Mike Vrabel, Linebackers Coach
Now that we have dispensed with the Texans' coaching leadership wheelhouse of O'Brien, Bernhardt and Crennel, we can roll up our sleeves and dig into the coaches who will be shaping this team with a position, or role, focus. These are the coaches who will help develop critical technique in young players and fine tune the veterans as needed.
In my opinion, the most exciting coach joining the Texans this year is Mike Vrabel. I see him as a very smart and potentially fast-rising star in the NFL coaching ranks. It wouldn't surprise me if he takes the reigns from Romeo Crennel as the defensive coordinator in the next few years.
After retiring from the NFL as a 14-year player, Vrabel returned to his alma mater of Ohio State as the linebackers coach. When new head coach Urban Meyer arrived shortly afterward, he kept Vrabel on as the defensive line coach over the last three seasons. His job with the Texans will be Vrabel's first coaching job in the NFL.
As a player, Vrabel was outstanding and is VERY worthy of the NFL Hall of Fame:
1997 - 2000 Pittsburgh Steelers
He was a third round draft pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1997. As a rookie, he broke into fame when he sacked Patriots' QB Drew Bledsoe in the 1997-1998 AFC Divisional Playoffs to clinch the win for the Steelers.
2001 - 2008 New England Patriots
Vrabel's career is best remembered with this team that won three Super Bowls and four AFC championships. While he was recognized as an All-Pro linebacker, he was also used as a tight end to great effect on the goal line. He has ten career receptions, all for goal-line touchdowns. In 2005, on Monday Night Football, Vrabel became the first person in history to have two touchdown receptions and a sack in the same game.
In Super Bowl XXXIX, Vrabel was being held by the Philadelphia Eagle's Jevon Kearse, but still caught a 2-yard touchdown pass, making him one of only seventeen NFL players to catch two or more touchdown passes in Super Bowls. His first Super Bowl touchdown reception was the previous year at Reliant Stadium in 2004, when the Patriots defeated the Panthers. NFL Network has him ranked #7 on their Top 10 of the Greatest Versatile Players in this "must see" VIDEO.
Part I - Bill O'Brien
Take a look at the new coaches, where they came from, and where some of the former Texans' coaches have gone to continue their careers.
As a linebacker, he was primarily used as the right outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, also known as the "WILL," on the weak side. Vrabel did play inside linebacker when the Patriots suffered injuries in 2005 and then again late in 2006. Many feel the move helped the team rebound later in that season.
2009 -2010 Kansas City Chiefs
In 2009, the Patriots traded Mike Vrabel and Matt Cassel to the Chiefs for their second round pick (#34 overall) in the 2009 draft.
His broad knowledge as a dominant player of the linebacker position in the NFL should give him excellent experience to transition to coaching defensive players at the same level.
It is interesting to note that Vrabel and Bill O'Brien overlapped at the Patriots for two seasons, and they both have Neil Cornrich as their agent. No doubt this connection probably helped when O'Brien began the search to fill out his staff with the Texans.
Ohio State University released a statement which included the following quote by Bill Belichick when Vrabel was hired there:
"During his Patriots career, there was no player more respected for his football intellect and revered for his leadership by his teammates than Mike," Belichick said in a statement released by Ohio State. "He was elected a team captain by his peers and is a player who I think everyone knew was destined to become a coach after his NFL playing career was over.
"Mike Vrabel is as well-suited for coaching as any player I have ever coached," Belichick said. "Mike has a tremendous feel for people, players, coaches and what his team needs regardless of the situation. He is outstanding in his knowledge of the game, which contributed to his excellence as a player. While playing, Mike at times acted as another coach on the field. Now, as a coach, I have no doubt Mike will develop tough, intelligent, fundamentally sound winners."
Before long, Vrabel may be the NFL's next hot name for head coaching jobs. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Right now the Texans need Vrabel to fine tune Whitney Mercilus, groom and effectively deploy Trevardo Williams in his first NFL season, assess and integrate Brooks Reed into Crennel's system, and if at all possible clone Brian Cushing a half dozen times.
Vrabel will need to evaluate: Darryl Sharpton, Joe Mays, Bryan Braman, Mike Mohamad, Gerald Sapp, Jeff Tarpinian, Justin Tuggle, and Evan Frierson. Then he can help determine if the Texans will pursue the following players in the draft:
- Khalil Mack, Buffalo
- C.J. Mosley, Alabama
- Anthony Barr, UCLA
- Chris Borland, Wisconsin - be sure to read this article by Brett Kollmann
- Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
When you consider his player resume and the Texans' issues at linebacker, I'd almost rather see Vrabel suit up! Nonetheless, I have great confidence that he'll have his unit competing with the defensive line as the best on the team by the first pre-season game. So what say you? Are you excited about this new coach?
- A kind shout out to OneManBlitz for reference material he provided for this article.
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