PFT’s 2021 coach of the year: Mike Vrabel

Miami Dolphins v Tennessee Titans
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This was a tough one. Tougher than most of the others we’ve had to make this year.

Four or five guys can make the case for the coach of the year prize.  PFT’s winner is the man whose steady hand guided his team to the best record in a top-heavy conference — despite not having his best player for more than half of the season.

Titans coach Mike Vrabel, employing the “no excuses” mindset he surely learned during his time as a player on the Patriots, did not miss a beat when his team lost running back Derrick Henry, news that came a day after the Titans seemingly wrapped up the AFC South by completing a sweep of the Colts on Halloween.

The Titans nevertheless kept winning, humbling the all-in Rams on a Sunday night in L.A. and then holding off a potent Saints team to get to 8-2. The correction came with a couple of losses, including a head-scratcher at home to the Texans and a thumping at New England. After the bye, however, the Titans rediscovered their footing, shutting out the Jaguars before stumbling at Pittsburgh before finding a way to overcome a 10-point deficit against the 49ers on a Thursday night in late December.

A dismantling of the Dolphins and an inexplicably close call at Houston gave the Titans the most coveted prize in either conference, the first overall seed. With Henry back, the extra week makes a huge difference. It could be the difference between returning to L.A. for the Super Bowl and making an early exit from the playoffs.

Along the way, the Titans utilized more players than any team in NFL history, a record that was broken way back in Week 12.

So, yes, Vrabel earned it, in a year where plenty of other coaches can make a strong case for the honor. No other case is stronger than the one that can be made for Packers coach Matt LaFleur, who has put together a trio of 13-win seasons to start his career as a head coach. Also, Bengals coach Zac Taylor went from the dealing with rumors of getting fired after the 2020 season to an unlikely division championship, going worst to first in the ultra-difficult AFC North.

And it’s impossible to ignore Raiders interim coach Rich Bisaccia, who held his team together through unprecedented adversity to make the playoffs, capping the season with one of the most memorable regular-season games we’ve ever seen or will ever see. His reward should be the permanent job in Las Vegas.

65 responses to “PFT’s 2021 coach of the year: Mike Vrabel

  1. Begrudgingly have to agree with this pick. Vrabel is a coaching force to be reckoned with for many years to come whether you like the Titans or not.

  2. LaFleur is coach of the year. Not giving it to him either 2 years ago when he won 13 games or last year when he won 13 games was pathetic but not giving it to him this year on yet again another 13 win season simply makes it a meaningless award.

  3. Hard to argue with this choice. Vrabel seems like a good guy and without his workhorse ended up being the #1 seed in The AFC.

  4. Hopefully the AP finally decides to reward LeFleur for his efforts.

    Clearly the coach of the year all three of his first seasons.

  5. I would say John Harbaugh would disagree. Vrabel was disrespectful though in that game.

  6. La Fleur deserved it more. Had THREE Pro bowlers miss most or all of the season (Baktiari, Alexander, and Z-Smith) and still found a way to win 13 games. Congratulations to Vrabel!

  7. Give me a freaking break……..it’s LaFleur, hands down, and should’ve been LaFleur in 2019 and 2020 as well.

  8. No mention of BB just because you gave him Executive of the year – the very first year that he lamented to a more democratic approach to this year’s draft and free agency? All he did was coach a rookie QB to the playoffs. Not sexy I guess

  9. Any coach who can turn Ryan Tannehill into a legitimate Quarterback and win without his top offensive weapon for much of the season yet still win the top seed in the AFC deserves to be
    Coach of the Year.

  10. I think you made a great choice. Several good options for coaches who navigated adversity, from Payton to Belichick to Tomlin to Bisaccia. No bad choices there.

  11. Agreed 100%. Cheering for the Titans now that Seahawks are sidelined. I think they’re going punch opponents right in the face.

  12. Not a popular choice, but Sirianni should be in the conversation. Totally new staff, coming off a 4-11-1 season, new QB, turned around after a weak start.

  13. Lafleur should never get it. I’m sorry but he walked into a job with one of the greatest QB’s of his generation. Zac Taylor shouldn’t get it either because Joe Burrow makes him look decent. LaFleur will be the next Adam Gase as soon as Rodgers is gone. Remember when Peyton Manning made Gase looked good? Lol.

  14. Sirianni deserves an Honorable Mention: Only rookie HC to make the playoffs, inherited a 4-win team in “rebuilding” season, wins 9-games after 2-5 start, with 23- year old, first-time starter at QB.

  15. Joe Burrow got LSU a National Championship and Ed Orgeron a big contract. Joe Burrow got Cinci to the playoffs and Zac Taylor mentioned for COTY. Simple as that.

  16. LaFleur gets my vote this year.
    His top 2 defensive players 2nd team All-Pro Z.Smith and Alexander missed most of the season. His All-Pro LT missed all season until week 18. His offensive line was down to backups at 4 of 5 positions including 3rd string OT and he still managed to put together wins.

  17. Prior to the Season; La Fluer lost his All Pro Center. During the season lost his new Starting Center. La Fluer did not have his All Pro OL, did not have his All Pro LT, did not have his All Pro DB. Also during the season; Lost Back up LT & Pro Bowl OT. 3rd sting LT played last 7 weeks who only allowed 3 sacks, just 3 penalties. Lost starting RT.

    Plus all the non-football stuff. This coach did a fantastic job.

  18. Vrabel is an excellent coach. Absolutely. And he certainly did an awesome job of overcoming the absence of Derrick Henry. How many player absences did LaFleur overcome? Practically the entire offensive line, Z Smith, Alexander, King, Tonyan, multiple receivers out at various times throughout the season… … what the heck?

  19. 6burgh says:
    January 12, 2022 at 7:22 pm

    Matt Lafleur will suck once Rodgers walks away.
    +++++
    In 14 seasons as Green Bay’s starting QB The Packers have won more than 12 games 4 times.

    In 3 seasons under Matt LaFleur the Packers have won 13 games 3 times. You do the math.

  20. I to say, weren’t the Steelers picked to be in last place in their division. I can’t think of another team that made the playoffs with a QB on one bum leg, bad arm and the worse OL in the NFL. How the heck did they make it this far.

  21. Don’t really care for the guy but to get the #1 seed without Henry for half a season, Tannehill as your QB and half your team on IR or Covid protocol is impressive nonetheless.

    Deserved.

  22. jw02554 says:
    January 12, 2022 at 8:55 pm
    No mention of BB just because you gave him Executive of the year – the very first year that he lamented to a more democratic approach to this year’s draft and free agency? All he did was coach a rookie QB to the playoffs. Not sexy I guess.

    ————————
    Belichick rebuilt a team PFT is correct to call that his work as an executive not a coach, and he did deserve that level of recognition at it too. His staff (the reflects on him as an executive more than a coach) handled the coaching guided by his direction. But for the best single job of direct coaching Vrabel does deserve this recognition.

  23. And to think, we could’ve had him in Detroit but Bob Quinn took Matt Patricia instead. How’d that work out?

  24. Arians lost his entire secondary, Gronk, AB, Godwin, 3 of 4 linebackers, still tied Packers for best record

  25. Belichick for resurrecting the Patriots from the dead, and the most innovative gameplan we’ve seen in decades to win at Buffalo on a windy day.

  26. Vrabel won his division with Tannehill and without much Henry. Well deserving of COTY.

    It shows when you have both a complete team and a well coached team, you can go places even without an elite QB. Standing around pouting that you don’t have an elite QB gets you nowhere. Right, Flores?

  27. “Matt Lafleur will suck once Rodgers walks away.” Thats for the future to play out but as long as AR is Lefleurs quarterback he has deserved the COY award for three seasons now for obvious reasons but has been shafted for three years.as for when AR leaves such a great coach as ML will find a way to win without Rodgers even with Love as qb.only one winning team has a QB named Rodgers but they still win football games because there is much more than the QB that makes a good team run smoothly and the Packers have the personnel to do that also.maybe then ML can finally win the COY award.

  28. A few seasons ago you and a bunch of experts were saying that joe burrow should hold out and not get drafted to the bengals bc of how dysfunctional the franchise was. Now they’re afc north champs. Zac Taylor deserves a lot of credit

  29. bjwbrown2011 says:
    January 12, 2022 at 7:22 pm
    Tomlin took the ghost of Ben Roethlisberger to the playoffs.

    ——-

    No he didn’t. The goof that coaches the Chargers did that

  30. LaFleur is considerably underrated. Those that say its all Rodgers haven’t been watching.

    9 different O-lineman started for the Packers. They always ran it well, and I can count on 1 finger how many games Rodgers got rattled.

    But, as good as he is, he’ll get his chances in the future. Congrats to Vrabel.

  31. Good choice. The other choice that came to mind was Sean Payton. I’m a fan of a different NFC South team, and I don’t care for him at all. That said, how in the world you get 9 wins without a QB or their best WR beats the heck out of me. Hate to admit it, but that’s impressive.

  32. bengals4life says:
    January 12, 2022 at 10:01 pm
    Lafleur should never get it. I’m sorry but he walked into a job with one of the greatest QB’s of his generation. Zac Taylor shouldn’t get it either because Joe Burrow makes him look decent. LaFleur will be the next Adam Gase as soon as Rodgers is gone. Remember when Peyton Manning made Gase looked good? Lol.
    Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Two years ago everybody and their brother was talking about how Rodgers was washed up and going downhill and his best years were behind him. LaFleur shows up and gives Rodgers sufficient weapons and a running game to take the load off. Next thing you know they have have two thirteen-game win seasons, now three.

    It’s LaFleur.

  33. Arians lost his entire secondary, Gronk, AB, Godwin, 3 of 4 linebackers, still tied Packers for best record
    ===========

    “He screws up one time, he’s gone.”

  34. Rich Bisaccia! No one has had to overcome more. He beats Cincy, he has a full-time coaching job.

  35. We have already seen what happens to LaFleur’s team when they don’t have Rodgers playing.

  36. 1mge says:
    January 13, 2022 at 9:42 am
    What coach has won the most games over his first 3 years than any coach in NFL history???

    7 2 Rate This

    Jim Harbaugh turned the very, very bad 49er franchise around in his first three years, taking them to 3 straight NFC championships and appearing in a super bowl with Colin K as a quarterback. All Lafleur has done is inherited a already winning team and not screw up the balance.

  37. Rich Bisaccia. No other team has had to endure what the Raiders have and they STILL made the playoffs on a 4 game winning streak, taking down other playoff contenders the entire way. Simple as that.

  38. I don’t about that. Vraebel is a good coach but Bellichick basically rebuilt his whole team in the offseason and took a rookie QB To the Playoffs. He’s got my vote

  39. There are a lot of good coaches and Rich Bisaccia should get some well-deserved recognition. But Mike Vrabel is far away the best coach in the NFL, and it’s not even close. He brings back memories of Joe Gibbs, and I haven’t been able to say that for quite a while.

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