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PFT’s top ten NFL head coaches for 2023, No. 9: Mike Vrabel

The last two of the top 10 NFL head coaches come from the same division.

At No. 10, it was Jaguars coach Doug Pederson . At No. 9, it is Titans coach Mike Vrabel.

The 2021 coach of the year has consistently found a way to get more from his team than the sum of its parts would suggest, thriving despite what became an apparent disconnect with former G.M. Jon Robinson.

There were flashes of it in June 2021, when the Titans made an ill-advised trade for receiver Julio Jones, followed by Robinson making the media rounds to defend it. Vrabel was nowhere to be seen or heard.

Jones ultimately became one of a league-record 91 players to have a spot on the 53-man roster at some point during the 2021 season, which ended with Tennessee snagging the No. 1 seed from Kansas City and Buffalo. The one-and-out playoff run detracted from the accomplishment, but Vrabel’s ability to grind out 12 wins with so many different players replacing so many injured players underscores his ability to quickly send his message — and to quickly get results.

Two years earlier, Vrabel’s Titans had done to the Ravens what the Bengals did to the Titans, catching the No. 1 seed flat-footed and sending them home after only one postseason game.

The break for Vrabel and Robinson came in April 2022, when the Titans traded receiver A.J. Brown to the Eagles. Vrabel’s body language said it all. As he paced and jerked his neck, it became clear he did not want to lose Brown. (Vrabel had made his intention to keep Brown obvious before the draft.)

The 2022 season became an exercise, expressly or not, in “I told you so,” with Brown instantly making a major impact in Philly, and with the Titans struggling to match what they had done in 2021. Along the way, owner Amy Adams Strunk recognized that it was time for Robinson to go. Vrabel presumably emerged from the situation with an even firmer grip on the team.

As he should. In five seasons as head coach of the Titans, Vrabel has compiled a record of 48-34. He had four straight winning seasons, before last year’s 7-10 finish. Even then, Tennessee had a playoff play-in game to cap the campaign against Jacksonville.

Entering 2023, the Titans seem to be in transition. But they’re always in transition, and Vrabel has helped them deal with the constant change in a way that keeps them consistently in contention. If/when they can settle things down and if/when rookie quarterback Will Levis pays off, the Titans could be clustered at the top of the conference, each and every year.

Especially with Vrabel willing more out of the players than they collectively should be able to produce.

The deeper question is whether the 47-year-old Vrabel will be Tennessee’s coach over the long haul. The Titans would be wise to keep him. There’s a theory floating around that, once the Patriots and Bill Belichick go their separate ways, New England will come calling for Vrabel, who will be entering the Patriots’ Hall of Fame later this year.

Regardless of where he’s coaching, Vrabel quickly has become a fixture in NFL coaching circles, and he’ll likely be roaming sidelines for as long as he wants to be.

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