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The Tennessee Titans search for a new head coach ended over championship weekend as they’ve selected Houston Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel. Vrabel played linebacker for the Patriots from 2001-2008. He was part of the first three Tom Brady titles and infamously caught a touchdown pass in Super Bowls 38 and 39. Prior to his lone season as defensive coordinator, Vrabel served as the Texans linebacker coach from 2014-2017. This is an odd hire by the Titans especially considering defense wasn’t their weakness.

The Titans didn’t need a defensive specialist. They needed an offensive coach to mold Marcus Mariota as he has yet to live up to his phenomenal rookie year. At first it they looked like they were going to pluck Rams offensive coordinator Matt LeFleur from Sean McVay. The calculus seems to be that they want anyone with Belichickian ties to make them into the Patriots of the south. That logic has burned teams before. The Belichick coaching tree contains many rotten branches.

Charlie Weiss went from star offensive coordinator to being paid not to coach by Notre Dame and the University of Kansas. Romeo Crennel went from stud defensive coordinator to flaming out as a head coach with the Browns and Chiefs. Eric Mangini went from “Mangenius” with praise from Tony Soprano to being fired by the Jets and Browns. Josh McDaniels cratered in Denver although he could have a better run of it in Indianapolis. The point is Mike Vrabel isn’t a shoe-in to replicate the Patriot way.

This also throws the defense into question. Dick LeBeau did an excellent job getting the defense to perform well. They bailed out the Titans when the offense sputtered. He likely wouldn’t be retained in Mike Vrabel’s system. What ultimately matters is who a young coach like Vrabel fills out his staff with. He could pull a McVay and steal a veteran coordinator to handle the side of the ball he isn’t versed in like he did with the Rams defense and Wade Phillips. That position matters because the Titans need Mariota to progress.

Their playoff win likely cost them Josh McDaniels so this feels like a Belichickian consolation prize. Mike Vrabel could prove critics wrong but right now the Titans have made a very puzzling choice.

Sports Al Dente 2019

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