Titans considered firing Mike Vrabel in 2023; HC sought full roster control…

The recent termination of Mike Vrabel as the head coach of the Tennessee Titans after six seasons has shed light on a tumultuous period during the team’s 2023 offseason. The decision to let go of the well-regarded coach was reportedly influenced by a series of events, including disagreements over the general manager position, concerns about Vrabel’s relationship with ownership, and a perceived lack of faith from team owner Amy Adams Strunk.

According to reports from The Athletic’s Dianna Russini and Jon Rexrode, Vrabel had a preference for Titans interim GM Ryan Cowden over Ran Carthon for the full-time GM role. Vrabel reportedly suggested to Strunk that Carthon be appointed as the assistant GM, expressing doubts about Carthon’s readiness for the GM position. This suggestion did not sit well with Strunk, leading to strained relations between the head coach and team ownership.

Despite the reported rift between Vrabel and Carthon, the latter was not directly involved in Vrabel’s firing. Carthon, who joined the Titans after six years with the San Francisco 49ers, was hired in January 2023. The report also mentions that Carthon had interviewed for the Cardinals’ GM vacancy the previous year but ultimately did not land the position.

The power dynamics within the Titans organization began to shift in December 2022 with the firing of general manager Jon Robinson, ten months after he had been extended through 2027. While Vrabel was not directly linked to Robinson’s departure, he reportedly used the opportunity to make a case for full roster control. Strunk, however, was hesitant to grant a head coach such authority, citing past issues with Jeff Fisher’s control during his tenure with the team.

This request, along with Vrabel’s stance on Carthon, strained his relationship with ownership. Russini and Rexrode reported that Strunk did not believe Vrabel had shown enough faith in her, further damaging their connection. Despite these challenges, Vrabel expressed a desire to stay with the Titans for another year, and Strunk ultimately orchestrated the decision to part ways.

The report also revealed that Strunk had considered firing Vrabel the previous year but opted to retain him, believing in his abilities as a head coach. The Titans’ 2023 draft is now crucial for their long-term future, with Carthon set to oversee the process. Interestingly, Cowden, who managed the 2023 draft board, was fired soon after the draft and is now with the New York Giants.

The Titans’ decision to let go of Vrabel was influenced by on-field performance as well. Despite three consecutive playoff appearances from 2019 to 2021, the team’s sub-.500 record over the past two years raised concerns. The breaking point for Strunk reportedly came with the Titans’ 19-16 overtime loss to the Texans in Week 15 of the 2023 season. Additionally, Vrabel’s trip to Foxborough during the team’s bye week, where he was inducted into the Patriots’ Hall of Fame, was said to have irked Strunk.

Strunk’s firing record, characterized by decisions like parting ways with Mike Mularkey after a divisional-round appearance, has given her a reputation for impulsive moves. Despite the Titans’ recent struggles, Vrabel is likely to attract interest from other teams as a head coaching option.

The report suggests that the Patriots, in particular, view him as a potential “home run” hire if Bill Belichick were to exit. Other teams like the Commanders, Chargers, and Raiders could also express interest in Vrabel. The coach’s future approach to personnel input with his next team remains an intriguing aspect to watch.

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