NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Five days after mutually agreeing to part ways with Mike Mularkey, the Tennessee Titans agreed to terms on a contract to make Houston Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel the 19th head coach in franchise history.
Vrabel was the first of three candidates to interview for the position since general manager Jon Robinson announced the team would be moving in a different direction from Mularkey on Monday, January 15th. The 42-year old spent three years in Houston, serving as linebackers coach from 2014 to 2016 before being promoted to defensive coordinator this season. He began his coaching career at his alma mater, Ohio State, after 14 years in the NFL as a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers (1997-200), New England Patriots (2001-2008) and Kansas City Chiefs (2009-2010).
“I have always had a great deal of respect for Mike as a player and as a coach,” said Robinson. “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.”
It was during Vrabel’s eight seasons in New England that he and Robinson crossed paths. Robinson joined the Patriots in 2002 as an area scout and worked his way up through the organization to become the director of college scouting from 2009 to 2013.
In Vrabel’s one year running Houston’s defense, the Texans finished in the bottom half of the league in most statistical categories except for run defense. Houston finished 13th against the ground game in 2017, allowing an average of 109.2 rushing yards per game and gave up a league-worst 27.3 points per game.
It should be noted that the Texans were marred by injury in the 2017-2018 season with 19 players on injured reserve by year’s end, including two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt.
“This is an incredible opportunity and one I have been preparing for my entire football life,” said Vrabel. “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.”
Tennessee’s decision to move on from Mularkey game on the heels of back-to-back 9-7 seasons and the first playoff win in over a decade. Expectations and philosophical differences are what led the team to move on from Mularkey and the standard will be set high for the rookie head coach coming into Nashville after the first appearance by the Titans in the postseason since 2008.
Vrabel will be officially introduced at a press conference at St. Thomas Sports park Monday, January 22nd.