Tennessee Titans HC Mike Vrabel mentioned in trade talks again

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots
Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages

The NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league and a trade between the Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots for head coach Mike Vrabel would be the perfect example.

Late last week Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reported that Robert Kraft's dream head coaching hire would be none other than Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel.

Volin mentioned that there is an understanding that the Patriots would have to give up a first-round pick and maybe more in exchange for Mike Vrabel, but that ownership was comfortable with that since that is what they did when they hired Bill Belichick decades earlier.

Two years ago the Tennessee Titans fan base would have laughed this off, but now the overwhelming majority seem to be in favor of a move like that.

Let's say that the cost for Mike Vrabel would be a 1st and a 3rd round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Currently, those would be the 5th pick and the 67th pick.

I floated a similar idea on Twitter/X when this story came out and 78% of fans said that they would take that deal.

Let me be clear, the offer isn't on the table and all we know is that Ben Volin (who has been covering the Patriots for over a decade) says that he has multiple sources that believe that Robert Kraft would be interested in making a deal.

However, if you are Amy Adams Strunk and this idea is presented to you, you have to take it right?

What is Mike Vrabel worth to the Tennessee Titans?

For just a second, let's stop talking about the myth of what Mike Vrabel is, and let's talk about what he actually is.

Vrabel's best qualities are that he is a good CEO-type coach who has excellent leadership traits and who builds great relationships with his players. He is well-respected throughout the NFL by players and coaches, and his reputation as a former player gives him a unique status around the league.

Ignoring this season, he has only had one losing season with the Titans which is impressive even though he did take over a team that was coming off of back-to-back winning seasons.

Warning fans, avert your eyes for this next part because here comes the list of cons.

He is a defensive-minded head coach, but his presence doesn't make a defense better. In his single season as an actual Defensive Coordinator for the Houston Texans, he was one of the worst coaches in the NFL. His defense dropped from 9th in defensive DVOA to 23rd and they allowed more points than any other defense in the NFL.

You saw a brief glimmer of that in the 2020 Tennessee Titans team. That was the season after Dean Pees retired and the Tennessee Titans mysteriously didn't name a Defensive Coordinator...

During that season, the Titans dropped from 12th in points allowed to 24th and they were one of the worst 3rd down defenses in NFL history.

What that shows you is that despite his pedigree as a "defensive-minded head coach" he doesn't actually know how to be a good (or even mediocre) DC. Now, that can certainly be mitigated by having good coordinators on the roster and that is why he did so well to start his career.

In 2019 Mike Vrabel had Arthur Smith as his Offensive Coordinator and Dean Pees as his Defensive Coordinator. During that season the Tennessee Titans went on a magical run in the playoffs before being beaten by the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.

If you take out the 2019 season, Mike Vrabel is 42-32 as a head coach and that is still a very good record. However, if you take out the 2019 season he is 0-2 in the playoffs and he is on track for more seasons missing the playoffs (2018, 2022, 2023) than making the playoffs (2020, 2021).

In their last 15 games, the Tennessee Titans are 3-12, they are 0-4 in their AFC South games, and they haven't won a single road game. It has been a brutal stretch and while injuries were the excuse last season, it has been ineptitude that has gotten this team beaten more often than an overwhelming talent deficiency.

If you want proof of how bad the Titans have been during that stretch, here is a stat that might blow your mind. Over the last 15 games, the only teams who have been worse than the Tennessee Titans are the Chicago Bears and the Arizona Cardinals.

The common defense for Vrabel over this stretch is that his teams are hurt but they are competing and he is getting the most out of his talent. However, the Tennessee Titans have a -81 point differential over that span meaning that they are losing a lot of these games by double-digits or touchdowns, not field goals.

Even if you are a Mike Vrabel believer and you think that he is going to win a Super Bowl, he certainly hasn't shown any reason to believe that he can do that because he is going to outcoach the field in the playoffs. If he wins it will be because he has assembled a good team of coordinators around him and he has a roster stacked with high-end talent.

He isn't in the same league as John Harbaugh, Pete Carroll, and Mike Tomlin, who consistently find ways to get the most out of their roster. Similarly, he isn't like Andy Reid, Doug Pederson, Mike McDaniel, or Kyle Shanahan who understand how to get the most out of their offensive players.

I can see why the New England Patriots want him, but it is less about what he has done as a head coach and it is more about the cache he has in New England and his nostalgic ties to the dynasty that made the Patriots one of the best franchises in the NFL.

It would be a leap of faith for the Patriots if they ever truly offered the Tennessee Titans a top-5 pick and more for Vrabel, but it would be an even bigger leap of faith for Amy Adams Strunk to say no.