When the Titans went searching for their next head football coach earlier this week, they were looking for a “leader of men.”
The organization has found that guy in Mike Vrabel.
On Saturday, the Titans and Vrabel agreed to terms on a contract to make him the team’s new head coach. Vrabel, who served as defensive coordinator with the Houston Texans last season, is scheduled to be introduced at a press conference on Monday at Saint Thomas Sports Park.
Vrabel was one of three candidates to interview for the job after the team parted ways with Mike Mularkey on Monday. The Titans interviewed Vrabel on Thursday in Nashville.
“I am excited to have Mike Vrabel joining our organization as our new head coach,” said Titans Controlling Owner Amy Adams Strunk said. “In the interaction between Mike and Jon (Robinson) during the interview, 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. Mike has a commanding presence and a deep knowledge for how he will attack this head coaching opportunity. Throughout his football career, he has played for, been mentored by and coached with successful teams and organizations. He knows what it takes to reach that level of sustained success – he has seen it first-hand. We have a chance to build on the solid foundation that we established over the past couple of years and I believe Mike is the right person to continue that progress.”
Vrabel, 42, has a great reputation in football because of his leadership qualities. From his playing days in college and the NFL to his time as an assistant coach, those around him have raved about his presence, and how others respond to him.
“This is an incredible opportunity and one I have been preparing for my entire football life,” said Vrabel. “I want to thank Amy, Jon and the entire Titans organization for putting their faith in me. I am excited to get to work and that work starts now. We want to build a culture around winning, competitiveness and toughness. Everything we do is going to be geared towards winning and being physical. We want to prepare our players so they know what to do, which will allow them to play fast and aggressive.”
Vrabel learned from one of the best in the game while playing for Patriots coach Bill Belichick in New England for eight seasons. He also played for the Steelers under coach Bill Cowher, he’s worked under Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, and Houston head coach Bill O’Brien.
Robinson, hired as the team’s general manager in January 2016 after spending time with the Patriots and Buccaneers in the NFL, knows Vrabel from his days in New England.
“I have always had a great deal of respect for Mike as a player and as a coach,” Robinson said. “I saw him up close as a player for the Patriots and saw how he prepared himself to be successful on a daily basis. He was the ultimate team-first player and he embodies that same mindset as a coach. He is intelligent, energetic, detailed and a leader whose deep passion for this game will resonate with our players. As a coach, I have seen him develop talent at both the college and NFL level, and put players in position for them to be successful. I am excited to get him in front of our team and watch us grow together as a team.”
At the start of the search, Robinson was clear when asked what he was looking for in the team’s next head coach.
“Leader of men,” Robinson said. “Obviously, the things that are stamped out there on those pillars, team-first, detailed, tough, dependable. One that’s going to, like I said, maximize the abilities of the players in all three phases of the game.”
Vrabel served as defensive coordinator with the Texans last season after serving as linebackers coach from 2014-16 with the team.
Prior to that he coached at Ohio State, where he served as defensive line coach (2012-13) and linebackers coach.
Vrabel played 14 NFL seasons, with the Steelers (1997-2000), Patriots (2001-2008) and Chiefs (2009-2010).
From 2014-16, the Texans defense ranked third in the NFL in net yards allowed per game (319.9) while Vrabel served as linebackers coach. DE/LBs Jadeveon Clowney earned Pro Bowl honors under Vrabel’s tutelage, and linebackers Whitney Mercilus and Brian Cushing were productive playmakers. In 2015, Texans linebackers combined for 22.5 of the team’s franchise-record 45 sacks.
In 2012, Vrabel coached four Ohio State defensive linemen who were either drafted into the NFL or signed free agent contracts. That year, Vrabel was also named ESPN.com Big Ten Recruiter of the Year.
Vrabel played on three Super Bowl-winning teams with the New England Patriots, where he played 2001-2008. He played in 206 games over 14 seasons, registering 722 tackles, 57 sacks, 42 passes defensed, 11 interceptions, 20 forced fumbles, nine fumble recoveries and 12 touchdown receptions (as a tight end), including two in Super Bowls.
He was selected in the third round (91st overall) of the 1997 NFL Draft by the Steelers, and he played linebacker and on special teams under Cowher.
Vrabel played linebacker, on special teams and even on offense under Belichick with the Patriots.
An Akron, Ohio native, Vrabel graduated with a degree at Ohio State in exercise science. He earned back-to-back All-America honors and was twice named Big Ten conference Defensive Lineman of the Year (1995 and 1996).
The Titans went 9-7 in 2017, and beat the Chiefs in the AFC Wild Card round before losing to the Patriots in the divisional round.
Prior to deciding on Vrabel, the Titans also interviewed Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks and Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur.