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Titans Fire Vrabel-- Was He Really the Issue?

Updated: Jan 24

Yesterday, the Titans announced that they have parted ways with 6-year head coach, Mike Vrabel.

After back to back losing seasons and the team's first 4th place finish in the AFC South in 8 years, owner Amy Adams Strunk made the move that was "as difficult as any {she's} made as Controlling Owner.”

There were whisperings of Vrabel's uncertain future but really, it seemed that much of that was noise and that Vrabel's 4 winning seasons, AFC Championship appearance, and 2021-22 Coach of the Year award would be enough to keep him in place.

When the Titans traded AJ Brown to the Eagles in 2022, it was a big deal. But it would have been hard to predict the magnitude to which it still impacts the Tennessee Titans today:

It felt as though last season's firing of longtime GM, Jon Robinson, was both a direct response to the Brown trade and an unwavering vote of confidence for Mike Vrabel. Just a year later, though, he is gone, and the same vote of confidence is given to current GM, Ran Carthon.

There must be alignment between a team's players, coaching staff, front office, and ownership. While Vrabel may not have most ideally aligned with this objective, the team is in a strong position to succeed next season and onward.

Still, the team opted for an unknown at head coach even with "enviable cap space and a top 10 draft pick." as Amy Adams mentioned in her statement.

Many aspects of this move feel irrational and premature. While its fair to have high expectations, it is not fair to make poor management decisions and, years later, fire the coach thinking that was issue.

Robinson's alarming misses in the draft (ex: Isaiah Wilson RD1 2020, Caleb Farley RD1 2021, Treylon Burks RD1 2022) set the team back. Furthermore, the single move of trading AJ Brown, the team's top target, rising star, and Vrabel favorite, put the organization in a hole.

After potential distrust in the last Coach-GM relationship, as shown by the various draft disagreements, it felt as though Ran Carthon was very much a Vrabel hire. After all, Amy Adams said that Vrabel had her full support last offseason, just like she did with Mike Mularky before firing him two weeks later.

Amy Adams is keen on the Head Coach-General Manager connection and cohesion across coaching, management, and ownership. When Carthon was hired a year ago, he was said to be an equal to Vrabel, meaning they'd work in tandem on every major decision and collaborate to come to an answer.

While it seemed strong at first, the Vrabel-Carthon relationship was destined to fail from the beginning. Before the Carthon hiring, Vrabel reportedly wanted complete control of the team's roster decisions. As someone known for his stubbornness, Amy Adams denial of this request and ensuing hire of Carthon likely hurt this relationship to an unrepairable degree.

Reports from The Athletic suggest that Amy Adams did not feel that her trust in Vrabel was being reciprocated either. These facts, along with Vrabel's 13-21 record over the last 2 seasons seems to have ultimately caused the fallout.

There is a reason current and former players have had such an adverse reaction to this firing. Vrabel has an unmatched ability to connect with his players and with the right pieces, even if imperfect, has become a proven winner. While appearing hard-nosed and unforgiving, the various stories of Vrabel's thoughtfulness and engagement in the community will be missed as well.

With a 54-48 record across his 6 seasons, the Titans have significant shoes to fill.

Vrabel is a victim of the circumstances and while he is one of the league's better coaches, a valid argument can be made on both sides. Still, it is tough to justify reentering the dreaded coaching carousel when you had the best coach on the market.

While shocking, this move could modernize the team and importantly, let Ran cook.

Keep an eye out for more from in the coming weeks on how exactly the Titans could modernize and take a needed step forward after this significant news.

Also, check out this Derrick Henry video

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