New Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel took ownership of the job in his introductory press conference on Monday at St. Thomas Sports Park.
Vrabel, who was hired by the Titans on Saturday, said in his initial press conference that despite his lack of experience as a head coach he understands the great responsibility that will be on him in the role.
Vrabel, who served one season as the Houston Texans defensive coordinator, was asked if he would call the defense himself, rather than pass that chore to a coordinator, indicated that he plans to have major hand in all aspects of the team’s game plan and play calling.
“I’m the head coach, I can call whatever play I want, right? That’s the idea. We’re going to have a (defensive) coordinator, we’re going to have an offensive coordinator, we’re going to have a special team coordinator,” Vrabel said. “If I say I want to block a punt, we’re going to go block a punt. If I want to throw a shot, we’re going to throw a shot. That’s what goes with sitting in that seat, and you’ve got to answer to those questions.
“If you want to blitz and they score a touchdown, like we did in the Super Bowl (vs. the Giants) and lost the game. We were in New England and we blitzed and they completed it and (we) lost the game. Somebody’s got to stand up, it’s what you do. Here’s what you do, here’s my job: is going to be to accept responsibility, give credit and be decisive. That’s what I’m going to do, and that’s what I told Amy (Adams Strunk) and Jon (Robinson) that that’s what I’m going to do.”
Early speculation has had Ohio State co-offensive coordinator Ryan Day, a Chip Kelly protégé, as a candidate for the offense, and Packers’ defensive backs coach Darren Perry was reported as a possible defensive coordinator candidate.
But Vrabel said Monday there is no set timetable for establishing a coaching staff.
“I don’t want to put a timetable on it because I want the right guys. Jon (Robinson) and I are going through it, and there’s a lot of guys out there that I want to coach and I want to have a part of the Titans moving forward,” Vrabel said. “Nothing really to report on that end but that we’re in the process of bringing the best guys in here. Just like we do with players, we’re not going to rush into decisions. We’re going to sleep on things. We’re going to get the right guys in here for our team.”
First and foremost on the to-do list for Vrabel is to find a way to right quarterback Marcus Mariota, who regressed statistically in 2017, throwing just 13 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions. It was Mariota’s backsliding and the Titans’ reluctance to be more flexible offensively that led to Mike Mularkey’s firing and created the opening for Vrabel.
It will be on Vrabel and Day (or whoever becomes the OC) to make things easier for Mariota to develop. In terms of his offensive philosophy, Vrabel is looking for ways to do just that and won’t force the issue when it doesn’t make sense to.
“I think that we’re going to run the football. We’re going to run it from the quarterback being under center, we’re going to run it from the quarterback being in gun,” Vrabel said. “We’re going to give Marcus (Mariota) some easy access throws, whether that be RPOs or run reliefs. We’re not going to run it into eight or nine guys, we’re not going to be silly. I believe in screens, I believe in play action, things that he does well.”
Vrabel said the Mariota’s abilities out of play-action were things that scared defensive coordinators game-planning against him, and he plans to use it to the Titans’ advantage.
“We were scared to death, again, when we do the stats and we run the statistics, he’s averaging 17 or 18 yards a completion in play action. Those things scare you as a defensive coordinator, those are big plays that change field position,” he said.
“Those are things that we believe in, but we’re going to run the football and we’re going to do it from different ways, different backfield alignments.”
Defensively, Vrabel also plans to borrow from the Patriots’ so-called hybrid look, one where the coverages stay the same in the secondary, but the front seven presents multiple looks, depending upon the opponent and the in-game situations.
“What we are is – and I have a philosophy defensively – that we’re going to have coverage consistency, and we’re going to have front multiplicity. We have great players, we’re going to introduce our coverage concepts to them, that’s going to remain consistent throughout what we do,” Vrabel said. “Then we’re going to have guys upfront that may be geared towards an under defense, over defense, three down, five down, we’re going to have a lot of multiplicity in our front. So, it’s coverage consistency, front multiplicity.”
It was clear from Monday’s press conference that Vrabel was the target for Robinson all along after he moved on from Mularkey, 48 hours after the Titans’ season ended in the divisional playoffs.
“I’ve watched Mike Vrabel first-hand as a player. He’s one of the toughest players, one of the smartest players on those New England teams. He was a demanding teammate. He was a selfless teammate and above all for him it was always about doing what is best for the team and winning,” Robinson said. He quickly transitioned into the coaching ranks and rose through those ranks. Mike has a great presence, excellent leadership skills, excellent knowledge of the game and I am extremely proud to be partnered with him as we, everyone in this organization, works together as a team toward our ultimate goal of bringing a championship to this great city, this great state and our outstanding fan base.”
The goal, of course, it to somehow transform the Titans in to a championship-type squad, somehow in the mold of the New England Patriots, where both men spent many years. And though the Vrabel admits he has been fortunate to learn from the likes of Bill Belichick, Bill Cowher and Urban Meyer as a player and an assistant coach, he is excited to build his own tradition with Robinson in Tennessee – one he hopes other teams will eventually want to emulate themselves.
“I think to get a ‘Way,’ you have to win. You have to be able to win championships before people start giving you ‘Ways’ to do things. That will be our ultimate goal, but I talked about how our players are going to be prepared,” Vrabel said. “They’re going to play fast and aggressive, and that’s what I believe in. Until we can win a championship doing that, then there’s not going to be this ‘Titans Way.’ That will be talked about in the building, but people from outside the building, they won’t believe in us, they won’t have faith in us until you win.”