Vrabel gets 1st crack coaching against Belichick, Patriots
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Mike Vrabel won three Super Bowl rings over eight seasons with the New England Patriots. He even caught eight passes — all for touchdowns and all thrown by Tom Brady.
Then Bill Belichick traded the linebacker away to Kansas City in 2009.
“We didn’t talk for a couple months, maybe a year,” Vrabel said. “Then we became friends, and I used him as a resource when I started my coaching career, and still talk to him a lot now. This week we’re competitors.”
In his first season as an NFL head coach with Tennessee, Vrabel gets his first crack at both his old coach and former team Sunday when the Titans (4-4) host the Patriots (7-2).
The men share some of the same philosophies about football, though not personalities.
Titans cornerback Logan Ryan, who spent his first four seasons in New England, says Vrabel’s also younger and taller than Belichick. Vrabel may dress a bit better too during games, and Ryan sees some other similarities.
“They’re hard-nosed. They care about the fundamentals,” Ryan said.
For his part, Belichick says Vrabel will be a great coach with his passion and football knowledge as a player easily carrying over. Belichick also believes Vrabel deserves to be recognized in the Patriots Hall of Fame and yes, the Nashville native cheers for Vrabel and the Titans every game except this one.
“It will be the Patriots against the Titans,” Belichick said. “That’s what it will be.”
The Patriots have won six straight after beating Green Bay 31-17 last week. They also have won the past seven against the Titans, including playoffs, with the most recent a 35-14 romp in the divisional round last January. The Titans snapped a three-game skid Monday night with a 28-14 win in Dallas.
Only a trio remains of those who played alongside Vrabel during his tenure in New England: Brady, kicker Stephen Gostkowski and special teams captain Matt Slater. Brady spent eight seasons with Vrabel from 2001-08. Gostkowski arrived in 2006, and Slater was a rookie during Vrabel’s final season in 2008 before being traded.
“His body can do it longer than mine could at the position that he plays,” Vrabel said of Brady.
The three-time MVP will play his 300th game, including the postseason, on Sunday. Brady will join Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks to reach that mark. The Patriots quarterback needs four TD passes to pass Peyton Manning (579) for most TD passes in NFL history for regular season and postseason combined.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel won three Super Bowl rings playing linebacker and goal-line pass threat for Bill Belichick in New England. Now the rookie head coach gets his first crack at his former coach when Vrabel’s Titans host former teammate Tom Brady and the Patriots in a game Tennessee desperately needs.