In the NFL, there’s an accepted path to becoming a head coach: position coach, offensive or defensive coordinator, then the big seat. Occasionally we’ll see a special teams coordinator ascend to head coach, but this is a league that rarely strays from the accepted norms.
Which is why it’s a bit of a surprise to see reports that Houston Texans linebackers coach Mike Vrabel is going to interview with the Los Angeles Rams for their head coaching vacancy after the Texans’ season ends. Albert Breer of The MMQB was first with the news.
Vrabel is a key member of the Houston coaching staff, credited with playing a large role in the development of young stars like Jadeveon Clowney and Benardrick McKinney, and keeping him on board after Vrabel was offered the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator job last year was huge. (The Texans also gave Vrabel a significant pay raise to sweeten the deal.)
To spend any length of time around Vrabel is to understand what an insightful, funny (and if you watched the Texans’ “Hard Knocks” season, profane) guy he is, and it’s been assumed that someday he will be a head coach, whether at his alma mater, Ohio State, where he remains beloved (and began his coaching career, spending three seasons as linebackers coach), or in the NFL.
It will be interesting to see if someday is sooner than many anticipated.
A third-round pick of the Steelers in 1997, Vrabel had his greatest success with the New England Patriots, where he signed in 2001. Vrabel won three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots, a versatile linebacker who selected first-team All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl in 2007.
He also was a stellar goal-line tight end: Vrabel had 12 career receptions, all of them for touchdowns.
He was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009 with Matt Cassel, and played two seasons with the Chiefs before retiring.