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Mike Vrabel Must Be Grateful He Doesn't Coach the Detroit Lions

Read more on how Mike Vrabel luckily avoided coaching the Detroit Lions.
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Mike Vrabel is one lucky man right about now.

He's the head coach of a team in the Tennessee Titans that is now one step closer to clinching a playoff berth for the second straight year, after walloping a squad in the Detroit Lions that passed on him for its head coach opening in the winter of 2018. 

He was passed up for the job in favor of now ex-Lions head man Matt Patricia. 

And boy has that decision by the then-Detroit front-office brass led by former general manager Bob Quinn come to be a godsend for Vrabel.

While the Lions have plummeted since the start of the 2018 season, with just 14 wins in 46 games, the Titans have gone in the completely opposite direction. 

Under Vrabel's leadership, Tennessee has won at least nine games in each of his three years on the job, while also making an appearance in the AFC title game a year ago (lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, 35-24). 

Since last season, he's also had the luxury of a super efficient quarterback-running back tandem in the form of quarterback Ryan Tannehill and superstar running back Derrick Henry. 

Since drafting Matthew Stafford with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the closest thing the Lions have had to that came all the way back in 2013 with Stafford under center and Reggie Bush as the team's leading back.

It also marked the last time Detroit had a running back that rushed for 1,000 yards in a single season (Bush finished with 1,006). 

Meanwhile, Henry has amassed over 1,000 yards on the ground in each of the last three seasons, including a league-leading 1,540 yards in 15 games in 2019. 

And, he's already topped that total in 14 games in 2020. 

He accumulated 147 yards on the ground Sunday against the Lions, giving him a league-high 1,679 yards on the season. 


Cory Undlin's defense had a hard time bringing him down all afternoon long, as has been the case for many defenses that have faced "King Henry" this year. 

In fact, the fifth-year back's 100-plus-yard performance on Sunday marked his ninth such outing of the 2020 campaign.

Henry, who turns 27 January 4, is perhaps just entering the prime of his career, as well. 

He has all the makings of a back that the Titans can win with for years to come.

Meanwhile, the Lions have many elements of an organization that could easily be a losing team for years to come, including an extremely porous defense that allowed 46 points to Henry and the Titans. 

Detroit's defensive unit not only allowed Henry to have a dominant day on the ground, with 6.1 yards per rushing attempt. But, it also permitted Tannehill to have a nearly perfect day through the air. 

Tannehill finished the afternoon 21-of-27 passing for 273 yards, with five total scores (three passing and two rushing) and a 145.8 passer rating.

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Tannehill, who spent his first seven years in the league with the Miami Dolphins, has grown extremely comfortable playing the quarterback position in the Titans' offense, and seemingly has found a long-term home for himself in Tennessee. 

In stark contrast, Stafford appears to be nearing the end of the road in his tenure with the Lions. 

The organization, with two straight losing campaigns and a third on its way this year, is on the verge of a rebuild with its next regime, and there's a good chance it will be taking place without the quarterback that has called Detroit home for the past 12 seasons.

Give him credit for playing through a variety of injuries throughout the years, including back, thumb and rib ailments. 

He toughened it out in order to play Sunday, too, and put together a solid performance (22-of-32 for 252 yards and a TD), before being pulled prematurely in favor of backup quarterback Chase Daniel. 

"I’m the quarterback of the Detroit Lions, and it was Sunday and I got a bunch of teammates out there that work their ass off," Stafford commented after the Week 15 tilt. "If I’m good enough to play, healthy enough to play, my ass is gonna be out there."

In his postgame media session, Lions interim head man Darrell Bevell couldn't say enough about Stafford's "gritty" performance. 

"You know, just got to start off by talking about Matthew and you know, the toughness that that guy shows, and you know, the gritty performance that he was able to have today," Bevell told reporters. "To even get himself right to go out there and play, I thought that was just gutsy and gritty by him. And it doesn't really surprise me, like I talked about during the week." 

It was a gutsy performance from Stafford, with him playing through a rib cartilage injury that he suffered during the fourth quarter of last week's matchup with the Green Bay Packers. 

But, if this is really the end of the line for Stafford in the Motor City, he'll leave without ever having recorded a single playoff victory.

Tannehill's already accumulated two postseason wins in his short, two-year stint in Tennessee. 

It's a glaring sign of the fact that the Lions and Titans are going in opposite directions as organizations. 

Vrabel is one lucky man. He ended up becoming the head coach of a franchise that is set up to win for many years to come, unlike the one in Detroit that is once again pressing the restart button. 

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