NASHVILLE – Mike Vrabel has shown the sort of staying power his immediate predecessors did not.
Sunday’s 33-30 overtime victory at Seattle was Vrabel’s 50th regular season game with the Tennessee Titans, which makes him the franchise’s first head coach since Jeff Fisher to stick around that long.
Not only has he brought stability, he has brought success. With the come-from-behind triumph over the Seahawks, Vrabel improved to 30-20 in his current role and became the second-fastest coach in franchise history to win 30 games. The only one to win 30 games faster was Jack Pardee, who did it in his first 48 contests.
“I try to focus on improving and getting better and how I lead this football team and how we get ready and prepare, the product we put on the field, making sure the operation is clean and the players know what to do,” Vrabel said recently. “… When (the players) go out there, we have to have confidence in them that they know their job and they are going to go out there and execute. At that point in time, it is the 11 players on the field.
“As far as my reflection, I just have to make sure that we continue to not do things that get us beat and emphasize the things that we believe are important.”
Overall, Vrabel is the 19th different coach in franchise history and the fifth of the Titans era (1999-present).
Fisher is the Titans/Oilers all-time leader in wins with 147, but it took him 64 games to get his 30th. His last season was 2010, and what followed was a rapidly changing line of successors from Mike Munchak (48 games) to Ken Whisenhunt (23 games) to Mike Mularkey (41 games). Of those last three, Mularkey was the only one whose tenure included playoff games, but even his two from 2017 got him to 43 games overall.
In addition to Fisher and Pardee, only Bum Phillips, Jerry Glanville and Wally Lemm coached for 50 games or more. Among those six, Vrabel’s .600 winning percentage in the regular season is second only to Bum Phillips (.611). Yet it took Phillips 53 games to get to 30 victories.
“He’s done a great job,” Jim Mora Jr., a former NFL head coach for two franchises, said of Vrabel. “He’s very consistent. I think he’s very direct with his team, his players. They know exactly what they’re going to get. I think they have trust in him.
“… I like watching (the Titans) play. I like watching him coach. I like his style on the sidelines. He displays professionalism. I think he displays toughness. I think he displays a belief in his team and his players, and those things are all so critical. … He’s their leader. They look at him. There’s a sense of confidence, a sense of resolve. And I think it’s really important to that organization.”
Sunday was the eighth time under Vrabel the Titans won when they trailed after three quarters, which accounts for 26.7 percent of his total victories. In this case, they were behind by eight with 15 minutes to play but the deficit grew to 14 fewer than two minutes later.
With their latest rally, which included Derrick Henry’s game-tying touchdown in the final minute of regulations, the Titans improved to 4-0 in overtime with Vrabel in charge.
Only two of the franchise’s first 18 coaches managed postseason victories than the two Vrabel notched during the 2019 season.
“He played the game at the highest level, at a championship level for championship team – he has rings to prove it – so he walks in with credibility every single day,” Mora said. And he’s garnered (the players’) trust, their respect.
“This is his team. You see his imprints all over the team in the way they play – the discipline, the toughness, the attention to detail, the fight that they show, the grit that they show.”
All indications are that he will have plenty more opportunities to show it.