The Texans are promoting linebackers coach Mike Vrabel to defensive coordinator, reports Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com (Twitter link). Predecessor Romeo Crennel will stay on the Texans’ staff and become their assistant head coach.
This is seemingly a boon for Houston, which potentially could have dealt with the departures of both Vrabel and Crennel this offseason. Vrabel drew head coaching interest from the Rams, who instead hired Sean McVay, and both the Chargers and Redskins were eyeing him for their D-coordinator vacancies, according to Breer (Twitter link).
Meanwhile, the soon-to-be 70-year-old Crennel was on an expiring contract prior to Wednesday. Head coach Bill O’Brien made it clear earlier this week that the team didn’t want to lose Crennel.
“Romeo’s done a great job,” O’Brien said Monday. “I know we’d love to have him back. I haven’t sat down with any coaches yet, but I can tell you Romeo’s a great coach. He means a lot to me personally, and we’d love to have Romeo back.”
Crennel had served as the Texans’ defensive coordinator since 2014, and the unit ranked between sixth and eighth in DVOA in each season under his stewardship. Houston also led the NFL in yardage allowed in 2016, which was especially impressive given that superstar end J.J. Watt only played in three games and went on injured reserve in late September. The Crennel-led, Watt-less Texans had other stars emerge, including end Jadeveon Clowney and cornerback A.J. Bouye, while linebacker Whitney Mercilus‘ standout play continued.
Mercilus has worked directly with Vrabel, who was a terrific NFL linebacker in his own right from 1997-2010. Vrabel played under Crennel in both New England and Kansas City during that time, and he then joined him on Houston’s coaching staff in 2014. The two will remain together in 2017, though it’ll be Vrabel manning Crennel’s longtime position. Crennel has been a D-coordinator with four different teams since 2000.
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