INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Mike Vrabel won NFL coach of the year in voting by a panel of 50 sportswriters selected by the Associated Press, it was revealed at NFL Honors here Thursday night.

Mike Vrabel

“The honor is a reflection of our football team and our staff, which I think is amazing,” Vrabel said. “I love our staff. It’s loyal. They are great teachers, they are great developers, they try to make a connection and an impact on players. I understand that players will come and go, I understand the nature of the National Football League, I played it in for 14 years. I think you can still make a connection, you can still try to care about guys off the field.”

The Titans announced Wednesday that Vrabel and Jon Robinson had agreed to contract extensions. Vrabel’s original five-year deal was through 2022. [Unlocked]

Vrabel matched the franchise record for wins (43) over the first four seasons with the team, joining Jack Pardee. Vrabel and Pardee also are the only coaches in team history to produce winning seasons in each of their first four seasons.

Of all Titans/Oilers head coaches with at least four seasons with the franchise, Vrabel’s .614 career winning percentage ranks the highest (43-27, including playoffs).

He also won coach of the year honors from the Pro Football Writers of America.

He is the first Oilers/Titans coach to earn NFL PFWA or AP Coach of the Year honors.

Sid Gilman won AFC Coach of the Year in 1974. Lou Rymkus was the AFL’s first Coach of the Year in 1960. He was fired after a 1-3-1 start the following year and Wally Lemm led the team to nine consecutive wins and a second consecutive AFL title. Lemm also won AFL coach of the year.

Meanwhile, the Titans AFC South competition took their time filling the vacancies created by the firings of David Culley in Houston and Urban Meyer in Jacksonville. But the spots were filled earlier this week.

Now in addition to squaring off twice a year against Frank Reich with the Colts, Vrabel and the Titans will be coaching against Lovie Smith with the Texans and Doug Pederson with the Jaguars.

My initial reaction was the same as I’ve seen most places.

The dysfunctional Texans talked to a lot of candidates only to hire the defensive coordinator from their previous staff who only emerged as a possibility late in the process.

The dysfunctional Jaguars turned off potential coaches with their insistence on retaining Trent Baalke as general manager before landing on Pederson.

It’s not a good division and it’s not a great coaching roster.

I’d stack it like this.

1) Vrabel
2) Pederson
3) Reich
4) Smith

Here is one thing to note, however.

While Vrabel is clearly the best of the bunch in terms of creating a team identity, building a team that can withstand the inevitable downturns of a season and a game and frequently finding ways to win, he’s also the only one on the list who’s not been involved in a Super Bowl as a coach.

Pederson won Super Bowl LII with the Eagles with backup quarterback Nick Foles at the helm.

Reich was the offensive coordinator for that Philadelphia team, and his role in that season was a big part of why he landed the Colts job after that.

Smith was the 2005 Coach of the Year and that season

In 2006, Smith took a Bears team quarterbacked by Rex Grossman to Super Bowl XLI where they lost to the Colts.

Vrabel was part of three Super Bowl winners in New England as a linebacker. But the best he’s fared as an assistant in three years in Houston or in his five years as the top man in Nashville is the Titans’ run to the 2019 AFC Championship Game.

While a few key roster and cap decisions loom, I fully expect the Titans to maintain a regular-season hold on the AFC South in 2022.

Kuharsky megaphoneThe Texans don’t seem to have much of a plan and still have to resolve their Deshaun Watson issue. He didn’t play in 2021 while demanding a trade and with 22 civil suits charging he assaulted women pending.

The Jaguars could have done far worse than Pederson, but many throughout the league think he walks into a bad management situation because he inherits a difficult GM situation with Trent Baalke. He also inherits a promising quarterback situation with Trevor Lawrence.

Vrabel is coming off a great regular season. 

He'll be the first to say his franchise needs now to advance again in the playoffs as it did in 2019, and go a game further and win it.

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