NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Titans security Kenny Vaccaro listened to how coach Mike Vrabel praised his efficiency in Tennessee’s wild-card win with the trace of a smile.
“I know how Vrabel is,” Vaccaro mentioned. “He’s tough. He wants you to be physical, gritty, grindy, and he just likes guys that are going to hit. I was hitting people like I’ve always hit people. I appreciate the compliment because he doesn’t really give out too many.”
No, the second-year head coach doesn’t waste a lot time with reward.
That’s not why the Titans fired Mike Mularkey two years in the past after dropping within the divisional spherical of the playoffs, preferring to gamble on hiring a coach who may push them to compete for championships. They selected Vrabel as a first-time head coach, and the previous 14-year linebacker with three Super Bowl rings has the Titans a win away from the franchise’s second Super Bowl berth and first because the 1999 season.
Vrabel’s message since mid-April has been pushing the Titans to discover a method to go from good to nice after three straight 9-7 seasons. Tennessee went 9-7 once more in the course of the common season, however Vrabel isn’t prepared to grade his group but, not earlier than the AFC championship sport Sunday at Kansas City (13-4). It would be the Titans’ first time taking part in for the convention title because the 2002 season.
“Well, I think that we have certainly improved,” Vrabel mentioned. “I think we’ve made progress. Something that we focused on a while back is just trying to continue to improve each and every week. So, how close we are, I don’t know that. I know that we’re going to do what we’ve done for a long time, and what we know is to prepare to try to go in and play with confidence and execute.”
That deal with enchancment has endeared him to the Titans. He has a hands-on method whether or not he’s banging away at a soccer being carried by Derrick Henry throughout a working again drill or carrying a blocking pad to work on approach with linebackers and defensive linemen. Four-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey loves how Vrabel and all his coaches are concerned and detail-oriented at apply.
But it’s Vrabel’s mindset that Casey appreciates most.
“He doesn’t care about the wins, he don’t care about none of that that happened,” Casey mentioned. “He’s excited for that moment. But he’s onto the next. His mindset is always onto the next. ‘We can cherish the moments for a bit, but let’s get back to the grind. I don’t care about the excuses you have. You’re sore, whatever. You get back in this building and get back to it.’”
Vrabel handled quite a few accidents throughout his first season, together with beginning quarterback Marcus Mariota lacking the regular-season finale, which the Titans misplaced with a playoff berth on the road.
His largest problem got here in mid-October this season. The Titans had scored just one landing in a 10-quarter stretch capped by a 16-Zero loss at Denver that dropped Tennessee to 2-4. At that time, Vrabel benched Mariota for veteran Ryan Tannehill, who had been acquired in a commerce with Miami to improve the backup place.
The Titans (11-7) are 9-Three since then, together with profitable their final three on the highway. They clinched the AFC’s No. 6 seed within the regular-season finale towards AFC South champ Houston, beat the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots in New England after which knocked off the top-seeded Ravens in Baltimore. Vrabel is the Titans’ first coach to win his first two postseason video games since Jeff Fisher after the 1999 season.
“They’re playing real good football right now,” Kansas City coach Andy Reid mentioned. “They’re strong. They’re well-coached. Mike does a nice job with them.”
Vrabel, who greets every participant exterior the locker room door after video games, says he’s made clear that everybody needs to be held accountable. That consists of himself as he works to enhance as a coach.
His method has helped construct a locker room the place teammates maintain one another liable for their preparation and play.
“I ain’t going say the guy is perfect, but he damn near understands football better than anybody in this building, outside this building,” Casey mentioned. “ The guy, he’s an intelligent dude. It’s not really too much you can question that man.”
Safety Kevin Byard credit Vrabel for a tradition change he calls “nothing short of incredible.”
“Not only having the communication open with the players but actually getting on the field,” Byard mentioned. “Not necessarily practicing with them but actually getting in the drills. I think that he really has done something special to the players as far as really being able to trust him and trust what he’s trying to get us to do week in and week out.”
With the Titans a win away from the franchise’s second Super Bowl berth, Vrabel is persevering with to push his group to be higher than it was final week.
“That’s going to be the message,” Vrabel mentioned.
AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta contributed to this report from Kansas City, Missouri.