The Tennessee Titans have fired Mike Vrabel and are now in the market for a new, offensive-minded head coach.
There are plenty of people who are saying that this is the wrong move, but I disagree. Let's look at what Mike Vrabel's entire career looked like and talk about what is best for the future of the franchise.
After one year as a defensive coordinator for the Houston Texans, Mike Vrabel was hired by the Tennessee Titans. He was put in an excellent position to succeed early because he took over a team that had back-to-back 9-7 seasons and was coming off of a playoff win on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Over his six-year career with the Tennessee Titans, he was 54-45 and while everyone remembers the peaks of his career like going to the AFC Championship game or grabbing the 1-seed, no one seems to treat the rest of his career equally.
Everyone is too busy asking fans to "think about his whole resume" and highlighting just the positive things he did to talk about what Vrabel's whole career looked like. So what happened during Mike Vrabel's time in Tennessee?
Well, he made the playoffs three times in his six-year career and finished with a 2-3 record with his last win coming after the 2019 season (four seasons ago).
During that time he led the Titans to back-to-back AFC South titles for the first time in franchise history. However, he also was just 1-8 in his last nine division games and finished at the bottom of the AFC South despite competing with a disappointing Jacksonville Jaguars team and the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts who were both projected to be among the worst teams in the NFL heading into the season.
At the end of the day, he had some great highs when the roster was great, and he had some bad lows when the roster around him was bad. Despite saying that he never wanted to be a coach who was defined by how talented his roster was, that is exactly what he became.
And that is ok. It is fine. It is what happens around the NFL all the time...but it isn't elite.
People are going to have their opinions on what Mike Vrabel is, and some fans will always associate him with the best times in recent memory and they will always say that he just needed a better roster. What is undeniable at this point is that he is not in the same coaching tier as Mike Tomlin, Pete Carrol, Andy Reid, or other elite coaches who have been able to get the most out of what they have.
People are going to talk about how the Tennessee Titans don't have a plan because they just fired a top-5 coach in the NFL, but that just isn't what the product on the field tells you.
Was he limited by personnel? Absolutely. Is he the right person to leave in charge of developing Will Levis and finding a modern passing offense that gets the most out of him? No, and that is the problem.
This is a franchise that needs to stop being defined by running backs and punters. Take A.J. Brown for example. When he was in Tennessee he had 2,995 yards in three seasons, but in two years in Philadelphia, he has 2,952 yards. The one time in the last two decades where the Tennessee Titans had a stud WR1 in the offense, he was still only getting about 70% of the production that similar players were getting around the league because that wasn't what the Titans wanted to emphasize.
When Mike Vrabel spoke this offseason he said repeatedly that the Tennessee Titans had to get better on the offensive line. His answer was to sign Andre Dillard, draft Peter Skoronski, and move Aaron Brewer to center (Ran Carthon gets credit for signing Brunskill given their history together).
Somehow the offensive line got WORSE, reaching nearly historic levels of ineptitude by allowing 65 sacks and getting quarterbacks hurt on three separate occasions this year.
Will Levis looks like he can be a franchise QB if he is surrounded by the right supporting cast, and when Amy Adams Strunk and Mike Vrabel met this week she must have come to the conclusion that it was going to be more of the same from him going forward.
In her statement addressing the firing, she alluded to the Tennessee Titans needing a more modern coach who is focused on moving into a modern era of football that doesn't view the passing game as something that they are forced to deal with.
Buck Reising has said that Detroit Lions OC Ben Johnson is expected to be a name to watch for the Tennessee Titans, and that is a step in the right direction.
This team and this fan base deserve a good product that is fun to watch, and for the past two seasons they have been neither. Getting the next head coach correct is crucial to Amy Adams Strunk's reputation, but at this point, the decision was whether to fire Vrabel in 2024 or in 2025. Rather than having a lame-duck year, Amy Adams Strunk elected to rip off the bandaid and to let the coach who will be the coach in 2025 work with Ran Carthon to figure out the right way to spend money and draft picks this season.
Hopefully, this means that the ban on undersized, dynamic players has been lifted. Instead of asking whether a wide receiver can block, the Tennessee Titans can find playmakers. Instead of focusing on guys who are "tough as a $2 steak" they can focus on guys who are good at blocking defensive linemen. Instead of versatility, maybe the Titans can focus on quality.
Like every coaching move an owner makes, time will tell whether the next coach can be better than the last coach, but the recent results weren't good enough and everyone calling this a bad move now would be blaming Amy Adams Strunk for not moving on if/when the Titans had another losing season in 2024.
Thanks for the memories, but it is time to stop living in 2019 and it is time to start looking ahead to what the best thing for the future of the franchise is.