Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk explains complications of trading former HC Mike Vrabel

In another world, the Tennessee Titans wouldn't have fired Mike Vrabel after his sixth season with the team.

Instead, the franchise and controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk would've gone down the path far less travelled when it comes to coaches and traded Vrabel to a head-coach-needy team this offseason.

It would've been a splashy play considering the rarity of the move. Only eight such deals have been orchestrated in league history: Don Shula, sort of (Baltimore Colts to Miami, 1970), Bill Parcells (New England to New York Jets, 1997), Mike Holmgren (Green Bay to Seattle, 1999), Bill Belichick (New York Jets to New England, 2000), Jon Gruden (Oakland to Tampa Bay, 2002), Herm Edwards (New York Jets to Kansas City, 2006), Bruce Arians (Arizona to Tampa Bay, 2019) and Sean Payton (New Orleans to Denver, 2023).

On Tuesday, Strunk spoke with a reporter for the Titans website and was asked if she gave any thought to trading Vrabel as opposed to firing the coach.

"Yes, there was," she said. "But there's a bit of misconception about a coach's contract, say versus a player's contract. A coach's contract, you can't trade them unless they are a willing partner to that trade. So, yes, we thought about it, but at the end of the day, with league rules the way they are, it would have maybe put us back three weeks, and you know, to get the right head coach, I was just not willing to go to the back of the line and take a chance of missing out on someone we really wanted."

FILE - Tennessee Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk talks with head coach Mike Vrabel before an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023, in Jacksonville, Fla. Strunk wants a fresh approach to compete in the NFL, so she fired coach Vrabel on Tuesday morning, Jan. 9, 2024, after six seasons and losing 18 of the past 24 games. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
Tennessee Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk said the franchise considered trading former head coach Mike Vrabel. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

Vrabel, who coached Tennessee to four consecutive winning seasons, was coming off his second consecutive losing season in Nashville, as the Titans finished 6-11. He concluded his tenure with a 54-45 record and a 2-3 mark in the postseason.

Even though Vrabel helped the Titans become perennial winners — including three playoff appearances, two AFC South titles and the No. 1 seed in 2021, the year he won NFL Coach of the Year — it simply wasn't enough. Tennessee didn't look like the same team that it did in Vrabel's early seasons, especially compared to the team's AFC championship appearance in the 2019 season.

The decision to fire Vrabel absolutely stunned Tennessee's biggest star, free-agent running back Derrick Henry.

"Wow. Wow," he said via ESPN. "I'm shocked. Coach Vrabel is a leader of men. He is a great coach and teacher. I know he will get another opportunity right away. I look forward to it."

In Strunk's statement regarding Vrabel's firing, she called the decision "as difficult as any I've made as controlling owner."

Part of the reason to move on from Vrabel was wanting the Titans to be coached in a different direction in the future.

"As the NFL continues to innovate and evolve, I believe the teams best positioned for sustained success will be those who empower an aligned and collaborative team across all football functions," Strunk said in her statement. "Last year, we began a shift in our approach to football leadership and made several changes to our personnel to advance that plan. As I continued to assess the state of our team, I arrived at the conclusion that the team would also benefit from the fresh approach and perspective of a new coaching staff."