A few weeks ago when it became apparent that the Lions were going to dismiss Jim Caldwell from his head coaching position, I began to make up my mind as to who I felt would be the Lions’ best hire. It was none of the seven candidates that have been, or will be interviewed.
I found myself drawn to Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard. To me, he seemed like the right way to go. A defensive-minded coach that has been working his way up the chain in the NFL and has done a great job in his seven years with the team. I annoyed everyone about this. Just ask any of my Twitter followers, they’ll show you.
Then I met Mike Vrabel, and my intrigue on the Texans defensive coordinator began to rise by the day. It became pretty clear to me that this guy is going to become a head coach. It’s just a matter of when and where. Not only that, but I believe he’s going to be a very successful coach.
I believe that the best place for him to become that successful coach right off the bat is Detroit. Here are a few reasons why I turned my back on Kris Richard for Mike Vrabel.
This Sports Illustrated piece really piqued my interest
“Of all the guys in this pool, the one I’d say who has the chance to be the best head coach is Vrabel,” one current NFL head coach with no ties to Vrabel told me on Monday. “It’s his presence, and the people he’s been around and learned from.”
This piece from Peter King has been out since Tuesday and if you have not read it, I recommend giving it a read. For me, the most important part of the piece that began to sell me on Vrabel was the passage above.
It’s all about presence. Let’s remember here what one of the big problems that so many had with Jim Caldwell. It was Jim’s stagnant look and approach. It was Jim’s attitude that, while extremely professional, seemed to lack the willingness to rock the boat and get fired up. But more importantly, it seemed to lack the necessary leadership.
Mike Vrabel is all of that in one, especially leadership. And that is exactly what this Lions team needs. They need a coach that’s going to lead them into games and make sure they’re prepared and ready to go.
Vrabel not only played, but played really well
This type of thing gets brought up so rarely when it comes to past athletes joining the coaching ranks, and I can never understand why.
We talk so much about situational football when evaluating head coaching prospects. In my opinion, who would know more about situations and how to evolve and adapt than a former All-Pro linebacker that played in the NFL for 13 years and has three championship rings?
Not only did Vrabel have a great career, he also played football just eight years ago. Mike Vrabel has played against the Lions with Matthew Stafford under center. That’ll give you an idea of how long ago Vrabel was in the league.
The game hasn’t wildly changed in eight years. Having a guy coaching your team with an understanding of the game on the field can only be an advantage. This bring me to my last point.
When you think of NFL coaches, you think of old guys with their Tom Landry hat’s or their hoodies. This is supposed to be an older man’s game. Young coaches have long been looked at like little kids that can’t handle the complexity of running a 53-man roster.
The times have clearly changed. Just look at coaches like Sean McVay, Dan Quinn, Kyle Shanahan, Sean McDermott and Adam Gase. Each of these guys have either earned a playoff berth or have begun to turn their teams around. Maybe not Adam Gase just yet, but everyone else.
The Lions now have their chance to get in on the ground floor of this phenomenon. At 42, Vrabel would be one of the youngest coaches in the league once he takes a job. Why is this relevant at all? Let me explain.
It’s not that these guys are farther away from the grave, it’s that they’re not the same old established method. The older coaches in the league have their set ways of doing things. This is why the NFL hasn’t done anything new and exciting since the read-option.
With a younger coach comes new ideas and risks. I’m talking sweet risks. I mean challenging a questionable catch when the season is on the line type of risk. It’s not a guarantee, but there seems to be a connection between exciting new offenses and defenses and these young coaches. The Lions could be the next team to experience this.
Vrabel has everything the Lions are and should be looking for: Leadership, the ability to understand situational football and how and when to adapt, and the youth to understand the current evolution of the game and its players. If I were Bob Quinn, I would make a deal with Vrabel as soon as possible. The Lions aren’t the only team with their eyes planted on him.