The Titans have reached a deal with Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel to become the team's head coach.
Vrabel was the first of three candidates interviewed, witting down with general manager Jon Robinson and controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk on Thursday.
The Titans plan to introduce Vrabel at a press conference Monday.
“This is an incredible opportunity and one I have been preparing for my entire football life,” Vrabel said in a release from the team. “I want to thank Amy, Jon and the entire Titans organization for putting their faith in me. I am excited to get to work and that work starts now. We want to build a culture around winning, competitiveness and toughness. Everything we do is going to be geared towards winning and being physical. We want to prepare our players so they know what to do, which will allow them to play fast and aggressive.”
Vrabel, 42, had a pre-existing relationship with Robinson and was the only candidate who played in the NFL. The former All-Pro linebacker spent 14 seasons with the Steelers, Patriots and Chiefs and won three Super Bowls during his tenure with New England from 2001-08, which overlapped with Robinson’s time in the team’s personnel department.
“I have always had a great deal of respect for Mike as a player and as a coach,” Robinson said in a release from the team. “I saw him up close as a player for the Patriots and saw how he prepared himself to be successful on a daily basis. He was the ultimate team-first player and he embodies that same mindset as a coach. He is intelligent, energetic, detailed and a leader whose deep passion for this game will resonate with our players. As a coach, I have seen him develop talent at both the college and NFL level, and put players in position for them to be successful. I am excited to get him in front of our team and watch us grow together as a team.”
NFL playing experience – and Super Bowl rings – tend to command respect in the locker room.
Vrabel started 140 of 206 career games, recording 722 tackles, 57 sacks, 42 pass breakups, 11 interceptions, 20 forced fumbles and nine fumble recoveries.
He also caught 12 touchdowns as a tight end, meaning he has first-hand experience in what it means to maximize a player’s skill set, among the attributes that top Robinson’s list of priorities for the next head coach.
The Titans occasionally used cornerback Adoree’ Jackson on offense last season.
Vrabel began his coaching career at Ohio State, where he served one season as the linebackers coach and two seasons in charge of the defensive line before joining Bill O’Brien’s staff in Houston.
Vrabel has been with the Texans for four seasons, the first three as linebackers coach before being promoted to defensive coordinator.
The Texans, who lost cornerback A.J. Bouye in free agency and were hampered by injuries to several key players, including superstar defensive end J.J. Watt and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, finished dead last in scoring defense this season, allowing an average of 27.2 points per game.
The Titans also interviewed Panthers defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Steve Wilks on Thursday and Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur on Friday.
The Titans fired Mike Mularkey on Monday after he guided to team to a 21-22 record, including two consecutive winning seasons, the team's first playoff appearance in nine years and first postseason victory in 14 years.
“I am excited to have Mike Vrabel joining our organization as our new head coach,” Strunk said in a written statement. “In the interaction between Mike and Jon during the interview, you could see their connection right away from the history they have with one another – seeing the game in a similar way and talking the same language. Mike has a commanding presence and a deep knowledge for how he will attack this head coaching opportunity. Throughout his football career, he has played for, been mentored by and coached with successful teams and organizations. He knows what it takes to reach that level of sustained success – he has seen it first-hand. We have a chance to build on the solid foundation that we established over the past couple of years and I believe Mike is the right person to continue that progress.”
This is a breaking story and will be updated.
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