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Friction arises between Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel and general manager Ran Carthon

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The Titans entered the 2022 season on the heels of six straight winning campaigns. They are closing out a second straight slate with double-digit losses. Speculation about Mike Vrabel‘s future has persisted this season, and as the coaching carousel prepares to spin, the sixth-year Tennessee HC’s name continues to come up.

Vrabel-Patriots buzz has circulated at points, and although multiple previous reports poured cold water on the former Pats linebacker coming back to Foxborough via trade, the topic of Vrabel’s fit in Tennessee is back on the radar. The Vrabel-Ran Carthon relationship can be described as rocky, according to the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora, who notes the two do not seem a match as their first year together wraps.

Tennessee made the unusual move to fire GM Jon Robinson months after giving him an extension that ran through 2027. The Titans then hired Carthon from the 49ers, giving him the personnel keys. Although Vrabel is unlikely a true passenger in a Carthon-driven car, the Titans made several cost-cutting moves that pointed to a step back this season. That has come to fruition, with the Will Levis-quarterbacked team sitting 5-11 and on track for the franchise’s worst record since 2015. Vrabel’s extension surfaced on the same February 2022 day Robinson’s did. Robinson’s deal was believed to run through 2027, pointing to Vrabel’s being in that range as well.

An anonymous GM informed La Canfora “things are not good” between Vrabel and Carthon, reigniting the trade talk that had died down for a bit. During his latest GM Shuffle podcast, former GM Michael Lombardi described Vrabel and Carthon as having some “real issues” in their first year together.

To turn the Eagles’ offense around, Jalen Hurts needs to address this specific problem.

The Titans are 0-5 in a shaky AFC South, and since another solid start in 2022, the team is 5-18. Injuries led to Tennessee limping to the finish line last season, and in a division that saw three teams make early-round QB investments, the Titans trail the Texans and Colts — despite Indianapolis losing Anthony Richardson early in the season. Vrabel, 48, has guided the Titans to four winning seasons and three postseason berths during his time in Nashville. It is worth wondering if he is onboard with a rebuild.

Some around the league expect the Patriots and Bears to be connected to Vrabel, in the event this situation leads to actual trade talks, La Canfora adds. A first-round pick has been floated as a potential cost for Vrabel, who steered an injury-riddled Titans team to the AFC’s No. 1 seed in 2021. Vrabel has obvious history with the Patriots, who made him part of their historic 2001 free agency class and employed him for eight seasons. Bill Belichick is not certain to be gone from New England this year, though La Canfora points to a divorce still being in the cards. Given his ties to the organization, Vrabel would represent an obvious fit as a Belichick replacement. Though, that would obviously complicate the Pats’ relationship with potential successor Jerod Mayo.

The Bears are expected to retain GM Ryan Poles, whose first two seasons with the Chiefs — under GM Scott Pioli, a top Belichick lieutenant when Vrabel signed with the Patriots — doubled as Vrabel’s last two as an NFL player. The Chiefs acquired Vrabel as part of the Matt Cassel tag-and-trade transaction in 2009; Poles moved into a college scouting director role in 2010, Vrabel’s final season. Unless the Bears trade the No. 1 overall pick once again and pick up another trove of assets, it is somewhat difficult to see them parting with one of their two first-rounders for Vrabel in an attempt to upgrade on Matt Eberflus. Though, the minor connection between Poles and Vrabel is noteworthy.

Carthon being kept over Vrabel in Tennessee would be a fascinating development and one that would, considering the latter’s success, conceivably turn up the heat on the GM early in his Titans tenure. The nucleus from Vrabel’s playoff teams has splintered a bit, and Ryan Tannehill appears headed out the door soon. Derrick Henry, who appeared in trade rumors this season, may follow as a UFA-to-be.

It is too soon to know if the Titans would seriously entertain trading their head coach and giving Carthon his pick of the next one, but a definitive answer will come soon.


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