Upon his retirement, an ode to Mike Vrabel’s career

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After one particularly big win during the Patriots’ run early last decade, Bill Belichick warned his players about the media love they were about to receive.

“They’re going to come in here and blow smoke up your ass,” Belichick said according to Michael Holley’s excellent document on the era Patriot Reign. “They’re going to give you b–w jobs, tell you how great you are, they’re going to pile it on thick.”

Belichick finished his talk, looked at his players, and noticed Mike Vrabel’s hand was in the air.

“Yeah, Mike,” Belichick said.

“What was that you were saying about b–w jobs?”

The team died laughing. By all accounts, that moment is Vrabel in a nutshell.  He was quick enough to make the joke, and knew he was respected enough by Belichick to pull it off. Vrabel had great instincts on the field and in the classroom; he knew Belichick got a kick out of him.

(As Tom Curran points out in a great piece on CSNNE.com, Vrabel was a world class smart ass.)

There were better Patriots during the team’s three-championship run, but perhaps no player other than Tom Brady embodied the era better. Vrabel was versatile, which Belichick prizes. The new Ohio State linebackers coach lined up at outside linebacker, inside linebacker, and famously at tight end. He could stop the run as well as he could cover.

He was known for his athleticism and leadership. He played with an edge, yet was perhaps defined by his intelligence. Holley wrote how coaches were continually surprised at the amazing recall Vrabel had of formations and tendencies of opponents.

“During his Patriots career, there was no player more respected for his football intellect and revered for his leadership by his teammates than Mike,” Belichick said in a statement Monday. “He was elected a team captain by his peers and is a player who I think everyone knew was destined to become a coach after his NFL playing career was over.

“Mike Vrabel is as well-suited for coaching as any player I have ever coached. He has a tremendous feel for people, players, coaches and what his team needs regardless of the situation. He is outstanding in his knowledge of the game, which contributed to his excellence as a player. I have no doubt Mike will develop tough, intelligent, fundamentally sound winners.”

Drafted by the Steelers, but barely used until he got to New England, Vrabel will ultimately be remembered as one of the catalysts to New England’s title run.

“He is a champion in every sense of the word and I’m confident all of these qualities will make him a great coach,” Chiefs G.M. Scott Pioli said Monday. “I cannot overstate my respect for him as a person and a football player. If there were a Hall of Champions, Mike Vrabel would be a first ballot selection. ”

Vrabel won’t make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but that’s not the point.  Those Patriot teams weren’t about the stars.  Heck, Brady is the only surefire Hall of Fame player from the run. (Richard Seymour, Adam Vinatieri, Ty Law, and Rodney Harrison will have arguments.)

Vrabel stuck out, even on a team greater than the sum of its parts. On this day, he deserves a little smoke blown up his ass.

36 responses to “Upon his retirement, an ode to Mike Vrabel’s career

  1. definitely a great player – too bad the steelers had 6 other linebackers who were better fits for cowher’s linebacker ideology. awesome career, great person and will most likely be a successful coach.

  2. Que spygate, video cameras, yadda yadda yadda….

    Vrabel was a huge asset to the Patriots run. Still not over him getting traded along with Cassell to the Chiefs. But the guy was a true professional- and a jokester.

  3. As a Chiefs fan all I can say is what an A**hole….Just kidding. I knew he wouldn’t be around long. Hopefully he has instilled just a fraction of his champion mentality to some of the younger linebackers on that team. I am not a fan of Ohio State in any way but hopefully he can restore some integrity back to his old school.

  4. Vrabel stuck out, even on a team greater than the sum of its parts. On this day, he deserves a little smoke blown up his ass.

    _________

    That’s not all that’s being blown in this article….

    Maybe buy the guy dinner first next time.

  5. An Ode to Mike Vrabel’s Career

    There once was a linebacker name Mike Vrabel
    Whose team earned a cheating label
    To cheat was their plan
    For as long as the can
    Cause winning a Super Bowl without it they were unable

  6. I have my own ode to Vrabel:

    “There once was a player named Vrabel,
    who stole beers from a casino deli’s table,
    when the news of this broke,
    the despicable bloke
    said reports of a crime were a fable.”

  7. Billy that was funny…even as a Pats fan I can say that.

    Tedy was just on NFL Live saying that Vrabel was one guy who would tell coaches they were wrong and offer suggestions. At one point they wanted to go into coaching together though I think that once Tedy had his stroke and returned their friendship was strained a bit.

    As a Pats fan I am always a little surprised that other team fans have a better opinion of Vrabel than they do of Bruschi because to me Vrabel was more of a butthole to other team’s fans. He was our butthole though and we love him. 🙂

    He is the son of two well respected educators in my area. Last I knew his mom and dad were both HS principals so I am not surprised that he wants to be a teacher of sorts too.

    That story from Patriots Reign is one of my favorite Vrabel stories.

  8. I don’t see how Ohio State hiring a guy who’s been arrested in the last 6 months is going to help their image.

  9. Growing up looking like he did, with a name like Vrabel, Mike quickly developed a sense of humor.

  10. If Vrable does half as well coaching as he has playing linebacker, then Ohio State will have made the right choice. Any NFL team would have loved to have had him on their roster. He will be missed.

  11. I wonder how hard this idiot will fight for the retired players now that he is one…?

  12. Ty Law should definitely be in the Hall of Fame for God’s sakes.. Maybe one of the best corners of all time.. Guy was a great player and picked off Peyton Manning 3 times in game. How many can say they’ve done that lol.. Im bias cuz he was my favorite but man was he good for us along with Vrabel and company

  13. citizenstrange says: Jul 11, 2011 4:41 PM

    An Ode to Mike Vrabel’s Career

    There once was a linebacker name Mike Vrabel
    Whose team earned a cheating label
    To cheat was their plan
    For as long as the can
    Cause winning a Super Bowl without it they were unable

    _______________________________

    There once was a Citizen named Strange

    Whose opinion was always deranged

    He is a chump

    And dumb as a stump

    And will gobble the goo for spare change

  14. In “Under Siege,” Steven Seagal plays a Navy Seal turned cook who thwarts a gang of mercenaries. In one scene, a killer comments, “It’s a shame you weren’t cookin’ for us.” Seemed like every time we played the Pats, I was on the phone asking my brother, “Okay, tell me again why Vrabel’s not cookin’ for us?” I’m still not sure how or why the Steelers let him get away. But much as I hate the Pats, I always enjoyed watching Vrabel’s game. Smart, tough linebacker. Wish him all the best at OSU.

  15. madenatewell says: “I wonder how hard this
    idiot will fight for the retired players now that he is one…?”

    Jeff Nixon, just let it go, man.

  16. He may not go to the HOF, but was a one of the key cogs in the dynamic of those Patriot teams. Great guy too. I’ve always had great admiration for the Steelers….but the really screwed up by letting him get away. Congrats on a super playing career Mike and good luck in your new coaching one.

  17. There once was a Citizen named Strange

    Whose opinion was always deranged

    He is a chump

    And dumb as a stump

    And will gobble the goo for spare change

    ================================

    Too funny!

  18. Cheers Gregg for a great article…otherwise known as smoke. He was always an underrated player in the league but always one of the rocks of our defense…when, well, they could play defense.

    I loved watching Vrabel play each year for us…wish him the best.

  19. Why does this article look like it was written by Perez Hilton? All these (lets call it “obscure”) references to the male genitalia made my other men?

  20. my favorite ty law story was when he got busted heading into canada with a couple hits of X. of course he had a cousin take the fall but since i am a diehard michigan fan, i still rooted for him

  21. i feel like vrabel and bruschi epitomized NE…. guys who may not have done much on many other teams but were stars in NE

  22. I was sad to see him go from the Steelers, but he Couldn’t crack the line-up. In his rookie year the interior backers were Kirkland and Holmes. The outside guys were Gildon and Lloyd (Lloyd’s last year). In the following two years Carlos Emmons replaced Lloyd and that was Vrabel’s best chance to crack the line-up but for whatever reason he never really got the chance. By 2000, Joey Porter had showed up and Gildon was in a stretch of Pro Bowl years.

    In 2001 Vrabel was gone. Kirkland retired but he was replaced by Kendrell Bell who had a stellar rookie year.

    Hard to argue Vrabel should have been kept by the Steelers. He was their fifth best linebacker during that entire time.

    Great guy. Great career. Just too bad it had to happen with the Pats.

  23. Ten catches as a tight end, ten touchdowns. You’d think teams would have wised up to the Pats whenever they’d see Vrabel in the game as a tight end, but noooo! He’d still be wide open and make the catch!

    Mr. Vrabel, all of New England loved you when you were here. You were one of the rocks on which our championship defense was built. Best of luck on your new career, and i have a feeling you’ll be coaching in the NFL before too long (hopefully with the Pats).

  24. @dirtdawg55 …

    That’s just what my brother said. But Vrabel certainly shined with Belichick. I guess he ended up exactly where he was meant to be. 🙂

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