close to his 2020 career-best of 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns. Henry was just short of being on pace to be the first player in NFL history with two 2,000-yard rushing seasons in a career, let alone consecutively. D’Onta Foreman has done an admirable job showing up in Tennessee to fill in, but the return of Henry would immediately boost the Titans’ odds of win their first ever Super Bowl.

The Titans currently sit as the 1st Seed in the AFC and can clinch the conference’s only first round bye with a win over the Texans in Houston. That would give Henry an extra week of healthy practice as he works his way back to the game. The timing could line up perfectly for the Henry and the Titans, who have won consecutive division titles and are starting to become a mainstay in the NFL playoff picture with four appearances in the last five years.

Latest On Titans’ COVID-19 Situation

Following Mike Vrabel‘s positive coronavirus test Sunday, Ryan Tannehill has since tested positive, per ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter, who adds nine Titans players or coaches have now tested positive (Twitter link). This contingent also includes outside linebacker Harold Landry and a few backups. Vrabel and Tannehill’s absences, however, certainly will affect Tennessee’s practice routines ahead of the season.

The Titans have placed Tannehill, Landry, tight end Geoff Swaim, linebacker Justin March-Lillard, running back Jeremy McNichols, linebacker Nick Dzubnar and defensive tackle Anthony Rush on their reserve/COVID list this week. Special teams coordinator Craig Aukerman is also away from the team due to COVID.

Not everyone in this group has tested positive, The Tennesseean’s Ben Arthur tweets, and Vrabel said (via Pro Football Talk’s Charean Williams) the vaccinated players who did test positive did not communicate to him any notable symptoms. But the team does have a bit of an issue on its hands.

Players have quicker avenues back to the field than they did last year. Vaccinated individuals who test positive do not have to isolate for 10 days any longer; they can return to practice after two negative tests 24 hours apart. Vrabel, who has been away from the team since Saturday, is vaccinated but has yet to test negative twice. Only unvaccinated players are eligible to be classified as high-risk close contacts.

The Titans’ October 2020 outbreak, which caused the first of the NFL’s schedule changes last season, certainly dwarfs their present situation. But the team being without its coach for nearly a week and being set to have its quarterback sidelined is notable. Tannehill, who is vaccinated, will be the latest quarterback to miss practices this month due to a COVID-19 situation. He will follow Lamar Jackson, Kirk Cousins and Cam Newton in that regard. The NFLPA has called for a return to daily testing, but as of now, only unvaccinated players are tested daily.

South Notes: Texans, Titans, Bucs, Terrell

Bill O’Brien‘s final weeks with the Texans were trying, with the team going 0-4 and the former head coach-GM’s near-universally panned DeAndre Hopkins trade benefitting the Cardinals early. But the since-fired HC also was involved in some internal turmoil, with Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reporting O’Brien engaged in heated disputes with J.J. Watt and first-year defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver at a recent practice (Twitter link). O’Brien also verbally sparred with other staffers in his final weeks, per Wilson. That can be expected given the Texans’ start, but the Watt argument may have been a tipping point. The dispute with Watt — arguably the defining player in Texans history — resulted in O’Brien losing the team, in the view of one source (via ESPN.com’s Dianna Russini). The O’Brien-Watt argument took place days before the Texans’ loss to the Steelers.

Here is the latest from the South divisions, moving first to more Titans news:

  • At least three separate Titans offsite workouts took place last week over a multiday period, veteran NFL reporter Paul Kuharsky notes. A group that included Ryan Tannehill was spotted working out Sept. 30 at Montgomery Bell Academy, an area high school, while Kuharsky reports a different group — comprised of defensive backs — worked out at a park near Belmont University that day. Multiple workouts took place at the park near Belmont, per Kuharsky, who adds that Mike Vrabel said during an Oct. 1 Zoom call he told players not to conduct offsite workouts. The NFL is now investigating the Titans for this, and punishment for the coronavirus-stricken team could be severe. Tight end MyCole Pruitt, one of the Titans’ positive testers, was not at the offsite workouts, per Titaninsider.com’s Terry McCormick (on Twitter).
  • Prior to the Titans being barred from their headquarters, the NFL showed images of players and staffers walking around the team’s facility without masks, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Aside from players during workouts, team personnel are required to wear masks inside team facilities. Twenty-three Titans players and staffers have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Good news for the Falcons on the virus front. First-round cornerback A.J. Terrell returned to practice this week, Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com tweets. Terrell missed Atlanta’s past two games after being placed on the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list just before the Falcons’ Week 3 game.
  • For the sect of non-Chris Godwin fantasy managers who might have missed this (and the narrower swath of LeSean McCoy deep-league GMs), both Buccaneers will miss Thursday night’s game against the Bears. The Bucs declared Godwin and Shady out. This marks Godwin’s third missed game this season; he is battling a hamstring injury. Mike Evans, however, will play, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (on Twitter). Evans was a game-time decision because of an ankle injury.
  • Eli Apple is set to miss more time. After successfully rehabbing one hamstring injury, the Panthers cornerback has encountered another. Matt Rhule said the recent acquisition pulled his other hamstring, per Joe Person of The Athletic (on Twitter). Apple missed Carolina’s first three games because of his initial hamstring injury. He has played just six snaps (all on special teams) this season.

Titans Still Undecided On Defensive Playcaller

The Titans lost defensive coordinator Dean Pees to retirement in January, and the team opted against replacing him with a new DC. However, someone will need to call the plays, and it’s presently unclear exactly who that someone will be.

Even head coach Mike Vrabel doesn’t know at the moment. As Jim Wyatt of the team’s official website tweets, Vrabel says that there will be one playcaller, and he is still deciding who will be tasked with that responsibility. Outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen is one possibility, and there were rumors in the wake of Pees’ retirement that Bowen would be elevated to defensive coordinator. While that did not happen, Bowen could still find himself with an increased role.

Indeed, Albert Breer of SI.com notes (via Twitter) that Bowen is on the “coordinator track,” and Vrabel said that Bowen will be the team’s defensive voice when Vrabel is managing his other units (Twitter link via Wyatt). New inside linebackers coach Jim Haslett could also be an option, given his lengthy track record as an NFL DC.

Of course, the odds-on favorite to call plays is Vrabel himself, who has experience doing exactly that as defensive coordinator with the Texans in 2017. After all, if he was going to delegate that responsibility, one would think he would have announced it by now.

Whoever the playcaller is will be charged with getting the most out of a middling unit that was about average in 2019 in terms of DVOA and below average in terms of yards allowed. The team is still in the mix for Jadeveon Clowney, but there has been no recent movement on that front.

Longest-Tenured Head Coaches In The NFL

Things move fast in today’s NFL and the old adage of “coaches are hired to be fired” has seemingly never been more true. For the most part, teams change their coaches like they change their underwear. 

A head coach can take his team to the Super Bowl, or win the Super Bowl, or win multiple Super Bowls, but they’re never immune to scrutiny. Just ask Tom Coughlin, who captured his second ring with the Giants after the 2011 season, only to receive his pink slip after the 2015 campaign.

There are also exceptions. Just look at Bill Belichick, who just wrapped up his 20th season at the helm in New England. You’ll also see a few others on this list, but, for the most part, most of today’s NFL head coaches are relatively new to their respective clubs. And, history dictates that many of them will be elsewhere when we check in on this list in 2022.

Over one-third (12) of the NFL’s head coaches have coached no more than one season with their respective teams. Meanwhile, less than half (15) have been with their current clubs for more than three years. It seems like just yesterday that the Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury, right? It sort of was – Kingsbury signed on with the Cardinals in January of 2019. Today, he’s practically a veteran.

Here’s the list of the current head coaches in the NFL, ordered by tenure, along with their respective start dates:

  1. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
  2. Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints): January 18, 2006
  3. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007
  4. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008
  5. Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks): January 9, 2010
  6. Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013
  7. Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 2, 2014
  8. Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings): January 15, 2014
  9. Dan Quinn (Atlanta Falcons): February 2, 2015
  10. Doug Pederson (Philadelphia Eagles): January 18, 2016
  11. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017
  12. Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars): December 19, 2016 (interim; permanent since 2017)
  13. Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers): January 12, 2017
  14. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017
  15. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017
  16. Matt Nagy (Chicago Bears): January 7, 2018
  17. Matt Patricia (Detroit Lions): February 5, 2018
  18. Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts): February 11, 2018
  19. Jon Gruden (Las Vegas Raiders): January 6, 2018
  20. Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans): January 20, 2018
  21. Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2019
  22. Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019
  23. Vic Fangio (Denver Broncos): January 10, 2019
  24. Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019
  25. Brian Flores (Miami Dolphins): February 4, 2019
  26. Adam Gase (New York Jets): January 11, 2019
  27. Bruce Arians (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 8, 2019
  28. Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020
  29. Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers): January 7, 2020
  30. Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
  31. Joe Judge (New York Giants): January 8, 2020
  32. Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020

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.

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.