NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans hired Houston defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel as their coach in a fast search that wrapped up after three interviews and just five days after the firing of Mike Mularkey.
The Titans announced Saturday they have agreed to terms with Vrabel. A news conference was scheduled for Monday.
Vrabel, a former Ohio State standout, was the first person Tennessee interviewed after firing Mularkey on Monday. Mularkey, who also has coached Buffalo and Jacksonville, went 21-22 and led the franchise to its first playoff victory in 14 years. This will be Vrabel's first head-coaching job after 18 years in the NFL — 14 as a player and four as a coach.
Vrabel, an Akron native, played for the Buckeyes from 1993 to ’96 and was named the top defensive lineman in the Big Ten in his final two seasons.
Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk said in a statement it was easy to see Vrabel's commanding presence and relationship with general manager Jon Robinson. The GM got his start in the NFL as a scout with the New England Patriots, where Vrabel won three Super Bowls as a linebacker.
"Mike has a commanding presence and a deep understanding for how he will attack this head coaching opportunity," Strunk said.
"Throughout his football career, he has played for, been mentored by and coached with successful teams and organizations. He knows what it takes to reach that level of sustained success — he has seen it firsthand. We have a chance to build on the solid foundation that we established over the past couple of years, and I believe Mike is the right person to continue that progress."
Vrabel’s coaching career began in 2011, when longtime friend and former Ohio State teammate Luke Fickell hired him as linebackers coach in Fickell’s only season as the Buckeyes' coach. When Urban Meyer arrived in 2012, he made Fickell co-defensive coordinator and kept Vrabel as the defensive line coach. In 2014, Vrabel left for the Texans.
Tennessee also interviewed Carolina defensive coordinator Steve Wilks — who satisfied the Rooney rule requiring teams to interview at least one minority candidate — and Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur.
In a statement, Vrabel thanked Strunk, Robinson and the Titans for putting their faith in him.
"We want to build a culture around winning, competitiveness and toughness," Vrabel said. "Everything we do is going to be geared toward winning and being physical. We want to prepare our players so they know what to do, which will allow them to play fast and aggressive."
This season was the 42-year-old's first as the Texans' defensive coordinator after three as linebackers coach. The Texans won the AFC South in 2015 and 2016 thanks in part to strong defenses. The unit slipped this season amid injuries to players including J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus.
Vrabel's 14-year playing career included stints with Pittsburgh under coach Bill Cowher and New England under coach Bill Belichick; he also played for Kansas City.
Robinson said in a statement he always has had a great deal of respect for Vrabel as a player and as a coach.
"He was the ultimate team-first player, and he embodies that same mindset as a coach," Robinson said. "He is intelligent, energetic, detailed and a leader whose deep passion for this game will resonate with our players. As a coach, I have seen him develop talent at both the college and NFL level and put players in position for them to be successful."
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