It is not hard to realize that Mike Vrabel is going through his toughest time as head coach of the Tennessee Titans.
Not only is this six-game losing streak the longest he has endured (by far), but at 7-9, the team will officially have its first regular season with a losing record under the fifth-year head coach.
It is hard to believe we are here because he is the reigning Coach of the Year, and it looked like he was going to have a chance at it again when the team jumped out to 7-3 after starting 0-2. While an absurd amount of injuries to an already flawed roster is a big part of what is going on with the Titans, several of Vrabel’s decisions are holding them back and have held them back throughout the year.
Resiliency and toughness can only get you so far when you lack what the majority of Super Bowl teams have, and reality has smacked both him and the team in the face with emphasis down the stretch of the 2022 season. Despite everything that has gone awry, the Tennessee Titans and Vrabel in particular have a chance to write some wrongs by getting back to what they do best.
Tennessee Titans are elite when Mike Vrabel has time on his side
This is a reason why Vrabel has consistently been one of the league’s best head coaches since entering the NFL. Coming into last year’s playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals, before which the Titans had a bye week, he was undefeated in his career when having 8+ days of rest in between games.
As you can see, Vrabel and the Tennessee Titans have not just won right after extra time off, they have usually dominated their opponents. Some of those wins have been a big road win in Dallas in 2018, a blowout home win against the Jacksonville Jaguars to add significant momentum to their eventual 2019 playoff run, and a blowout of a stacked Buffalo Bills team with a depleted roster due to COVID-19 in 2020.
The Tennessee Titans also had a huge overtime win in Baltimore in 2020 after a long week off. Admittedly, it was a tight game, but it was a gutsy effort and a situation where if they had lost, their season could have been in trouble. It is clearly not a fluke that Vrabel is so good when he has a few more days than usual to prepare.
Of course, his undefeated streak came to an end, as he is now 9-2 with both losses to the Bengals, who have pretty much been his kryptonite as long as he has been coaching. Even then, those losses have been by a combined seven points, and games like that could go either way at the end of the day.
So what do the Titans have this week? A game before which they will have had eight full days off. What is even more mind-blowing is that when you really think about it, this is a situation that normally plays right into Vrabel’s hands.
It is a game against a division opponent, and the Titans have usually won those convincingly since Vrabel took over. And not only is the whole team coming off of an extra few days of rest, but several are also coming off of almost two full weeks of rest.
Any player who was even slightly banged up sat out of last Thursday’s game since it was completely meaningless, and players such as Jeffery Simmons could especially benefit since he has had a nagging ankle injury since Week 7’s game.
Derrick Henry, who all of us know is no stranger to feasting on the Jaguars, also will be fresh after not playing last week, which is crucial since the team will have to win through him now and moving forward if they make the playoffs.
Even better news for the Titans is that their injury report so far this week looks pretty favorable, at least for their standards over the past two seasons. It obviously will not be perfect, but it feels like they have a chance to field the most ideal roster they have been able to in the past month plus.
You also have to remember that Josh Dobbs looked far from in over his head in his first career start, which was on a short week and without Henry. His life should be a little easier this time around too thanks to more practice time and an elite running back by his side.
While in the midst of a losing streak never before seen in the Vrabel era, nobody should be convinced that those trends hold a ton of weight, especially since the Jaguars have been extremely hot as of late. But the fact is that the Titans have a legit chance to win this game, and if they can get out of Duval with a win and playoff berth, it will once again remind us why Vrabel has done so well in his job.