HomeTrade RumorsNotes on AFC: Mike Vrabel, Michael Pittman, Press Taylor, Colts, Jaguars, and...

Notes on AFC: Mike Vrabel, Michael Pittman, Press Taylor, Colts, Jaguars, and Titans

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“The franchise tag, I don’t think anybody would be displeased with $23 million,” Pittman continued. “The franchise tag is almost like a tag of respect because you get paid like the top-5 of your position. But do I necessarily want to play on one? I wouldn’t say necessarily no I do not want to play on the tag. You can use that to work on a long-term deal as well.”

Jaguars

There’s an understandable search for who to blame in Jacksonville following the team’s collapse down the stretch, and OC Press Taylor has come under fire because of the offense’s inconsistency in Taylor’s first year as the primary play-caller. However, Jaguars HC Doug Pederson — a fierce supporter and believer in Taylor dating back to their time in Philadelphia — defended him in the end-of-season presser. 

“I thought it went good. Can it be better? Yeah, it can be better. I think at times, when you struggle offensively like we did at times, I don’t care who is calling plays, you might as well look at that thing with your eyes closed and just pick a play,” Pederson said via SI.com’s John Shipley. “Because it’s hard, it’s difficult; I’ve been there. You’re trying to find that one play or a spark that gets your offense rolling and with the struggles we had at times, that’s a difficult thing to do. Whether it’s in the run game or the pass game, whatever it might be. Then, you’re looking at the amount of turnovers. You go up and down the field, you turn the ball over in the red zone. You just can’t do this, it’s not play calling, it’s not the scheme or the design of plays, it’s just having the urgency of ‘we have to protect the football better,’ things of that nature.”

Pederson said the No. 1 thing for the Jaguars to improve next year is turnovers. Starting QB Trevor Lawrence threw 14 interceptions and fumbled 12 times, while the Jaguars were 26th in the NFL in fourth-down conversion percentage, going 13-29 on gotta-have-it plays. 

“I think it’s number one. I think it’s the biggest thing that he has to focus on moving forward,” Pederson said. “We just can’t have this amount of turnovers, how we turn the ball over, where we turn the ball over, it doesn’t matter. We got to protect the football, that’s the number one thing. I think we’re going to probably end up No. 29, 30, 31 somewhere down there in giveaways. That also doesn’t take into consideration the turnover on downs, too. Those are giveaways as well. For the quarterback, the person that touches the ball every snap, we got to make sure the emphasis is taking care of the ball.”

  • Citing a team source, Shipley says there was internal skepticism about Pederson’s decision to hand play-calling to Taylor, as it was viewed as a downgrade due to Pederson’s reputation as one of the NFL’s best play-callers. 
  • The source also says the loss of passing game coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, who provided valuable experience and outside perspective to the Taylor/Pederson duo, was also felt this year. 

Titans

  • ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler says a source close to former Titans HC Mike Vrabel told him the coach was willing to make things work for another year but owner Amy Adams Strunk thought it was best to make a change: “[Vrabel] didn’t want out — this is the owner and whoever else is in her ear.”
  • Fowler adds if Vrabel had returned, he would have been on the hot seat in 2024 after two straight losing seasons. He also says the sense he’s gotten from people is the relationship issues between Vrabel and GM Ran Carthon were overblown. 
  • As for what’s next, Fowler isn’t sure the Titans will be able to lure Lions OC Ben Johnson but thinks they will lean toward hiring an offensive candidate. He points out Texans OC Bobby Slowik and Dolphins OC Frank Smith have a history with Carthon from San Francisco. 
  • NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport mentions he also heard things were fine between Vrabel and Carthon. He says Carthon didn’t fire Vrabel and might not have if it had been up to him, it was Strunk pulling the trigger. 
  • Rapoport says Strunk wasn’t necessarily happy with how Vrabel handled himself when he was inducted into the Patriots’ Hall of Fame during this season, or how he declined to dispel rumors about him wanting to go back to New England. 
  • A source tells Outkick’s Armando Salguero the meeting between Vrabel and Strunk on Tuesday made it clear the two sides were not on the same page. 
  • Salguero’s source said Strunk wanted a more collaborative approach and Vrabel didn’t think he needed to change up what made him successful: “Let’s just say she believed a different approach or perspective was necessary in making decisions be more of a group thing, and Mike is more traditional and believes in his process and his decision-making so he wanted to continue being himself.”
  • The source added they felt Vrabel was handicapped by the Titans’ instability at quarterback. 
  • Nick Suss of the Tennesseean says while the two men “got along fine,” Vrabel identified with the New England coaching philosophy where the coach was the sole, most powerful decision-maker, while Carthon came from more collaborative organizations. 
  • The Athletic’s Diana Russini reports the Titans believed trading Vrabel to another team would be too complicated and wanted to move on quickly.
  • Strunk said they considered trading Vrabel, but mentioned trades take time and they didn’t want to miss out on any options: “I was just not willing to go to the back of the line and missing out on somebody we really wanted.” (Tom Pelissero)
  • Carthon said he never had any issues with Vrabel, contrary to some rumors about the two: “I will say that Mike (Vrabel) and I, we’ve never had any issue — whether it’s personal or professional. We were in lockstep.” (Jonathan Jones)
  • Slowik and 49ers RB coach Bobby Turner are potential replacements for Vrabel as head coach. (Paul Kuharsky)

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