Mike Vrabel is one of many Bill Belichick disciples in the NFL right now trying to make it as a head coach. What most people don’t know is Vrabel’s successful career as a player under Belichick. Belichick has had an impact on every aspect of Vrabel’s NFL career.
Bill Belichick’s Impact on Mike Vrabel’s Playing and Coaching Career
Vrabel joined the New England Patriots in 2001. In his first season with the Patriots, Vrabel played sixteen games and racked up 40 tackles and 23 assists. During that same season, he also recorded three sacks.
In his breakout season with the Patriots in 2005, Vrabel had 73 tackles, 35 assists, and 4.5 sacks. While being a star on defense, Vrabel also played on the other side of the ball. He scored three touchdowns as a goal-line tight end.
In an interview with NBC Sports, Vrabel said, “I enjoyed every minute I spent in New England. Those players, those coaches, those fans. Bill (Belichick) was obviously a big influence on my playing career just to help me improve. Vrabel believes Belicheck was the main reason for the success throughout his 14-year career. “He’s really intelligent,” Vrabel said. “He cares. He has a good way of relating to guys. You know, I think he coaches guys differently based on their personality which is critical.”
In 2009, Vrabel was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs. This trade greatly impacted Vrabel’s and Belichick’s relationship. Vrabel admitted in an interview that he did not talk to Belichick for two years. He felt betrayed by the trade. These trades are not unusual with Bill Belichick. He tends to trade players at the end of their prime. Vrabel was just one of many victims of this trading philosophy.
Belichick Sees Vrabel’s Potential With a Headset
After getting over the devastating trade, Vrabel and Belichick begin working on mending their relationship. Belichick always saw Vrabel as a potential head coach in the NFL. Vrabel never wanted to leave the field. He always wanted to help find a way for his team to win. Vrabel would stay after practice to help the scout team or help coach up younger players.
Belichick said in an interview, “Yeah, well, at that point, Mike was playing, I was coaching, we were trying to win games,” Belichick said. “In passing, and in some of the banter back and forth – that there was always plenty from Mike – we talked about coaching and playing.
From the Field to the Sideline
After Vrabel talked with Belichick, Vrabel decided to start his coaching career. After he spent three years at Ohio State, Vrabel finally got his shot at coaching in the NFL. In 2014, Vrabel joined a staff of ex-Patriots on the Houston Texans. Bill O’Brien is the head coach with Romeo Crennel (Vrabel’s former defensive coordinator) as a defensive coordinator. Also, other coaches played with Vrabel, such as Larry Izzo and Wes Welker.
Belichick remained a massive influence in Vrabel’s coaching career. As mentioned in the above interview, “[Belichick] gave us great leadership there as a head coach. Always great ideas . . . Larry Izzo and Wes Welker and I, when we worked together, we would talk about ideas and things we’d learned in New England as players and so that carries on now to some of the stuff that we’re trying to do to help our teams.”
Vrabel took Bill Belichick’s principles to heart, and this helped the growth of his coaching career. He quickly became the defensive coordinator of the Houston Texans. Shortly after becoming a DC, he became a hot candidate for a head coaching job in the NFL. In 2018, Mike Vrabel was hired as the head coach of the Tennessee Titans.
After a short learning curve, Vrabel defeated Belichick and the Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round playoff game. Defeating the Patriots 20-13, Vrabel proved to be the most successful Bill Belichick disciple thus far.