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Falcons announce completed first interview with Mike Vrabel

What you need to know about Vrabel, the Tennessee Titans head coach in 2023.


FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons completed an in-person interview with Mike Vrabel for the organization's head coach position, the team announced Wednesday, Jan. 24.

This is Vrabel's first interview with the Falcons for their current opening.

The 48-year-old was fired by the Tennessee Titans after six seasons as their head coach back on Jan. 9. The Titans officially hired a new head coach in Brian Callahan on Wednesday. The Falcons had actually interviewed Callahan on Jan. 13 for their own vacancy and reportedly scheduled a second meeting before news of his agreement with the Titans broke Monday.

Vrabel marks the 14th candidate to have completed an initial interview with the Falcons. Three of those have completed a second interview as of Wednesday.

Let's learn more about someone the Falcons are considering to become the 19th head coach in franchise history.

Interview date: Wednesday, Jan. 24

Former job: Tennessee Titans head coach

Resume highlights:

  • Ohio State University, 2011-13: Vrabel's first coaching job came with the Buckeyes, who named him linebackers coach in 2011 after a stellar NFL playing career. He was Ohio State's defensive line coach for the next two seasons.
  • Houston Texans, 2014-17: He first joined an NFL staff for the first time after being named Texans linebackers coach, a job he executed from 2014-16. He was promoted to defensive coordinator for the next season.
  • Tennessee Titans, 2018-23: Vrabel was head coach of the Titans for six seasons and led them to the playoffs three times. He took Tennessee to the AFC title game in 2019. He parted ways with the Titans after a 6-11 season in 2023.

Local connections: This goes way back -- and touches different sides of the ball -- but Vrabel was the Houston Texans defensive coordinator when Falcons wide receivers coach T.J. Yates was their quarterback in 2017.

Falcons tight end Jonnu Smith played for Vrabel from 2018-20 in Tennessee. Smith has another year left on his Atlanta contract, according to Over the Cap. Any other Falcons player from 2023 who has experience playing for Vrabel -- such as linebacker Bud Dupree -- will be a free agent when the market opens in March.

Vrabel worked with former Falcons head coach Arthur Smith at Tennessee from 2018-20. Smith was Vrabel's tight ends coach in 2018 and offensive coordinator in 2019-20. Smith was fired by the Falcons on Jan. 8.

Why he's a candidate: Vrabel has proven he can lead a team to success as its head coach, and quite quickly, too. The Titans went 9-7 in 2018, during his first season in charge. They didn't make the playoffs that season, but they did in 2019, again with a 9-7 record, and made it to the AFC championship, where they lost to the eventual Super Bowl-champion Kansas City Chiefs.

That was the first of three consecutive playoff appearances for the Titans. In 2020, they lost in a wild-card game to the Baltimore Ravens. In 2021, Tennessee lost in the divisional round to the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Falcons last made the playoffs in 2017.

The Titans' best season offensively under Vrabel came in 2020, when they were No. 2 in total yards and No. 4 in points scored. It was Tennessee's ground game that was truly dominant, ranking No. 2 in rush attempts, yards, touchdowns and yards per attempt. That aspect of the Titans' game kind of carried the team, since it was No. 23 in passing yards and No. 30 in passing attempts. Though, the Titans were No. 2 in interceptions thrown and No. 8 in passing touchdowns. So, the air attack wasn't a complete dud.

Defensively, the Titans were their strongest in 2018 with Vrabel. They were No. 3 in points allowed and No. 8 in yards allowed. Defending the air, Tennessee was No. 3 in passing touchdowns allowed, No. 6 in passing yards allowed, No. 10 in passing attempts allowed but No. 23 in interceptions. Defending the ground, Tennessee was No. 4 in rushing touchdowns allowed, No. 15 in yards allowed per rush, No. 18 in rushing yards allowed and No. 19 in rushing attempts allowed.

What all those rankings prove is that Vrabel is capable of putting together a strong offense and a strong defense. Yes, those were different seasons. But those were just the best all-around marks. That doesn't mean their counterparts did fare well, too.

Strikes against: Vrabel's last two seasons with the Titans produced losing records – 7-10 in 2022 and 6-11 in 2023. The Falcons haven't had a winning season since 2017. Immediate results were something Falcons owner Arthur Blank emphasized in the team's search for a new head coach. If Vrabel can produce like he did during his early seasons in Tennessee, then his recent performances can be overlooked in the meantime. However, that's a big if.

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