The Tennessee Titans fired coach Mike Vrabel on Tuesday, marking the end of a six-year run.

Vrabel had winning records in his first four seasons and started 7-3 in his fifth before the wheels came off in Nashville. The Titans lost their final seven games of the 2022 season and missed the playoffs for the first time since Vrabel’s first season in Tennessee in 2018. That losing streak would carry over to this season before Tennessee finally snapped it in Week 2.

Still, Vrabel was 6-18 in his final 24 games, and controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk felt like it was time to make a move two days after the season ended.

“As I continued to assess the state of our team, I arrived at the conclusion that the team would also benefit from the fresh approach and perspective of a new coaching staff,” Strunk said in a statement.

Vrabel, 48, becomes the sixth coach to be fired this season.

As Vrabel ends his tenure with the Titans with a 54-45 record, ESPN’s experts weigh in on what the move means for Vrabel, the Titans and the rest of the NFL.

Why make this move now?

The Titans are coming off a second consecutive down season, and there was a lot of talk around the team in recent weeks that there would be postseason meetings about the direction of the franchise. It also seemed clear that Vrabel and first-year general manager Ran Carthon weren’t on the same page about everything. I’m not sure it’s as simple as “one of them had to go,” but Amy Adams Strunk’s statement made it clear that a big part of the reason for this move was to make sure the coach and GM are aligned going forward, and that she didn’t think that would be the case if Vrabel stayed. So, knowing that, you make the move now so you can get going on your search. — Dan Graziano

How desirable is this job? What roster issues will the new coach face?

This is, quite squarely, a middle-of-the-road job. It offers some upside but is clearly a rebuild with chances for Year 1 growing pains. The strength of the team is the defense, particularly the defensive line, but Tennessee could lose several key players to free agency, including end Denico Autry, linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair and corners Sean Murphy-Bunting and Kristian Fulton. The offense has been allergic to high-clip passing yardage, the offensive line needs a major overhaul and the receiver position hasn’t been good enough since A.J. Brown was traded. All of that begs for an offensive-minded head coach to get strong consideration.

Rookie quarterback Will Levis showed promise, but he needs more support around him — particularly along the offensive line. At least the NFL is designed to rebuild quickly, and the Titans are projected to have over $85 million in cap space, according to Roster Management System. With a few prudent free agency moves — along with a productive draft — Tennessee can be on the upswing. And the new coach can have a hand in the recrafting of the roster, which will be attractive to some, if reasonable patience is promised. — Jeremy Fowler

If the Patriots job opens up, should we expect Vrabel to be a candidate?

Yes. Vrabel was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame this season. He has an affinity for the organization and the organization has an affinity for him. And if you’re thinking, “Well, no one from the Bill Belichick coaching tree has had success,” you’re right, but … Vrabel didn’t coach under Belichick. He played for him and started his NFL coaching career in Houston under Bill O’Brien. So that critique might not apply here. Vrabel is a very good head coach who I think will be a candidate in several places. And linebackers coach Jerod Mayo has been thought to be the Belichick successor for a while now and might get the job if Belichick leaves. But if it’s not Mayo, then yes, I think Vrabel will be firmly in the mix. — Graziano

Whom might the Titans consider to replace Vrabel?

With Carthon involved in the hiring, he could lean on his experiences from San Francisco, where he served as a personnel executive from 2017 to 2022. Houston Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik would make sense in that regard. He was with coach Kyle Shanahan for six seasons and is having success with Houston coach DeMeco Ryans, also a San Francisco disciple. Another intriguing name is Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Frank Smith, a top assistant for coach Mike McDaniel, who was a longtime Shanahan assistant. Could see someone from that mold. The Titans have made it clear that collaboration will be key, so they will likely target someone eager to align and work closely with Carthon. The defensive pool is a bit stronger, so Tennessee would be smart to evaluate some of the defensive coordinators such as Dan Quinn (Cowboys), Raheem Morris (Rams), Mike Macdonald (Ravens) and Steve Wilks (49ers), who also has the Shanahan tie. — Fowler

What is the biggest draft need?

Offensive tackle. After drafting Peter Skoronski in the first round in 2023 and moving him to guard, the Titans have a massive need at left tackle. They took 64 sacks this season, which tied for the fourth most. In the first round, it’s likely either Olumuyiwa Fashanu (Penn State) or Joe Alt (Notre Dame) would be there at No. 7 overall for this rebuilding offense. — Matt Miller

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *