ESPN's Witten, McFarland rip Titans coach Mike Vrabel for key fourth-down decision

Frank Schwab

Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Houston Texans’ 3-yard line was the right one. You won’t win many games kicking 21-yard field goals.

But there’s the decision to go for it, then the decision on what play to call. The Titans did not pick the right play.

Astonishingly, the Titans lined up tight end Luke Stocker at the fullback position and gave it to him on a dive up the middle. Stocker had never had an NFL carry before. He’s not a prolific receiver either, with 63 catches in 93 career games before Monday. Behind him at tailback was 247-pound Derrick Henry.

Stocker was stuffed for no gain, and the Texans got a 97-yard touchdown run on the next play, an enormous swing in a key AFC South game. And the ESPN crew couldn’t believe the Titans’ decision.

Jason Witten: ‘Give it to the tight end?’

ESPN analysts Jason Witten and Booger McFarland were immediately all over Vrabel.

“I just don’t know about the call,” Witten said after the play. “Give it to the tight end? Your tailback is 247 pounds!”

McFarland laughed.

ESPN went to commercial, but Witten and McFarland weren’t done.

“In that part of the field, that’s not where you want to run that,” Witten said. “Put Henry as the fullback if you want to get the quick dive, and [Dion] Lewis at tailback. Stocker is just worried about getting the handoff, the exchange in that moment.”

Even after Lamar Miller had one of six touchdown runs in the history of the league of 97 yards or more on the next play, ESPN wasn’t done getting on Vrabel.

Booger McFarland didn’t like it either

After gushing about Miller’s long run, McFarland wanted to get his two cents in on the Titans’ decision.

“That was just a terrible call by coach Vrabel,” McFarland said. “You either got to get points or get the ball to Henry, now his team his paying for his poor coaching call on that last play.”

Offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur probably had more to do with the specific call than Vrabel, but it all comes back to the head coach.

Coaching calls get dissected all the time. Vrabel knows, as his two-point conversion decision against the Chargers caught some heat. The rookie coach will learn, but his judgment was costly on Monday.

Mike Vrabel’s fourth-down decision against the Texans was ripped by ESPN’s crew. (AP)
Mike Vrabel’s fourth-down decision against the Texans was ripped by ESPN’s crew. (AP)

More from Yahoo Sports:
Report: QB Smith’s career may be over after broken leg
NFL’s worst rule rears its ugly head in Steelers game
Rookie QB has no time for former coach after win
NFL Winners and Losers: Browns actually look pretty good

– – – – – – –

Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

Subscribe to The Yahoo Sports NFL Podcast
Apple PodcastsStitcherGoogle Podcasts