NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson couldn’t have been more clear Monday in the post-Mike Mularkey firing news conference as he talked about how important it was for the head coach, general manager and ownership to be aligned in vision, philosophy, everything.
“Paramount,” Robinson said with a fierce stare that let reporters know that maybe this was the most important factor in the upcoming search.
Yes, developing Marcus Mariota is essential. Yes, the Titans need to maximize their talent to make the next step. But Robinson has to trust the new head coach to successfully do all of those things and be on the same page on how to get that done.
That’s what prompted the Titans to hire Mike Vrabel.
First thoughts on the hire: Man, that was fast. The Titans had interviews with Vrabel and Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks on Thursday, then Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur on Friday. The hiring of Vrabel was announced Saturday evening, the day before the conference title games. Why then? It didn’t seem like the Titans had to compete with another team.
Regardless of the reason, it’s clear that Vrabel was always Robinson’s man. The plan appeared to be to hire a CEO head coach and strong leader to help lead the Titans down the Patriots’ path. The Patriots way is a big deal here, as Robinson and Vrabel spent seven years in New England together. They won two Super Bowls during that time, with Vrabel a player and Robinson as a scout.
The NFL is a relationship business, for better or worse, but there’s plenty of reason to trust Robinson’s judgment in making this move. Chasing a winning model similar to the one in New England isn’t something to frown upon. The key will be bringing in the personnel and building the culture to duplicate that success.
There will obviously be questions — like Vrabel’s four years of NFL coaching experience, just one as a coordinator, or the choice to hire a defensive-minded coach when Mariota’s slow development was such a big factor in the Mularkey firing.
The pressure is on Robinson now to bring the Titans a championship, and he’s putting his name on Vrabel being the man to lead this team. Robinson will likely tell us that there is no reward without risk, and that is true.
Speaking to people who have worked with Vrabel on several levels, the reaction has been extremely positive. Folks rave about his leadership, ability to relate to players and intelligence. As a first-time head coach, his readiness will be revealed in time. There’s no question his staff will be extremely important.
This video filmed by the Texans during Vrabel’s second year as linebackers coach and a tweet from one of his former players might give you an idea of who his players think he is.
Congratulations @CoachVrabel50 so deserving Texans just lost the Best coach they had!
— Vince Wilfork (@wilfork75) January 20, 2018
This a strong Titans locker room, but if the players react like the Texans did to Vrabel then he’ll win an important battle as head coach. This team isn’t too far from going where it wants to go and needs the right man to lead it.
“Everything we do is going to be geared towards winning and being physical,” Vrabel said. “We want to prepare our players so they know what to do, which will allow them to play fast and aggressive.”
Vrabel and Robinson are definitely aligned on that.