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Tennessee Titans Fire Mike Vrabel, What’s Next?

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Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel, New England Patriots Hall of Famer, argues with line judge Mark Perlman (9) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

The NFL is up to six head coaching vacancies. Mike Vrabel is the latest head coach to hit the unemployment lines. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Tennessee Titans fired Vrabel, their head coach of the past six seasons.

Patriots Playing Career

New England Patriots fans know Mike Vrabel well from his playing days. The 14-year NFL veteran spent eight seasons (2001-to-2008) with New England. Vrabel played on three Super Bowl champions, four AFC Champions, and was an All Pro selection in 2007, a season in which the Patriots finished 16-0. He was inducted into the New England Patriots Hall of Fame in 2023.

Start in Coaching

Mike Vrabel’s coaching career began at his alma mater, Ohio State, in 2011. He joined the Houston Texans staff in 2014. Vrabel coached the Texans linebackers. That Houston coaching staff included head coach Bill O’Brien (New England’s current offensive coordinator) and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, who served the same role on Vrabel’s Super Bowl squads in New England.

Vrabel was promoted to defensive coordinator for the 2017 season. Tennessee hired him to be their new head after just one season as a coordinator. He had been with the Titans ever since.

Tennessee Tenure

In his six seasons with the Titans, Vrabel’s coaching record was 54-45 (.545). Tennessee won two AFC South titles (2020, 2021) and reached the playoffs three times (2019-to-2021). The 2019 advanced to the AFC Championship Game, before losing to the Kansas City Chiefs 35-24. That year the Titans also ended Tom Brady’s tenure with the Patriots by knocking New England out of the playoffs. Mike Vrabel won NFL Coach of the Year in 2021, for leading Tennessee to a 12-5 record and number one seed in the AFC playoffs.

Despite his successes, the past two seasons have seen the Titans go a combined 13-21, missing the playoffs both seasons. In an era of the NFL where quarterback play is considered paramount, Vrabel had a number of different starters with the Titans. Marcus Mariota, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Tannehill, Joshua Dobbs, Malik Willis, and Will Levis have all been starting quarterbacks during Vrabel’s tenure with the Titans.

Tennessee lost seven Pro Bowl players during Vrabel’s tenure. Wide receiver A.J. Brown and safety Kevin Beard were traded. Defensive lineman Jurrell Casey retired. Offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, offensive guard Rodger Saffold, center Ben Jones, and punter Brett Kern were all released.

“Home Run Choice” to Replace Belichick

Ben Volin of The Boston Globe claimed earlier this season that Mike Vrabel was Robert Kraft’s “home run choice” to replace Bill Belichick as the New England Patriots head coach. If this report was accurate, the Vrabel option is now on the table for the Krafts. Belichick has publicly stated that he is under contract with the New England Patriots and will do whatever is believed to be best for the franchise, including giving up some power over personnel. However, relinquishing his position as head coach would not seem to be among those options.

Vrabel is technically not part of Bill Belichick’s coaching tree. Despite playing for Belichick for eight seasons, Vrabel never coached under him. Bill O’Brien is actually the only NFL coach Vrabel worked under, though he was also an assistant to former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer at Ohio State.

With so many head coaching vacancies in the NFL at the moment, both Mike Vrabel and New England Patriots assistant Jerod Mayo would have to be considered strong candidates to land jobs. If the Patriots do stick with Bill Belichick, would Vrabel be open to joining the staff as an assistant if he doesn’t get another head coaching opportunity this offseason? That seems unlikely if Mayo is still in New England.

Nothing will be certain for the New England Patriots until the fate of Bill Belichick in New England is decided. However, the firing of Mike Vrabel in Tennessee has certainly added another interesting twist to the possibilities. Now everyone just waits on the decisions of Robert and Jonathan Kraft.

Award-winning blogger, Dan's work has also been featured on Fox Sports, Boston Metro, Barstool Sports, MLB.com, and many other outlets.

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