Mike Vrabel

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

Latest on Titans WR A.J. Brown

The Titans have done everything this offseason to convince wide receiver A.J. Brown that they want him on their football team, short of offering him the contract he apparently desires. 

We’ve seen reports from general manager Jon Robinson that Tennessee has no plans to trade their star wide receiver, according to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network, and, rightly, they shouldn’t want to. Despite a small history of injuries in his three-year career, Brown is one of the Titans’ most explosive and consistent playmakers, even in an offense last year that was missing former-Titan Corey Davis and running back Derrick Henry and had Julio Jones looking like a shell of his former self.

Head coach Mike Vrabel expressed his love for Brown on the “Rich Eisen Show,” and made it clear that Brown won’t be traded “as long as (he’s) the head coach,” according to Dianna Russini of ESPN. Russini went on to report that Brown has no interest in participating in any team events without a new deal.

The sides are working towards an extension, but, so far, haven’t found room to meet in the middle. Former-Colts punter Pat McAfee spoke with NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport concerning an alleged phone call between disgruntled 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel and Brown, who share an agent. In the call, the person assumed to be Brown claims an offer from his team of $20MM per year, with no clarification on the deal’s length. Rapoport, who admittedly did not corroborate that the video of the phone call was real, said that $20MM would be a good starting point for negotiations, as teams don’t tend to put their best offers out their to start.

Before this offseason, it would make sense for Brown to be getting a deal around $20MM per year. The numbers that he’s put up in his career are similar to other receivers who make that much, such as Mike Williams, Chris Godwin, and Amari Cooper, and, with Brown being a bit younger than those three, he might command a bit more money with the expectation that he’ll be around longer in his prime. The deal that most likely changed Brown’s expectations, was the contract the Jaguars gave to Christian Kirk. If Kirk can command $18MM per year having never recorded a 1,000-yard receiving season in his four-year career, surely Brown should command far more after doing so in both of his first two years in the league.

In his worst statistical year last season, where Brown played in the least amount of games of his career and was the only player defenses needed to focus on, Brown still produced, catching 63 balls for 869 yards and 5 touchdowns in 13 games. It was the first time he failed to amass 1,000 receiving yards and 9 total touchdowns in a season.

Seeing how important Brown is to the Titans’ offense, combined with the expected holdout Brown has threatened, Robinson and Vrabel will likely be feeling the pressure to concede sooner rather than later. Salaries are constantly rising to new heights in the NFL, and, if Tennessee loves their star receiver as much as they say they do, why not make an example by giving him a contract that shows it?

Titans Extend Mike Vrabel, GM Jon Robinson

Although the Titans could not turn their No. 1 seed into a postseason win, they are rewarding the top power brokers responsible for the team earning that first-round bye.

Mike Vrabel and GM Jon Robinson signed extensions with the team Tuesday. Vrabel is entering his fifth year as Titans head coach, while Robinson is going into his seventh as GM.

The Robinson-Vrabel partnership has changed the course of the Titans, who have made the playoffs in three straight seasons. This past 12-5 result gave Tennessee its first No. 1 seed since 2008, and the season could well lead to Vrabel earning Coach of the Year acclaim at this week’s NFL Honors banquet.

Vrabel has yet to have a losing season as Titans HC, and he broke the team’s four-year run of 9-7 seasons by winning the AFC South with an 11-5 record in 2020. He also oversaw upsets of the Patriots and Ravens in the 2019 playoffs, leading the Titans to their first AFC championship game since 2002.

The Titans gave Vrabel a five-year deal when he took the job in 2018, which would have made 2022 a walk year for the former Super Bowl-winning linebacker and Texans defensive coordinator. Vrabel, 46, has solidified himself in this role and is the longest-serving Titans HC since Jeff Fisher. The Titans battled through numerous injuries this season, deploying a historically high number of players due to the various maladies. Vrabel’s team defeated three of the four conference finalists this season — the Chiefs, Rams and 49ers — but its upset loss to the Bengals ended the run early.

Robinson, 46, has been with the Titans since coming over from the Buccaneers in 2016. Robinson’s teams have made the playoffs in four of the six seasons under his watch. Under Robinson, the Titans managed to land a starting quarterback in a trade package headlined by a fourth-round pick. While Ryan Tannehill has not been a top-tier QB, the former injury-prone Dolphins starter has stabilized his career in Tennessee. The Titans also landed Derrick Henry, Harold Landry and A.J. Brown in the second round under Robinson, who has built the most consistently good Titans teams since Fisher’s run in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

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.