ORLANDO, Fla. –** Not long after finding out the Titans had hired a new head coach, tackle Taylor Lewan headed to the Internet.
He searched the name ‘Mike Vrabel’.
“I did a lot of homework on Mike Vrabel,” Lewan said from the Pro Bowl on Wednesday. “I was on his Wikipedia page. I went to his son’s Twitter page and saw his highlights – he’s going to B.C. (Boston College) this year. He was 2007 All-Pro. He’s a Pro Bowler, and he played (14) years. He has 12 catches, 12 touchdowns. So the guy knows how to play ball on both sides of the ball. And I hear he brings a lot of energy. So I am excited to get started.”
Vrabel, who played 14 NFL seasons, was hired by the Titans over the weekend after previously serving as defensive coordinator with the Texans.
Here at the Pro Bowl, five Titans talked about the coaching change. Vrabel replaces Mike Mularkey.
“He called me, and I talked to him yesterday,” defensive lineman Jurrell Casey said of Vrabel. “It was a pretty good conversation, a real good one, really. I am looking forward to getting to work with him, and taking the mindset he has to lead us in the right direction. We are right there, but now we have to take it to the next level.
“I like Vrabel’s style. He said: ‘No matter who you are, and no matter what you have done, you better be able to bring more. And I think that is the mindset you need in the organization. When you get comfortable, and guys get complacent, it tears you apart as a team. I think it’s good to have somebody push you a little more if you want to build a championship team. I love coach Mularkey, and I wish him and his wife Betsy the best. But change happens in this league, and you have to take it in, get motivated, and live with it.”
The Titans went 9-7 last season, and won a playoff game for the first time since the 2003 season.
At the end of the season, the team decided to go a different direction at head coach. Until Wednesday, players hadn’t spoken publicly about the change. Players said they trust controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk, and general manager Jon Robinson.
“I was surprised, but at the end of the day it is a business,” tight end Delanie Walker said. “Mike (Mularkey) and I have a bond and we’ll be friends forever after him coaching me and him being our head coach. But I know it is a business and they are going to do what is best for the team.”
“And I know Jon and Amy are going to do what they think is right to make things right. I feel like coach Vrabel brings the characteristics that we like – being tough and physical. He’s no-nonsense, do your job.
“I hear a lot of good things about (Vrabel), and I think he will bring what we look for – toughness, physical, relentless. That is our mindset – that is what we do.”
Vrabel, introduced at a press conference on Monday at Saint Thomas Sports Park, ran into some players at the team’s facility on his first day on the job.
But he left on Tuesday for the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., so he’s contacted others via phone in recent days.
Players said they like what they’ve heard about Vrabel, who played for the Steelers, Patriots and Chiefs. He won three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots.
“He has won three championships, and I think he’ll have the same affect Logan Ryan had when he came here,” Titans safety Kevin Byard said. “Knowing the winning culture, what it takes to win, how you have to work at it day in and day out. Having him at the helm will help if guys buy into the system.”
Added punter Brett Kern: “I am looking forward to coach Vrabel coming in. I remember playing against him, and respected how he played on special teams and how he took care of business on the field. I hear a lot of great things about him off the field. So I am looking forward to playing for him and seeing how far we can take things this upcoming year. Our ultimate goal is to bring a championship back to Nashville and the state of Tennessee. I think with Jon and the things he’s doing, he wants to help us win football games and he’s doing what he thinks is best.”
The Titans begin their offseason program on April 2
On Tuesday, Vrabel said he’s looking forward to meeting all his players, and getting to work. Players said they want to keep things moving in the right direction, and reach the top.
“I am excited to get a new chapter started,” Lewan said. “You never want to go into your fifth year with your third coach, but I really feel like Jon wouldn’t make any changes without having the mindset of doing what’s best for the team. I know that Jon Robinson has done a great job, and I support him. So I am excited to find out who our OC is and our o-line coach is and moving forward.
“At the end of the day it is a business, so whether you agree with (what happened with) Mularkey or disagree with it, it doesn’t matter. The biggest thing is you have a job to do, and you have to do what you can do to help the team. I know I am excited about what (Vrabel) will bring, and I am ready to get started. ”
Titans players take part in Pro Bowl practice on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018 in Kissimmee, Fla. (Photos: Nate Bain)