Mike Vrabel. Photo: Brett Carlsen/Tennessee Titans
This year’s choice for NFL Coach of the Year shouldn’t be too difficult when you look at who has had the most success with the most adversity.
Titan’s head coach, Mike Vrabel, saw his fair share of struggles this season. Among them, he lost his best player in Derrick Henry to injury in Week 8, dealt with injuries and players coming in and out of COVID protocol, and coached over 90 different players who saw action.
With all these issues, Vrabel was still able to lead the Titans to one of its best seasons ever, winning the AFC South and clinching the conference’s No. 1 seed.
It shouldn’t come to anyone’s surprise that Vrabel is the clear choice for Coach of the Year.
“I laugh at Vrabel because I bet he doesn’t care at all about that coach of the year award,” said offensive tackle Taylor Lewan at a postgame press conference on Sunday, Jan. 8. “If he wins it, it’ll be pretty cool and he’ll be very deserving.”
Vrabel was able to combat countless injuries and pick up a win against the Rams in Los Angeles just a week after Henry’s injury, which was a key victory to lift morale.
Offensive lineman Taylor Lewan and head coach Mike Vrabel. Photo: Courtesy of the Tennessee Titans
Matt LaFluer led the Packers to yet another amazing season as well as No. 1 seed in the NFC. However, he didn’t lose his best players in Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams for more than one game.
Another top choice the top Coach of the Year is the Bengals’ Zac Taylor who led a last place team to a division championship for the first time in five years. Once again, though, his best player in Joe Burrow didn’t miss more than a game.
If either the Packers or Bengals lost their best players, they most likely wouldn’t have made the playoffs, let alone the No. 1 seed. Yet somehow, Vrabel and the Titans did even when every media pundit was counting the team out.
Even with the hardest stretch of their season over and two wins over the Colts, on the surface it didn’t look like the Titans could survive without their Pro Bowl running back.
Without Henry, the team’s offense was forced to rely on Ryan Tannehill and his passing game with new wide receiver Julio Jones, who struggled all season to stay healthy and perform on the field. Receiver AJ Brown came up big for Tennessee many times throughout the season, but was on and off the injured list.
Another factor for Vrabel’s cause is how the team’s defense came through time after time to carry the Titans. This year’s defense gave up 5,607 yards, as opposed to last year where the Titans gave up 6,372 yards. This year’s team also gave up 60 less first downs, averaging about 3.5 less first downs per game than in 2020-21. The Titans’ defense finished as the sixth best this season after its 24th place finish in 2020.
Going into this season, Vrabel promoted Shane Bowen to Defensive Coordinator, and the difference has been astronomical.
Other Coach of the Year candidates simply didn’t have to overcome as many obstacles this season as Vrabel did. The Titans played 90 players this season, which is the most in NFL history. Trying to build a team each week from scratch with guys who had never played before can only be assumed to have presented quite the feat for this Tennessee coaching staff.
When you add up all these factors, it’s clear that Vrabel has been the best coach this season and, undoubtedly, the most deserving for 2022’s NFL Coach of the Year.