With staff moves, Mike Vrabel tells Jon Robinson: It's on you

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- We are not privy to conversations between the Titans coach and the Titans GM.

But Mike Vrabel's alterations to his coaching staff made the messaging loud and clear.RobinsonVrabel2020MH

Pool photo: Mark Humphrey, AP

Vrabel doesn't find much fault with them.

Yes, he gave the obligatory quote about how they've got to be better, a super-standard Vrabel line.

"We are going to work hard to improve (the defensive) side of the ball through better coaching, improving our system and our players," he said of the horrific 2020 defense. "I like the group we have on the defensive staff and I am confident that we will improve.”

You know I think blame and credit go first to players, but it's not player movement season, it's coaching staff adjustment season.

So Vrabel has just said, Rashaan Evans' failure to develop isn't on Jim Haslett or Shane Bowen. That awful third-down defense, those 19 sacks, those 27.4 points a game, those fruitless special teams, none of that warranted any changes of note on his staff.

I'm not suggesting, at all, that a bunch of people should have been fired.FlameballRipped

But it's hard to believe Vrabel didn't see one spot he felt needed an upgrade. Bowen didn't have the defensive coordinator title. Vrabel wouldn't have had to have taken it away to have hired someone else for the post.

I understand the continuity on offense, as the offense was excellent. What he's saying on defense is, it's all on the personnel. It's all on the guy who provides the personnel. What he's saying is, it's all on Jon Robinson.

And I believe it's more on the personnel than anything else. But Vrabel and his guys failed miserably and should have done more with it bad as it was. Here he is though, practically washing his hands of it by rewarding his chief lieutenant with a promotion after a first-year failure.

His "better coaching" quote would hold more weight now if he didn't use it multiple times a week as a default to any question about anything bad. But he's effectively watered it down to the point where it's meaningless. He takes blame by rote, with no real heart in it.

It's the first we've heard of system improvement.

At first, I liked the sound of that and the newness of it, it felt like a rare Vrabel concession.

It's not. It's another example of heels dug in. The system is the system, he just intends for it to be better. They aren't going to alter it much even if it's flawed -- why would you with those results?

Frankly, they could have coached better during the season and didn't, and while bigger overhauls can't really happen in-season,  system-tinkering during the season is allowed and we didn't see any that produced results -- please don't point to sacks against the super-porous Texans in the season finale.

Vrabel has indicated time and time again he believes in his defense and the Titans are going to do what he does, without major variation.

So what's the big variable here, what's the key to improving the system?


And Jon Robinson certainly failed him there. Vrabel certainly has a say in people, but player-acquisition is Robinson's job. 

Jon, I've got a gem of a kid coach here in Ryan Crow who's backed up by two guys with outside linebacker experience in Shane Bowen and a three-time Super Bowl winner who played the position (this guy right here). Can we do better than a broken down Jadeveon Clowney, a completely unmotivated Vic Beasley, Wyatt Ray, Tuzar Skipper and Brooks Reed?

apple icon 144x144 precomposedYes, they work in tandem, yes the tandem's team won 11 games and a division title.

But this team wasted a good year, getting fooled by Isaiah Wilson and Beasley, getting bitten by injuries to its second- and third-round picks.

There was big-time regression by guys on defense running the gamut from first-rounders (Evans) to All-Pros (Kevin Byard) to savvy vets (Kenny Vaccaro).

They were more interested in going again and again with guys who've maxed out at low ceilings (Matt Dickerson, Tye Smith) than in going to raid a practice squad for anything more than a long-snapper (Matt Orzech).

And while it's not all Vrabel was doing with his staff jiggling, it's no accident that one of the results amounts to him saying, "I've got my guys, Jon. Now you and your guys go get us some players so I can prove this staff is just fine."

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