Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel is reportedly interviewing with the Detroit Lions on Wednesday and he appears to be one of the team’s top candidates. That’s a bit surprising considering how young Vrabel is—he’s only coached in the NFL for four seasons now.
However, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Vrabel is more than qualified and should absolutely be a serious candidate. McClain joined the Detroit sports talk radio show “Jamie and Stoney” on Wednesday morning and gushed about the former NFL linebacker.
“I’m on my 39th year of covering the NFL and Mike, as an assistant coach, has got head coach written all over him more than anybody I’ve ever covered,” McClain said. “And the reason is this: Not only did he have great credential as an outside linebacker with the Steelers, Patriots, Chiefs at the end of his career, everybody who he played for—including Bill Belichick—knew that he wanted to be a coach.”
Vrabel had a storied career as an NFL linebacker. He won the Super Bowl three times, while being named both a Pro Bowler and a first-team All Pro. During his time as a player, it was abundantly clear that he was a student of the game, and was going to become a head coach eventually. “He has talked to Belichick a lot about coaching, why he did things organizationally, as well as the team on the field and off the field,” McClain said.
Vrabel wasted no time after his playing years to get into the coaching business. A year after he retired as a player, he headed up the linebacking unit at Ohio State. Three years later he was doing the same in the NFL with the Texans. And the linebackers under his tutelage completely bought in.
“The players who played under him at linebacker swore by him,” McClain said. “He’s tough on the players—very demanding—but he’s also very fair.”
He was promoted to defensive coordinator before the 2017 season after the Texans moved Romeo Crennel to assistant head coach. His first year was a statistical disaster. The Texans ranked dead last in points allowed (by 26 points) and 23rd in defensive DVOA.
But McClain doesn’t fault Vrabel for that. Instead, he blames an unbelievable amount of injuries. “They had 20 players on injured reserve—13 starters. I’ve never seen anything like that,” McClain said. “He didn’t have J.J. Watt, he didn’t have Whitney Mercilus, their entire defensive line was wiped out because of injury. Brian Cushing missed 10 games because of a suspension. Three linebackers, including two backups—who were starters for injured starters—they were out for the season. So he wasn’t playing with a full deck.”
During the course of the entire interview—which you can listen to in full here—McClain boasts about Vrabel’s pristine reputation. Everyone around him is blown away by him.
“I don’t know anybody who’s worked with Vrabel who doesn’t really respect Mike and believe he’s headed for great things in the NFL,” McClain said. “It’s not a matter of if, but when.”
The rest of the NFL seems to agree. Not only is Vrabel lined up for an interview with the Lions, but the Indianapolis Colts have also been granted an interview with the Texans defensive coordinator. We’ll see if 2018 is the year Vrabel gets his shot.