INDIANAPOLIS – During the eight years that Mike Vrabel spent playing linebacker for the Patriots, Bill Belichick often commented that he would one day be a head coach if he wished to pursue it. Now that Vrabel is entering his first season in charge of the Tennessee Titans, it's clear he took a lot from his former coach.
Vrabel stepped to the podium for his first Combine as a head coach and appeared quite comfortable and offered some thoughtful answers regarding his career path and current team. But it was clear that his time in New England was instrumental in shaping his future.
"I was lucky to play for John Cooper at Ohio State, I played for Bill Cowher[in Pittsburgh], and clearly I would say the most success I had in as a player was during those eight years I played in New England, both personally and as a team," he began when asked about his time in Foxborough. "I got to work for Urban Meyer [at Ohio State] and for Bill O'Brien [at Houston] and I've been able to try to take everything I can and apply it to things that we're going to try to do. Things that I like and maybe things that I didn't like.
"We're all better off for having spent time in New England, clearly. We won three championships, college is paid for my kids so those are all good things. I've learned a lot from Bill [Belichick] and Bill has remained a good friend, a guy that we'll compete against."
Vrabel often referenced his ties to the Patriots during his 15-minute press conference, whether he alluded to edge rushers who morphed from defensive end to outside linebackers like Willie McGinest or his time playing for former defensive coordinators Dean Pees and Matt Patricia.
Another example came when he was asked about what he looked for in a backup quarterback, and a certain Patriots legend quickly entered the equation.
"Critical position, just like all the backups that are ready to play on Sunday," Vrabel said. "A guy that can go in and win the game, finish the game for you and win a game. You watch the MLB playoffs and the starter gets rocked in the second inning and you bring a guy in from the bullpen and he has to win the game. He has to go four, five, six innings and he can't just get you out of the game, he has to win the game just like in the National Football League just like the playoffs.
"That's an important position. He has to be able to control his emotions throughout the week of being a backup, but also has the ability and confidence to go in there and win the game. You look at Tom Brady. When Drew [Bledsoe] got hurt, Tom embraced that role and he went in there with the intentions of winning, winning every snap and he ultimately won that job."