Mike Vrabel attempted a clarification on Monday when he said the Tennessee Titans had a defensive coordinator throughout the 2020 NFL season, even if no one actually had the title.
He did not say that the Titans needed one for 2021. Apparently, though, that is the case.
According to a report out of Pittsburgh, the Titans interviewed Steelers senior defensive assistant/secondary coach Teryl Austin on Thursday with the idea that he could direct Tennessee’s defense, which was the NFL’s worst on third down and third-worst when it came to quarterback sacks this season.
Outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen ran meetings during the week and called plays during games but never was officially recognized as the one in charge.
The Titans interviewed Austin as part of their 2016 search for a head coach that eventually ended with the decision to keep Mike Mularkey, the interim head coach for the final nine games of 2015.
Austin, 55, was defensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions from 2014-17 and for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2018. His best defense was his first. The 2014 Lions finished second in the NFL in yards allowed, third in points and were the NFL’s best against the run, in terms of yards per carry and yards per game.
In 2018, Detroit interviewed him in a search for a head coach but ultimately hired Matt Patricia, who was fired during the 2020 regular season.
“I think moving forward, that if I have another opportunity, and if things work out that ... I deserve to get (a job as head coach), I’ll get one,” he told the Detroit Free Press at that time. “If not, I’ll move on, I’ll coach the guys the best way I can and go from there."
Austin has been an NFL assistant coach since 2003, with the exception of 2010, when he was the defensive coordinator at Florida in Urban Meyer’s final season there. Meyer is expected to become the Jacksonville Jaguars head coach this week.
Austin has coached defensive backs with the Seattle Seahawks (2003-06), the Arizona Cardinals (2007-09) and the Baltimore Ravens (2011-13). He won a Super Bowl in his final season with the Ravens.
He has been in his current role with the Steelers for two seasons.
Austin is credited with creating and implementing a particular drill that is used to evaluate defensive backs at the annual NFL Scouting Combine. The ‘Teryl Austin Drill’ requires defensive backs to backpedal, turn, then plant, run forward and attempt to intercept a pass.
“He’s awesome,” Steelers safety Jordan Dangerfield said in 2019. “It’s just, he’s down to earth. He’s around. If you got a question, he’s there to answer it. I mean, he’s about his job. He’s in here, he’s coaching us, he’s teaching us.”