Tuesday, January 16, 2018

NFL Coaching Carousel: Mike Vrabel Emerges as a Strong Fit for Titans’ Head-Coach Position

Since the Titans announced that they were parting ways with head coach Mike Mularkey on Monday morning, Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel has quickly emerged as a strong fit to step in the opening — and more updates as the NFL's coaching carousel spins.

By Albert Breer
January 15, 2018

Every decision the Titans have made for three years now has been with quarterback Marcus Mariota’s development at the forefront.

When they fired Ken Whisenhunt halfway through 2015, the beheading the Titans’ quarterbacks were taking early that season pushed the issue. When they hired Jon Robinson as GM in January 2016, his time spent around Tom Brady as a scout for the Patriots and in drafting Jameis Winston as the Buccaneers’ director of player personnel were factors. And when Mike Mularkey was given the head-coaching job full-time, it was largely because he’d fixed the aforementioned protection problem.

So the Titans are about to hire an offensive guru as head coach, right?

Not so fast.

On Monday, two head-coaching spots were, for all intents and purposes, filled, and another one opened up. And one widely-held assumption early in the day was that Josh McDaniels’s availability had pushed the Titans to pull the plug on Mularkey, an idea that was punctuated by McDaniels’s offense tearing through an overwhelmed Tennessee team in Foxboro on Saturday night.

My belief is that was never the case, and McDaniels—who’s as bright a head-coaching prospect as there is on the market—probably wouldn’t have been the Titans’ lead dog had he still been available (the Colts are expected to hire the Patriots’ offensive coordinator, according to multiple reports). The reason why is simple: it’s about fit.

Over the last two weeks, as news of Mularkey’s employment status was widely reported and and written about by the media, the trust between Mularkey and Robinson fractured—and that was a piece of why talks on bringing Mularkey back broke down over the last couple of days. It may have been difficult to get Mularkey to take a Band-Aid deal and make staff changes previously. These circumstances made that impossible.

Now the Titans will look to find alignment, and the first man they requested to interview, Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel, is seen as a better match for the team’s brass than McDaniels from a personality standpoint. Also, he and Robinson have common background in that each spent many years in New England. Vrabel will have to sell Tennessee on his staffing choices and his vision for developing Mariota, but word of how well Vrabel interviewed in Detroit and Indianapolis has gotten around. Robinson laid out criteria for the job during his press conference on Monday, and the first thing he said he was looking for was a “leader of men.”

That’s Vrabel, whose strengths are in his presence and ability to reach people. It doesn’t mean he has job, but there’s little question that he’s well-positioned for it.

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