- Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel is in only his second season as a head coach in the NFL.
- But he played for one of the all-time coaching greats for nine years, Bill Belichick.
- He’s on the verge of replacing Belichick as the NFL’s resident “evil genius.”
Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel does not come from the Bill Belichick coaching tree. But after playing for him for nine years and winning three Super Bowls, it’s safe to assume Belichick influenced his style.
Given that affiliation with Belichick, can we assume that the Titans have a future evil genius on their hands? Could Mike Vrabel be the Darth Vader to Belichick’s Emperor Palpatine?
Mike Vrabel, Evil Genius?
At this point, it may be a little soon to call him an evil genius. With some of the moves he has made this season, though, he seems to be well on his way to earning the “genius” tag.
Three specific ones stand out.
1. Benching Marcus Mariota for Ryan Tannehill
Benching a former No. 2 pick could not have been an easy thing for Vrabel to do heading into Week Seven. That kind of draft capital is not something you discard lightly.
But at 2-4, the season was still salvageable if the team could start winning games. There was no reason to think Marcus Mariota was going to turn the corner anytime soon—so Vrabel made the call.
He benched him for Ryan Tannehill.
The team went 7-3 with Tannehill at quarterback (who should win the Comeback Player of the Year award) and is now one game away from the Super Bowl.
Good call, Coach Vrabel.
2. Pulling a ‘Belichick’ on the Patriots Coach Himself
About the only thing that was entertaining about the Jets-Patriots game in October was the mind game Bill Belichick played on the Jets. During the fourth quarter, Belichick bled more than a full minute off the clock by exploiting a loophole in the rules involving penalties.
During the Titans-Patriots wild card game – which the Titans won 14-13 – Vrabel pulled the same maneuver on Belichick.
Belichick was not happy about that.
This could be considered evil, but since it was against the original evil genius? Eh, we’ll overlook it this time.
3. Utterly Embarrassing the Ravens
No one expected the Titans to beat the Ravens last week. But they didn’t just beat the Ravens—they controlled the game. Why? Because their head coach had a plan, they executed it, and it worked.
Vrabel talked about that strategy a little after the game, via ESPN:
They were beating people with shock and awe in the first quarter. We knew we had to do it with some turnovers and fourth-down stops. That’s the only way you can do it. Make Tucker kick some field goals.
Jackson was still able to generate over 500 total yards of offense while the Titans had 300. But the Ravens made more mistakes: 0-4 on fourth down, two interceptions, one fumble, four sacks, and seven penalties for 56 yards.
The Titans had no turnovers, no botched fourth-down conversions, gave up just one sack, and committed five penalties for 20 yards.
The Verdict on Mike Vrabel
Vrabel has made some undeniably excellent coaching moves this season.
Does that make him a genius? Benching Mariota was a brilliant decision, and his game plans against the Patriots and Ravens were phenomenal. Still, with just two seasons under his belt, the “mastermind” label may be a tad premature.
But that could change soon.
Should he figure out how to neutralize Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs and then go on to win the Super Bowl? That will take some genius-level coaching (and perhaps a dash of evil) – not to mention a small sacrifice.
This article was edited by Josiah Wilmoth.
Last modified: January 18, 2020 4:11 PM UTC