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VOL. 42 | NO. 4 | Friday, January 26, 2018

Vrabel leans on relatability, GM relationship

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Vrabel

-- Ap Photo/Mark Humphrey

Mike Vrabel admits he has much to learn about the ins and outs of being a head coach in the National Football League.

After all, it’s a big leap from being a one-year defensive coordinator for the Houston Texans – linebackers coach before that – to having one of the 32 head coaching jobs in the NFL.

Nevertheless, with the blessing of general manager Jon Robinson and controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk, the Titans have decided Vrabel has enough of the “it” factor in his personality and approach to offset what he lacks in coaching experience.

“When he came in and we had a chance to sit down and talk about his vision for being the head coach of an NFL team, how he wanted to build the roster, the types of players that he thought could win in this league, it was clear to us that he was the guy for the job,” Robinson says. “He had a great presence about him in the interview, his football intelligence showed quickly and at the end of the day, we felt like this is the next head coach of the Tennessee Titans.”

Vrabel says the various aspects of his 14 years as a professional football player will serve him well as he embarks on his new endeavor.

“I don’t think that I have to go ahead and do anything special. When I stand in front of these guys on April 2 (when the off-season program begins) and they look at their head coach, I will have been every single one of those players in those seats,” Vrabel said. “I’ve been the rookie that got drafted that was having a tough time, that maybe wasn’t developing as fast as the coaches would’ve liked.

“I will have been a core special teams player. I will have been a starting linebacker that was expected to make some plays because he was a high-priced player.

“I will have been the aging veteran that needed to be a great leader, or I’ll have been a team captain.”

New Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel, center, with controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk and general manager Jon Robinson this week at his introductory press conference. The former NFL linebacker was drafted by and played four seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers before spending eight seasons with New England. He finished his career in 2010 after two seasons with Kansas City.

-- Ap Photo/Mark Humphrey

Vrabel says his prior experience in all those instances as a player can help him relate to those he will be coaching on the Tennessee Titans roster this season and beyond.

“I’ll have a great opportunity to share my story and what I’ve been through with each one of those players,” he said. “I’m not going to do anything special, I’m just going to tell them who I am and say, ‘Where are you at in your career? This is what we need to do to make you better. Here’s what I see. This is what you do well. This is what you don’t do well.

“And we’re going to work together to fix whatever you don’t do well.’”

After firing Mike Mularkey and his veteran coaching staff, Robinson is gambling that going in the opposite direction will bring a fresh approach and innovative ideas, led by a 42-year-old head coach who is only seven years removed from being an active player (four seasons with Pittsburgh, eight with New England and two with Kansas City).

For Robinson, the hiring of Vrabel seemed quick. Only two other candidates were interviewed, and Vrabel had the advantage of knowing Robinson during their time together in New England.

It was that “right fit” that Robinson seemed far more concerned about in this hire than finding a coach with extensive experience.

Despite a somewhat thin coaching resume, Robinson decided to cast his lot with Vrabel as the man who shares his vision of bringing a Super Bowl championship to Tennessee sooner rather than later.

“I’ve watched Mike Vrabel first-hand as a player,” Robinson says. “He’s one of the toughest players, one of the smartest players on those New England teams. He was a demanding teammate.

“He was a selfless teammate and above all for him it was always about doing what is best for the team and winning. He quickly transitioned into the coaching ranks and rose through those ranks.

“Mike has a great presence, excellent leadership skills, excellent knowledge of the game and I am extremely proud to be partnered with him.”

And partnered with Vrabel he shall be, because Robinson, who no doubt is now the power broker in the Titans’ organization, has traded the known in Mularkey for the unknown in Vrabel.

Vrabel, despite his lack of experience, seemed to recognize the task at hand, and made a point of saying that the relationship between himself and Robinson will set the tone going forward.

“Jon and I’s relationship is going to set the standard and the tone for the entire organization. That relationship will be built on, obviously, alignment and loyalty and trust and mutual respect,” Vrabel said.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com

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