Where do Tennessee Titans land on NFL coach power ranking?

NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 24: Tennessee Titan's Head Coach Mile Vrabel speaks on stage to the crowd during SiriusXM Hosts Draft Week Party At Margaritaville Featuring The Highway's "Music Row Happy Hour" And SiriusXM NFL Radio's "Movin' The Chains" on April 24, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 24: Tennessee Titan's Head Coach Mile Vrabel speaks on stage to the crowd during SiriusXM Hosts Draft Week Party At Margaritaville Featuring The Highway's "Music Row Happy Hour" And SiriusXM NFL Radio's "Movin' The Chains" on April 24, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images for SiriusXM) /

An incomplete opinion of the Tennessee Titans second year head coach.

The Tennessee Titans went 9-7 with a rookie coaching staff despite losing a Pro Bowl TE and their top-2 receivers from 2017, and with an injury to QB Marcus Mariota.

Surely people will see that and be impressed with the sample size they have from Mike Vrabel and company right? Well, maybe not.

In Bleacher Report’s NFL coaches power rankings, the Tennessee Titans coaching staff ranked 19th for…reasons. Let’s take a look at the analysis piece by piece:

"“In Mike Vrabel’s first season in charge, the Titans won nine games and narrowly missed the playoffs despite a roster that wasn’t chock-full with talent. In the team’s Week 17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts—the game that put Indy in the postseason and knocked the Titans out—Blaine Gabbert was the starting quarterback.”"

Alright so far so good, this is all pretty accurate. The Titans roster wasn’t as talented last year as it had been in recent years or as talented as it is now for a few reasons. Firstly, Delanie Walker, Eric Decker and Rishard Matthews accounted for 64% of the passing offense in Tennessee during 2017.

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All three of those players were either let go or missed 90% of the snaps on offense. That would hurt any team in the NFL no matter how experienced their coach was.

Combine this with the decline of Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo as pass rushers and you are going to have a team that doesn’t quite have as much talent as it looked like at the end of 2017.

Also, the writer does a good job noting that Gabbert was the starting QB in Week 17 because of a deadly spine injury to Marcus Mariota, which was a pretty big deal. Based on how that game went with Gabbert in, you could make the argument that it would have been very close if not a win for Tennessee if Marcus Mariota started.

Like I said, so far so good. Let’s keep going.

"“The Titans were also a sneaky-good eighth in total defense last year under the tutelage of Vrabel and coordinator Dean Pees.Opponents may not be terrified of the Titans, but they surely don’t look forward to the matchup either.”"

This is all still fair. I don’t know if I would call the Titans defense “sneaky-good”. The only stat that really matters on defense in PPG and the Tennessee Titans ranked 3rd in that category just behind the Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears.

Let’s wrap this up:

"“Tennessee did miss the playoffs last year, though. And there are big questions on offense after LaFleur bolted for Green Bay and Vrabel made the occasional gaffe in his rookie season, including an ill-advised two-point try against the Chargers in London that cost the team a chance at overtime.So while Vrabel’s staff sneaks inside the top 20, it’s just barely.”"

Whoops. Nope, now we are getting into some shaky territory.

Let’s all be honest, LaFleur was outright bad as an OC. Instead of attacking what was working, too often he fell back on establishing the run game and for play-calling balance. The problem is that balance doesn’t have to mean a 50/50 split, so forcing the run when it isn’t there and being predictable is a mark of inexperience.

A better OC would have designed plays for Corey Davis more frequently, been more creative, been less predictable, and would have figured out a way to prevent Marcus Mariota from being sacks a career high 42-times.

His saving grace is that he is a great interview and he is young enough to step out of the way and let Aaron Rodgers run the show in Green Bay. He is a hard worker and wants to do well in the league and there is still a chance that he will become a good play caller in the NFL one day, but that isn’t why he got a head coaching job.

Moving on. People look at the box score and scoff saying that Mike Vrabel should have just kicked the extra point and forced overtime, but that just isn’t correct. Sure, they probably should have called a run (looking at you again LaFleur) but the move to go for two was absolutely correct.

Don’t forget that Kendrick Lewis was starting in place of safety Kenny Vaccaro and had already given up two 50+ yard touchdowns. Do we really think that Philip Rivers wasn’t going to get them into field goal range or score?

Also, let’s go over the other side of those “occasional gaffes” by Mike Vrabel:

-Faked a punt for a touchdown in Week 2 vs the Houston Texans to basically decide the game.

-Put in a wildcat package for that Week 2 game that was crucial to winning.

-Went for the win instead of the field goal (tie) in overtime vs the Philadelphia Eagles.

-Turned Adoree Jackson into a shadow corner the week before the New England Patriots game, which completely shut down that offense.

-Above average in converting 4th downs.

-He called defense very aggressively, which is how the Titans ended up with 39 sacks despite only getting one sack from Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan combined.

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I mean, you could do this all day but the gambles Vrabel took were always calculated and his aggressive mindset was evident throughout the season. More often than not it was Vrabel’s aggressiveness that won the game, but people only remember the one game it cost them despite the thought process being right.

19th is too low for Vrabel. Being ranked behind Bill O’Brien whose fans (and apparently GMs) thing he is the problem and not the solution, as well as Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys seems like a slap in the face.

However, it is definitely too soon to put him anywhere near the top-12 in a year where he didn’t make the playoffs.

After adding talent this offseason and having one of the better rosters in the NFL despite public perception, there is no excuse for not winning this year. If he makes the playoffs, I expect to see Vrabel as a top-10 coach immediately.

If that happens, there is a good chance that he will have 19 or 20 wins in his first two years as a head coaching, ranking him among some great company.

Going into this year the evaluation gets a lot easier, there are no excuses to lose, and no excuses not to have him in the top-10 if they win, it is just that simple.