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Charles Robinson & Jay Busbee discuss Saturday's upcoming matchup between the Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals. After leading his team to a 12-5 record with a league record 91 different players rostered throughout the season, can Coach of the Year candidate Mike Vrabel push his team into the AFC Championship? On the other side of the ball, Joe Burrow has looked incredible during the second half of the season, but will his penchant for taking sacks doom the Bengals?
CHARLES ROBINSON: A lot of talk this year about whether or not Vrabel's Coach of the Year. And when I called around to talk to people about who should be Coach of the Year, Mike Tomlin got a lot of love, LaFleur got some, Vrabel got a lot. It was interesting. It's always one of those ones where it's always a lot closer than you think it would be. I thought it would be Vrabel running away with it. It always ends up being close because everybody sort of has their different things that they respect.
Vrabel do you feel like you was Coach of the Year? To be able to rotate in those 91 players over the course of the year, get a one seed, lose your clear MVP of your team, and be able to keep the thing afloat and then just long enough to get that MVP back in the fold?
JAY BUSBEE: It's almost like Tennessee-- I'm not going to say they snuck in, that's not the right verb, but it's almost like you turn around, you're like, oh, it's like musical chairs. Oh, the season's over. They are number one. But they earned it. You're right. That run that they had at the end of the season put them in position.
And to lose Derrick Henry. I mean, that would have crippled most other teams. But to be able to adjust on the fly, to make the changes while they're still moving, yeah, there are always going to be arguments for other coaches of the year. But based on that, it's tough to argue against Vrabel because of everything that Tennessee had to deal with and still come out with that crucial bye.
CHARLES ROBINSON: One thing, too, I'm sure Titans fans feel beat up. They're like, God, we get crapped on, everybody says we're the weakest number one seed.
I think Frank said of the eight teams, he felt like Tennessee was the weakest in this round, all this stuff. I think people underestimate that sometimes. And if Tennessee were to come out and just punch Cincinnati in the mouth and run away with this, which nobody expects, I would point at that. I would say that is where that came from. That came from a team that a lot of people disrespected all season long and no one ever took into account. What are they earning right now continuing to win and keep it together despite losing all these guys? COVID, rotating a million guys in, everything going sideways on them this season.
I think there is a veteran presence or a presence of going through it, earning some scar tissue, and then being a little tougher than maybe people expect when you get into a game like this.
JAY BUSBEE: Burrow can be erratic. Burrow can have a bad game.
CHARLES ROBINSON: He can. Yeah.
JAY BUSBEE: He's admitted it himself. Let's say that this gets into one of those in the trenches sorts of games. Do you think that Tennessee has the edge because of Derrick Henry, or is it again going to be a kind of a see how well he plays and then ramp him up as needed?
CHARLES ROBINSON: Are they getting to Burrow? That's what I would want to know. Because the thing about Burrow being erratic, there are times where he still gets beat up in games a little bit. He does have that mentality of extending plays. He had it last year when he got hurt. He's been better about protecting himself this year, but he still took some licks. He still gets hit. And so if it's Burrow a little out of sorts, turns into a grinder, but it's Burrow out of sorts because Tennessee is affecting him up front, which is how I'd expect it would happen is that defensive front for Tennessee. Yeah, I would have to feel pretty good about the Titans.
Now again, I don't know what Derrick Henry is going to look like. Maybe this guy only gets 10 carries, but he gets quite a few offensive snaps being used in a way that affects the defense. Makes the defense give you a different look. It's hard to say, you know? Without knowing what he's-- that's what I hate about just the unknown of Henry coming back. Because he could come in and carry it 30 times, run for 180 yards, and you sit there and go, oh yeah, I should've expected this. Even though I couldn't really expect it, I should have expected this. Or he could run it 10 times and be ineffective and then what do you say? You're like, well of course. We just sat here, he didn't play forever.
So it is a pretty big unknown, but it's not just an unknown for us, it's an unknown for Cincinnati.
JAY BUSBEE: Yeah. Yeah. I was about to say, you don't have to worry about scheming up a defense. You and I just are going to sit back and critique it and you don't have to worry about whether or not they're going to turn this guy loose and absolutely have him just gnaw on the Cincinnati line, which very well could happen.