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Mike Vrabel will step aside as Titans head coach for assistant Terrell Williams in preseason game vs. Bears

The Tennessee Titans will have a new head next weekend. For one game, at least.

Mike Vrabel told reporters Monday that he's stepping aside for Saturday's preseason game against the Chicago Bears in favor of assistant coach Terrell Williams.

"Terrell Williams will act as the head coach for Chicago starting on Friday," Vrabel said. "This is a great opportunity for him and for us and everybody involved."

So, why the switch? Vrabel's fine. He just wants Williams to have the opportunity to go through the process of being a head coach for an NFL weekend. This means setting lineups, managing staff and speaking with media — in addition to running the show on game day.

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"I just think that him dealing with and talking with the [athletic] trainer ... just handling things with the roster and discussing those things with the assistant coaches and how we want to play the game — let him make those decisions in the game," Vrabel continued. ... "I do think it will be a great opportunity, well deserved. Just something that I wanted to do."

Terrell Williams will coach the Titans against the Bears on Saturday. (Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Terrell Williams will coach the Titans against the Bears on Saturday. (Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Vrabel is not going anywhere. He'll take on assistant coaching duties against the Bears. Defensive assistant Clinton McMillan will take over Williams' regular role of overseeing the defensive line. Williams, meanwhile, will be calling shots in an effort to gain experience as a prospective NFL head coaching candidate. He'll also gain exposure in a league that has a poor history of promoting Black coaches to management positions.

Williams, 49, has spent 26 seasons as a football coach, 12 of them in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins alongside his Titans stint that started in 2018 as the team's defensive line coach. He was promoted to assistant head coach/defensive line coach this offseason and will now get a first-hand taste of head coaching in the NFL.

Vrabel, a former Patriots linebacker, isn't the first head coach to assign extra responsibilities to assistants during the preseason. His former head coach in New England Bill Belichick has made a practice of assigning play-calling duties to position coaches in preseason games. It has allowed Belichick to groom potential successors in the event that his coordinators leave for head coaching positions.

It's unclear if Vrabel was inspired by Belichick. It is clear that he's taking the practice a significant step further.