Mike Vrabel

Titans HC Mike Vrabel Does Not Intend To Fire Coaches; Jaelyn Duncan To Start At LT

The Titans are reportedly committed to head coach Mike Vrabel, which presumably means that rumblings about his job security — along with rumors connecting him to the Patriots’ possible HC vacancy — will not amount to much. Likewise, Vrabel has no intention of firing his staffers, as ESPN’s Turron Davenport reports.

In his first year as the Titans’ offensive coordinator, Tim Kelly‘s unit is sixth-worst in terms of both total offense and passing yards per game. Since the team posted the third-fewest passing yards per game in 2022 — when Kelly served as passing game coordinator — it makes sense that Tennessee fans would be a bit restless.

To be fair, quarterback Ryan Tannehill played in just 12 games in 2022, and in his stead, the Titans were forced to turn to rookie Malik Willis — a decidedly raw prospect — and Joshua Dobbs, who was plucked off the Lions’ taxi squad at the end of the 2022 campagin. This year, Tannehill struggled before being sidelined with an ankle injury, and another rookie, Will Levis, has taken the reins. While Levis has shown flashes and is a more polished product than Willis was, he has also exhibited typical first-year growing pains.

That is to say nothing of the team’s general dearth of high-end receiving talent, as the draft-day trade of A.J. Brown in 2022 continues to sting, and this year’s signing of DeAndre Hopkins has not yielded consistent results. The Titans’ offensive line is also rife with injury and performance issues.

Shane Bowen, meanwhile, is in his third season as the Titans’ defensive coordinator. Tennessee finished 12th in total defense in 2021 — a showing that helped the club to a 12-5 record and a divisional round appearance — but slipped to 23rd in 2022 and presently ranks 22nd through the first 10 games of the 2023 season.

It is unclear whether Davenport’s report means that Vrabel is committed to his subordinates on a long-term basis, or merely that there will be no in-season firings. The fact that Kelly implemented a new style of offense upon taking the OC role suggests that he may be given another year to make it work, and Vrabel may want to keep him aboard if for no other reason than to maintain continuity for Levis. However, that is merely speculation. For Kelly to retain his position, the offense may need to demonstrate marked improvement down the stretch, and the same may be said for Bowen and his defense.

Regardless of what happens on the coaching front, the much-maligned O-line will see another major change. Vrabel told reporters, including Davenport, that rookie Jaelyn Duncan will start at left tackle in the team’s Week 12 matchup with the Panthers today.

Duncan, whom the Titans selected in the sixth round of this year’s draft, will be the fourth player to line up on the blind side for Tennessee in 2023. Andre Dillard, who joined the club on a three-year, $29MM contract in March, struggled mightily over the first five games of the year, and he was replaced by Nicholas Petit-Frere in the middle of a Week 6 loss to the Ravens. Unfortunately, Petit-Frere sustained a season-ending shoulder injury during Tennessee’s Week 9 loss to the Steelers, which re-opened the door for Dillard. Then, in Week 10, Dillard sustained a concussion, which ruled him out of the Titans’ Week 11 loss to the Jaguars and forced the team to deploy Dillon Radunz at left tackle.

Since regular right tackle Chris Hubbard is dealing with a biceps injury, Radunz will man the right tackle post today, leaving Dillard and Duncan as the only LT options. Although Dillard has cleared the league’s concussion protocol, Duncan will get the nod.

In 25 snaps at right tackle in relief of the injured Hubbard last week, Duncan acquitted himself fairly well, and it stands to reason that Vrabel & Co. would want to get an extended look at a player who had top-100 talent but who became a Day 3 choice due to concerns about technique and his passion for the game.

Plus, the Dillard/Petit-Frere/Radunz trio all struggled at LT, and it would be difficult to imagine Duncan performing much worse. Tennessee would be forced to eat a considerable dead money charge if it were to cut Dillard in the offseason, but the team would also realize a modicum of cap savings. Given the way the 2023 campaign has unfolded, a Dillard release would seem to be a realistic outcome.

Titans Committed To HC Mike Vrabel

Speculation regarding the NFL coaching cycle in 2024 will no doubt continue to pick up in the coming weeks. One team connected to a potential change by some is the Titans, but it appears highly unlikely a shake-up will be coming.

Mike Vrabel has emerged as a potential candidate for the Patriots in the event Bill Belichick is no longer in place by the start of the 2024 campaign, a scenario which has been gaining steam throughout the season. Vrabel – who spent much of his playing career in New England and is a highly-regarded staffer within the Patriots’ building – was labeled a ‘home run’ candidate earlier this season with respect to potential Belichick successors.

However, Dianna Russini of The Athletic reports the Titans are still fully committed to Vrabel as their head coach (subscription required). That sentiment is shared throughout the organization, she adds, which likely means general manager Ran Carthon – hired this past offseason – is on board with Vrabel remaining in place. Changes in the front office are often accompanied by a shake-up on the sidelines in the NFL, but Tennessee’s decision to avoid such a move in 2023 represented a sign of faith in Vrabel.

The 48-year-old guided the Titans to a winning record in each of his first four seasons at the helm. That included the 2021 campaign in which Tennessee went 12-5 and Vrabel took home Coach of the Year honors. Since then, however, things have taken a turn for the worse. The Titans went 7-10 last season as they saw a lead in the AFC South slip away late, and the 2023 campaign has seen quarterback Ryan Tannehill‘s struggles on the field and in the injury department continue.

With rookie Will Levis now under center, the Titans sit at 3-7 on the year. With a second straight season outside the playoffs on deck, speculation has emerged regarding Vrabel’s job security. He is attached to an extension signed in 2022, however, so with term remaining a major disappointment to close out the year would likely be needed to change the organization’s thinking. Acquiring Vrabel while still under contract would require draft compensation from the Patriots or any other interested team.

While Belichick’s status in New England will be worth watching closely down the stretch, today’s update would seem to take the Patriots out of contention for Vrabel. The latter could prove the Titans’ confidence to be well-founded with a strong showing to close out the year, but for the time being he appears to be safe in Nashville either way.

Patriots Notes: Vrabel, Klemm, Onwenu, Boutte

With the Patriots in the midst of their worst season in decades, there’s been plenty of speculation regarding Bill Belichick‘s future in New England. If either Belichick or the organization decides to move on, it’s been assumed that de facto defensive coordinator Jerod Mayo would take over as head coach.

However, there are some whispers that Patriots brass could actually look towards another former linebacker to succeed Belichick. According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, there are “definitely people” within the Patriots organization who would be receptive to a Mike Vrabel hiring. Ben Volin of the Boston Globe previously described a Vrabel pursuit as a “home run” option for the organization.

Of course, if the Patriots were interested in hiring Vrabel, they’d have to convince the Titans to let go of their head coach. Vrabel signed an extension with the organization in 2022 and is presumably under contract for at least a few more years. If the Titans get a hint that the Patriots will make a serious pursuit, there’s a good chance they’ll try to grab some compensation from New England.

On the flip side, the Patriots could just wait for the Titans to make a change. The Titans may finish with their second-straight losing season, and Vrabel hasn’t won a playoff game since the team’s 2019 run. Ownership may decide to pull the plug on their coaching staff, much like they did with GM Jon Robinson last December.

More notes out of New England…

  • Patriots offensive line coach Adrian Klemm is expected to be away from the team “for a little while” while dealing with a personal health issue, Belichick told reporters (via ESPN’s Mike Reiss). The former Patriots second-round pick joined New England’s coaching staff this past offseason after having spent the 2022 campaign as Oregon’s associate head coach/OL coach. Assistant OL coach Billy Yates will likely take on more responsibility while Klemm is out.
  • Michael Onwenu has bounced around the offensive line throughout his career. After excelling at right tackle as a rookie, the sixth-round pick was moved to left guard during his sophomore season. He was switched to right guard in 2022 and went on to earn Pro Bowl honors, and he stuck at the position to begin the 2023 season. However, recent injuries and OL inconsistencies have forced Onwenu back to RT, and Belichick told reporters that the organization is comfortable keeping the fourth-year player at the position (per Doug Kyed of the Boston Herald).
  • Sixth-round rookie WR Kayshon Boutte hasn’t been active since he played 55 snaps in Week 1. Following Kendrick Bourne‘s season-ending injury, Boutte was expected to see a larger role on offense, but he proceeded to be inactive in Week 9 against the Commanders.There’s been some speculation that the rookie could be in Belichick’s doghouse after failing to get a second foot down on a crucial drive in Week 1, but Boutte dismissed that notion. “I don’t feel like I’m in the doghouse,” he said (via Reiss). “Looking back at the first game, I know that I can get open. I know how to create separation. That’s why I’m comfortable with myself.”
  • We learned earlier today that cornerback J.C. Jackson won’t be traveling to Germany for New England’s matchup against the Colts this weekend.

Possible Futures For HC Bill Belichick, Patriots

While speculation has run amok on multiple occasions this season that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick could be on the hot seat in New England, he went off and silently signed a “lucrative, multiyear” extension in the offseason. According to a recent report from Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, a source has disclosed that they believe the new contract only runs through the 2024 season. If the Patriots truly have plans to move on from their longtime head coach, what would that look like? And what would that mean for Belichick or the Patriots?

Even if the extension keeps Belichick for only one additional year, Volin isn’t convinced that he makes it that long, believing it would take “a miracle turnaround” for this not to be his last season in New England, even claiming there’s a chance Belichick doesn’t make it through the rest of the season. With a bye week coming up in two weeks, the team’s trip to Germany could be crucial. While Volin is only voicing an opinion, the writer for the Globe has been on the Patriots beat for ten years and should have a decent read on the team’s pulse.

He doesn’t believe, however, that recent reports of Washington desiring a trade for Belichick are believable. While the idea of reeling in Belichick and allowing him to recreate his former staff with Matt Patricia, Josh McDaniels, and Joe Judge seems like an interesting idea on its surface, one the Patriots would rejoice over having a draft pick in return for, the Commanders don’t have the spare cash to bring on the NFL’s highest-paid coach. Also, with a franchise who seems intent on pumping out old blood in a mass transfusion, bringing in one of the NFL’s second-oldest head coaches doesn’t quite fit the bill. If current head coach Ron Rivera is on the way out, as many have prophesized, a younger replacement seems far more likely.

Now, if the Patriots do cut ties with the 71-year-old skipper, who takes over as the first new head coach of the Patriots in 24 years? Team owner Robert Kraft (and his son, team president Jonathan Kraft) have repeatedly stuck with names already popular in New England. According to Volin’s sources, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel would be a “home run” hire to replace Belichick.

Vrabel, a former player who spent eight years playing linebacker for the Patriots and helping them win three Super Bowls, moved quickly through the coaching ranks, moving on from a position coaching job at Ohio State to work his way up to defensive coordinator of the Texans. After one year at the helm of Houston’s defense, Vrabel was hired in Tennessee where he has amassed a 51-39 regular season record and gone 2-3 in the playoffs. He received a new contract after the 2021 season, but there’ve been rumors that Vrabel and new general manager Ran Carthon don’t quite see eye to eye. So, perhaps, New England could entice Vrabel towards a reunion.

Since Belichick also serves as de facto GM, a new GM would become a necessity, as well. The same sources that pointed to Vrabel labelled Texans GM Nick Caserio as another “home run” hire. A longtime member of the Patriots’ player personnel department, Caserio won his newest position after 13 years as director of player personnel in New England. After two rough years at the helm in Houston, Caserio may have looked expendable to start the year, but rookie head coach DeMeco Ryans and rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud have injected new blood and excitement into the Texans franchise. Caserio would likely be a tough get at this point, unless there’s some hidden discontent on behalf of Ryans, who may be looked to as the pilot of this season’s potential turnaround.

Volin didn’t stop there, even speculating on future potential coordinators for this “home run” staff. Many don’t view current offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien as the team’s play caller of the future. In fact, not many believe that was the intent when he was brought in in the first place, assuming he would use the role as “a springboard to a head coaching opportunity.” With quarterback Mac Jones struggling and the offense scoring the second-least points in the NFL, he certainly doesn’t appear to be on the short-list to replace Belichick or even retain his play calling duties for much longer.

Instead, a reunion with McDaniels, the recently fired former head coach of the Raiders, seems within the realm of possibility. McDaniels probably isn’t in a hurry to take a new job, as he’s getting paid by Las Vegas for the next four years, but he may feel the need to return to the NFL by at least next season, in order to ensure his name stays fresh in NFL circles. A return to the familiar grounds of New England seems reasonable.

On defense, inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo is thought to be a big up and coming coach in New England, after refusing a head coaching interview in order to take a big payday with the Patriots. Mayo may not be ready to take over as head coach in New England just yet, but he may be able to earn defensive coordinator duties in a hypothetical Vrabel staff. Regardless, the Kraft’s love him and were willing to pay a lot of money in order to keep him from leaving for greener pastures.

While all of this is purely hypothetical, the heat on Belichick seems very real. With the Patriots facing a possible 2-8 start if they can’t pull out a win in Frankfurt, the end of the Belichick-era may soon be at hand. There are lots of things to figure out between now and the prophesies above, but if things continue going from bad to worse, we may see it all play out in the months to come.

The NFL’s Longest-Tenured Head Coaches

After the 2022 offseason produced 10 new head coaches, this one brought a step back in terms of turnover. Five teams changed HCs, though each conducted thorough searches — four of them lasting until at least January 31.

The Colts and Cardinals hired their HCs after Super Bowl LVII, plucking the Eagles’ offensive and defensive coordinators (Shane Steichen, Jonathan Gannon). The Cardinals were hit with a tampering penalty regarding their Gannon search. Conducting their second HC search in two years, the Broncos saw multiple candidates drop out of the running. But Denver’s new ownership group convinced Sean Payton to step out of the FOX studio and back onto the sidelines after just one season away. The Panthers made this year’s first hire (Frank Reich), while the Texans — running their third HC search in three years — finalized an agreement with DeMeco Ryans minutes after the Payton news broke.

Only one of last year’s top 10 longest-tenured HCs lost his job. A turbulent Colts year led to Reich being fired barely a year after he signed an extension. During a rather eventful stretch, Jim Irsay said he reluctantly extended Reich in 2021. The Colts passed on giving interim HC Jeff Saturday the full-time position, despite Irsay previously indicating he hoped the former center would transition to that role. Reich landed on his feet, and after losing Andrew Luck to a shocking retirement just before his second Colts season, the well-regarded play-caller now has another No. 1 pick (Bryce Young) to mentor.

After considering a Rams exit, Sean McVay recommitted to the team and is overseeing a reshaped roster. Andy Reid also sidestepped retirement rumors, staying on with the Chiefs after his second Super Bowl win. This will be Reid’s 25th season as an NFL head coach.

Here is how the 32 HC jobs look for the 2023 season:

  1. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
  2. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007; extended through 2024
  3. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008; extended through 2025
  4. Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks): January 9, 2010; extended through 2025
  5. Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013; extended through 2025
  6. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017; extended through 2027
  7. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017; extended through 2023
  8. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017; extended through 2025
  9. Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans): January 20, 2018; signed extension in February 2022
  10. Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019: signed extension in July 2022
  11. Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019; extended through 2026
  12. Ron Rivera (Washington Commanders): January 1, 2020
  13. Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
  14. Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020
  15. Robert Saleh (New York Jets): January 15, 2021
  16. Arthur Smith (Atlanta Falcons): January 15, 2021
  17. Brandon Staley (Los Angeles Chargers): January 17, 2021
  18. Dan Campbell (Detroit Lions): January 20, 2021
  19. Nick Sirianni (Philadelphia Eagles): January 21, 2021
  20. Matt Eberflus (Chicago Bears): January 27, 2022
  21. Brian Daboll (New York Giants): January 28, 2022
  22. Josh McDaniels (Las Vegas Raiders): January 30, 2022
  23. Kevin O’Connell (Minnesota Vikings): February 2, 2022
  24. Doug Pederson (Jacksonville Jaguars): February 3, 2022
  25. Mike McDaniel (Miami Dolphins): February 6, 2022
  26. Dennis Allen (New Orleans Saints): February 7, 2022
  27. Todd Bowles (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): March 30, 2022
  28. Frank Reich (Carolina Panthers): January 26, 2023
  29. Sean Payton (Denver Broncos): January 31, 2023
  30. DeMeco Ryans (Houston Texans): January 31, 2023
  31. Shane Steichen (Indianapolis Colts): February 14, 2023
  32. Jonathan Gannon (Arizona Cardinals): February 14, 2023

Vrabel: Was Not Included In Jon Robinson Firing Decision

Mike Vrabel stands to inherit more decision-making power with the Titans going forward, with seven-year GM Jon Robinson now out of the picture. Vrabel and VP of player personnel Ryan Cowden are running the show presently.

But the fifth-year coach insists he was not part of the process that led to Robinson’s surprising ouster. “I was informed of the decision. This wasn’t a decision that included me,” Vrabel said (via NBC Sports’ Peter King). Vrabel and Robinson signed extensions in February. Robinson’s runs through the 2027 draft; it is a good bet Vrabel’s aligns with that since-discarded contract.

Amy Adams Strunk decided to make the change after studying Robinson’s moves, and the owner curiously cited the Titans’ run of player unavailability — leading to inflated IR contingents over the past two years — as part of the reason Robinson is out. While the Tennessee owner said she had made her decision prior to A.J. Brown‘s two-touchdown performance against his former team, Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports notes the Titans’ loss to the Eagles did play a role in the dismissal.

Tennessee’s losses to Cincinnati and Philadelphia were part of the reason Adams Strunk cut bait so soon after authorizing the extension, Jones adds, noting this firing is not believed to have come about because of a power struggle between Robinson and Vrabel. Adams Strunk said she wanted the Titans to be regarded as one of the NFL’s elite teams. Despite an injury-affected 2021 Titans edition earning the AFC’s No. 1 seed, she cut the cord and will look for a new decision-maker to pair with Vrabel.

Robinson hired Vrabel in 2018, and the two have never had a losing season together. The Titans are coming off three consecutive playoff berths. Though, their Week 14 loss to the Jaguars does open the door to a once-seemingly insurmountable AFC South lead slipping away. The Titans (7-6) still have a two-game division lead.

Vrabel will be included in the Titans’ GM search, however, and Jones adds it is clear he will be more involved in personnel decisions henceforth. It will be interesting to see if Vrabel will also have final say over the Titans’ 53-man roster in 2023. The reigning NFL Coach of the Year has gained considerable respect around the league during his Nashville stay, but Robinson’s firing shocked executives around the league.

Firing a GM without a losing season on his resume during a season does represent an interesting look for the Titans, especially so soon after greenlighting an extension. The Titans’ GM search will obviously generate extensive attention once it begins in earnest.

Titans Owner: A.J. Brown Game Did Not Factor Into GM Decision

While A.J. Brown‘s performance in his first game against the Titans did not represent a good look for his first NFL franchise, Amy Adams Strunk said the game did not factor into her decision to fire GM Jon Robinson.

The Titans owner indicated her decision to can the seventh-year GM was already made, despite having signed Robinson to an extension in February. Rumored to be displeased with the state of her team’s roster, Adams Strunk preferred to let Robinson go early rather than going through a lengthy delay.

I’d already made my decision,” Strunk said, via the Associated Press’ Teresa Walker. “A.J. had a great game. More power to him, but that didn’t actually have anything to do with that.

… Once I made the decision, I was like, ’I can’t sit on it. I’ve got to go ahead and do it to be fair to Jon.′ I don’t know how many weeks we have left in the season. There could be a lot more hopefully in our season, and it just didn’t seem like the right thing to do to drag this along.”

[RELATED: Brown’s Knee Trouble Influenced Titans’ Trade?]

Adams Strunk confirmed she was in the loop on the negotiations that led up to the draft-night Brown trade, Walker adds, but after studying Robinson’s body of work — from drafts to free agency to season performances — she opted to cut bait. This comes after Robinson, teaming with HCs Mike Mularkey and Mike Vrabel, did not have a losing season while running the team. The Titans went 3-13 the season before Robinson’s hire.

The timing here is obviously interesting, with Robinson’s recent extension running through the 2027 draft. Ownership’s decision here has dismayed many around the league, The Athletic’s Jeff Howe notes (subscription required), adding that Robinson should not have trouble landing another high-profile position soon.

I told the fans from the very beginning that I want to win it all, and I want to be one of those elite teams that people are always scared of, and it’s my responsibility,” Strunk said. “And eventually it’s up to me to make those kind of decisions that get us there.”

Tennessee has advanced to three straight playoff brackets, earning the AFC’s No. 1 seed — for the first time since 2008 — last season. The Titans flamed out immediately after their bye, losing to the Bengals despite sacking Joe Burrow nine times. The 2019 team did upset the Patriots and Ravens en route to the AFC championship game, however. This year’s squad has lost two straight, but with the rest of the AFC South either rebuilding or underwhelming, the Titans (7-5) remain on track to make another postseason berth.

Robinson, who fired Mularkey after back-to-back winning seasons, made a number of solid draft choices to help put the team in position to contend after Ryan Tannehill‘s 2019 arrival via trade (for fourth- and seventh-round picks). The team has never extended one of Robinson’s first-round picks, however, and the 2020 Isaiah Wilson whiff represented one of this era’s worst draft choices. The Titans have also seen a number of players go on IR over the past two seasons; their 16 players on IR leads the NFL this year. Adams Strunk mentioned the number of players the injuries have forced the Titans to use, per Walker, who notes the team has used 76 players this season. Tennessee set an NFL record by using 91 last year.

Adams Strunk did not mention offensive coordinator Todd Downing‘s DUI arrest or the NFL investigation that emerged in the aftermath as a reason for the firing. That brought another major headline for the team due to the timing between the Titans’ plane landing from Wisconsin and Downing’s arrest. Downing remains in place as OC, though Vrabel said that could change depending on the investigation.

This surprising decision also did not come about because of a Vrabel ultimatum, Adams Strunk added. Vrabel and VP of player personnel Ryan Cowden will coordinate personnel moves for the rest of this season. Adams Strunk did not rule out the Titans waiting until after the Super Bowl to make the right hire, if necessary, and Walker adds Vrabel will be involved in the process.

A.J. Brown Knee Trouble Influenced Titans’ Trade Decision?

Following the Titans’ decision to send A.J. Brown to the Eagles, they dealt with a quick revenge game. The recently extended wide receiver made a rather notable impact in Week 13’s Tennessee-Philadelphia matchup — an Eagles rout. Although other factors undoubtedly contributed to Jon Robinson‘s ouster, the GM’s decision to unload Brown certainly played a role.

Titans ownership extended Robinson and Mike Vrabel in January, but a recent report indicated owner Amy Adams Strunk had become displeased with the state of the team’s roster. Brown’s absence is the most significant difference between last season’s Titans roster and this one, and the narrow gap between the fourth-year wideout’s 119-yard, two-touchdown day and Robinson’s firing is difficult to overlook.

The Titans were the first team to act on a contract impasse with a fourth-year wideout this offseason, bowing out of negotiations early by sending Brown to the Eagles — for first- and third-round picks — and drafting Treylon Burks. Tennessee’s front office viewed Brown’s health as a potential long-term issue, according to SI.com’s Albert Breer, who notes Robinson and personnel staffers had concerns about the talented receiver’s early-career knee trouble.

Knee trouble did plague Brown, 25, at points during his Tennessee tenure. He underwent surgery on both knees during the 2021 offseason. That followed a season in which Brown missed games and extensive practice time due to a knee contusion. Knee trouble also recurred during the 2021 preseason, but it was a chest injury led Brown to a three-game IR stay last year.

The Titans had started negotiations with Brown in late March, and Robinson said he wanted the former second-round pick to be a long-term Titan. A day before the draft, a report indicated Brown had been in touch with the Titans’ coaching staff and the sides’ relationship was fine despite an early proclamation the wideout would skip offseason work absent a new deal. Brown later said the Titans did not offer him a $20MM-per-year deal and mentioned it would not have taken the Eagles’ ultimate price — $25MM AAV — to keep him in Nashville.

Vrabel’s draft-room reaction became one of the more memorable visuals from this year’s draft weekend, and the Titans have been unable to replace the production the Ole Miss alum provided during his rookie-contract years. Brown (950 receiving yards) is averaging a career-high 79.2 per game with Philly, and his nine touchdown receptions are two shy of a career-best mark (set in 2020). The Titans have featured one of the league’s worst passing attacks, with no player above 375 receiving yards yet. Burks (team-leading 359 yards in just eight games) has shown promise, but various issues have forced him to miss offseason time and game action this year. Coming off ACL surgery, Robert Woods (357 yards in 12 games) has not recaptured the form he showed with the Rams.

The Eagles are paying up for Brown, having authorized a four-year, $100MM extension that included a receiver-record $56MM fully guaranteed. The Titans’ reboot at receiver did not precede other teams operating similarly, and Philly’s $25MM-per-year Brown accord gave the Commanders, Seahawks and 49ers a road map. Terry McLaurin, D.K. Metcalf and Deebo Samuel all missed offseason time because of contract issues, but they ended up each signing three-year deals worth between $23.2MM and $24MM. Burks can be kept on a rookie deal through 2026, via the fifth-year option, but plenty will be on the former Arkansas standout’s shoulders going forward.

Latest On Titans’ Jon Robinson Firing

Going through with one of the most surprising in-season transactions in recent years, the Titans fired Jon Robinson just less than 10 months after announcing he and Mike Vrabel had signed extensions. Robinson’s contract runs through the 2027 draft, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com notes (on Twitter).

While it is fair to wonder if this about-face stemmed from a sudden development, ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter noted during an NFL Live appearance that is not believed to be the case. Owner Amy Adams Strunk has become unhappy about the state of Tennessee’s roster, Pelissero adds, with Schefter adding she was not pleased in being left out of the loop on certain matters.

This firing coming so soon after an extension invites speculation about the role the A.J. Brown trade played. The Titans had begun conversations with Brown about an extension, and Robinson said the team “want[ed] to keep A.J. a Titan” in April. By draft night, however, the winds shifted and the Titans sent Brown to the Eagles for a package headlined by the No. 18 overall pick. Brown said the Titans did not approach his asking price, failing to offer $20MM per year, and mentioned the team would not have needed to hit the Eagles’ eventual price ($25MM AAV, receiver-record $56MM fully guaranteed) to finalize an extension.

Brown shredded his former team in an eight-reception, 119-yard, two-touchdown performance Sunday, and the Titans have not been able to replicate what the former second-round pick had offered them. Robert Woods has produced close to his Rams-era numbers since being acquired for a sixth-round pick, and while Treylon Burks has shown flashes, the first-rounder has missed extensive time. The Commanders, Seahawks and 49ers did not follow the Titans’ lead; each team extended their respective No. 1 receivers (Terry McLaurin, D.K. Metcalf, Deebo Samuel) rather than punt on their contract years. Brown’s Eagles contract ended up being the template each of those NFC squads used to wrap up their respective receiver extensions.

Robinson also drafted the likes of Derrick Henry, Kevin Byard, Harold Landry and Jeffery Simmons, and he landed Ryan Tannehill for fourth- and seventh-round picks. That trade gave the Titans an out on Marcus Mariota, and Tannehill’s return to health led to the Titans advancing to the AFC championship game for the first time since 2002. Robinson had never completed a losing season as Titans GM, despite the team going 3-13 the year before he arrived, and Tennessee is on track to secure a fourth straight playoff berth.

Then again, the Titans swung and missed on some first-round picks. Corey Davis did not become a No. 1-caliber wideout, despite being chosen fifth overall, and cornerback Caleb Farley has not earned a starting role upon returning from his rookie-year ACL tear. Robinson let both Davis and 2016 first-rounder Jack Conklin walk in free agency. The Conklin decision led to a revolving door at right tackle and preceded the team’s most infamous draft miss. The Titans’ 2020 first-round choice — tackle Isaiah Wilson — saw action on four plays as a rookie and never played again.

Still, this firing took many around the league by surprise, according to the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora and The Athletic’s Mike Jones (Twitter links). Robinson hire Vrabel is set to see his role expand, confirming Wednesday he and interim GM Ryan Cowden will collaborate on the team’s decision-making for the rest of the season.

The NFL’s Longest-Tenured Head Coaches

The NFL experienced a busy offseason on the coaching front. A whopping 10 teams changed coaches during the 2022 offseason, with the Buccaneers’ late-March switch pushing the number into double digits.

Fourteen of the league’s 32 head coaches were hired in the past two offseasons, illustrating the increased pressure the NFL’s sideline leaders face in today’s game. Two of the coaches replaced this year left on their own. Sean Payton vacated his spot in second on the longest-tenured HCs list by stepping down from his 16-year Saints post in February, while Bruce Arians has repeatedly insisted his Bucs exit was about giving his defensive coordinator a chance with a strong roster and not a Tom Brady post-retirement power play.

While Bill Belichick has been the league’s longest-tenured HC for many years, Payton’s exit moved Mike Tomlin up to No. 2. Mike Zimmer‘s firing after nine seasons moved Frank Reich into the top 10. Reich’s HC opportunity only came about because Josh McDaniels spurned the Colts in 2018, but Indianapolis’ backup plan has led the team to two playoff brackets and has signed an extension. Reich’s seat is hotter in 2022, however, after a January collapse. Linked to numerous HC jobs over the past several offseasons, McDaniels finally took another swing after his Broncos tenure ended quickly.

As 2022’s training camps approach, here are the NFL’s longest-tenured HCs:

  1. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
  2. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007; extended through 2024
  3. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008; extended through 2025
  4. Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks): January 9, 2010; extended through 2025
  5. Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013; extended through 2025
  6. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017; extended through 2025
  7. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017; extended through 2023
  8. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017; extended through 2025
  9. Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans): January 20, 2018; signed extension in February 2022
  10. Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts): February 11, 2018; extended through 2026
  11. Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2019; extended through 2027
  12. Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019
  13. Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019; extended through 2026
  14. Ron Rivera (Washington Football Team): January 1, 2020
  15. Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers): January 7, 2020
  16. Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
  17. Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020
  18. Robert Saleh (New York Jets): January 15, 2021
  19. Arthur Smith (Atlanta Falcons): January 15, 2021
  20. Brandon Staley (Los Angeles Chargers): January 17, 2021
  21. Dan Campbell (Detroit Lions): January 20, 2021
  22. Nick Sirianni (Philadelphia Eagles): January 21, 2021
  23. Nathaniel Hackett (Denver Broncos): January 27, 2022
  24. Matt Eberflus (Chicago Bears): January 27, 2022
  25. Brian Daboll (New York Giants): January 28, 2022
  26. Josh McDaniels (Las Vegas Raiders): January 30, 2022
  27. Kevin O’Connell (Minnesota Vikings): February 2, 2022
  28. Doug Pederson (Jacksonville Jaguars): February 3, 2022
  29. Mike McDaniel (Miami Dolphins): February 6, 2022
  30. Dennis Allen (New Orleans Saints): February 7, 2022
  31. Lovie Smith (Houston Texans): February 7, 2022
  32. Todd Bowles (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): March 30, 2022