I was reading this super interesting article on Texans linebackers coach Mike Vrabel and it seems like the former Patriots great has made the full transition to coaching. Vrabel retired from the NFL after the 2010 season and immediately became the linebackers coach at Ohio State.
After three years of coaching in college, Vrabel was hired by the Texans where he is entering his third season as a linebackers coach. If you ask people around the league, the former versatile linebacker is destined for greatness.
"Vrabel has that 'it' factor you can't teach," an NFL executive told the Houston Chronicle on condition of anonymity. "You can see that what he was like as a player - a tough, smart, determined guy - translates very well to what he does now as a coach. He's a huge part of what the Texans are doing on defense. I can tell you that he's on a short list with a bunch of teams as a defensive coordinator candidate.
"He's such a good leader that I could also see him skipping a step and being a head coach without going the coordinator route. You can see why the Texans stepped up to keep him."
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was one of Vrabel’s biggest advocates this offseason when new 49ers head coach Chip Kelly was looking for a defensive coordinator, a job which Vrabel ultimately declined. Also, what are the odds that Belichick was the anonymous NFL executive?
Vrabel appreciates the stability in Houston and believes that he has much to learn under Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. Crennel served that same role for the Patriots dynasty in the early 2000s.
With Patriots own defensive coordinator Matt Patricia looking for head coaching jobs in the near future, I have to wonder how Belichick would feel about bringing in an semi-outsider like Vrabel to call the defensive shots.
Former linebackers coach Patrick Graham was expected to be Patricia’s heir, but he left for the Giants this offseason. Brian Flores is the now the next in line, but Vrabel has arguably more experience in coaching as Flores was the safeties coach for the past four seasons, before moving to linebackers coach for this upcoming season. Vrabel is entering his sixth season as a defensive coach.
The other candidate would be cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer, who has coached in the secondary since 2009. Belichick promoted Eric Mangini from defensive backs coach to defensive coordinator, and technically Patricia was the safeties coach prior to his promotion, so it wouldn’t be an anomaly, but both Patricia and his predecessor Dean Pees had experience as linebackers coaches before becoming defensive coordinators.
Vrabel isn’t a stranger to the team, clearly has experience at both linebacker and linebackers coach, is serving under former Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, and if Belichick truly supported his ability for the 49ers job, why would we eliminate Vrabel from contention if Patricia sets out in the next year or two?
I think we could watch Vrabel come to the Patriots and seamlessly slide into a role. It would be like watching Deion Branch rejoin the Patriots offense and playing like he had never left.
Speaking of Patriots coordinators possibly leaving, we all know that our time with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is coming to a close in the near future. In fact, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he signed a head coaching role in each of the past two offseasons. I’ll be shocked if he sticks around beyond 2016, unless he has a handshake deal in place with head coach Bill Belichick to be his successor.
It is assumed that tight ends coach Brian Daboll would take over for McDaniels upon his departure.
So where would Patricia and McDaniels possibly go? Here’s my short list of hot seats.
Hot, but not where I would project Patricia and McDaniels
Bills, Rex Ryan
Colts, Chuck Pagano
Both Ryan and Pagano need to reach the playoffs this upcoming year or they’re likely gone. I just don’t see either Patricia or McDaniels taking a job with a division rival. I also think McDaniels and Patricia are looking for quality owners that don’t meddle and Colts owner Jim Irsay is one of the more intrusive owners out there.
Desirable jobs that could be great
Jaguars, Gus Bradley
Chargers, Mike McCoy
The Jaguars have shown some serious dedication to head coach Gus Bradley after the Jaguars have continued to struggle to win on the field. The ownership in Jacksonville really appreciates how far the team has come and bad they were prior to his arrival. They show a commitment that McDaniels and Patricia would appreciate, while featuring some of the brightest young talent in the league.
The Chargers have crumbled in recent years, but they have some quality players on defense in cornerback Jason Verrett and edge defender Joey Bosa, and on offense with wide receiver Keenan Allen. The team might experience turnover as quarterback Philip Rivers ages, but perhaps the San Diego ownership would want a quarterback guru like McDaniels to groom the next starter.
These jobs are too perfect
Lions, Jim Caldwell
Titans, Mike Mularkey
Former Patriots staffers Bob Quinn and Jon Robinson have become general managers this offseason for the Lions and Titans, respectively, so there’s already an established relationship between these teams and with McDaniels and Patricia. Are the GMs just working through the kinks with the old regimes in order to get their systems in place before bringing in their new coaches?
It would make sense. Head coaches rarely see more than three or four years unless they reach the playoffs, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Quinn and Robinson want the correct pieces in place before bringing in better coaching candidates. Otherwise they would be squandering an important year of time in their already-short hourglass of opportunity with a transition season without hopes of the playoffs.
I would think McDaniels leaves after this upcoming season (although I’ve said that each of the past two years, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ), with Daboll taking his place. I still think Patricia has another couple of years left in the system and, by that point, perhaps Flores would be ready to take over.
But how much fun would it be if, in three years, the Patriots coaching staff featured Vrabel at defensive coordinator, Jerod Mayo as linebackers coach, Troy Brown as receivers coach, and Kevin Faulk or Sammy Morris as running backs coach?
All we would need is for Big Vince Wilfork to come back to the defensive line and everything would be perfect. I’m just assuming that Tom Brady and Dante Scarnecchia will remain at their current positions for the next decade or two.
Oh, and Josh Boyer. He’s going to coach the defensive backs from now until Valhalla.