How involved will Mike Vrabel be in Tennessee Titans GM search? Would he want the job?

Nick Suss
Nashville Tennessean

Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel wants to make one thing clear: He's the coach of Amy Adams Strunk's football team.

Adams Strunk, the controlling owner of the Tennessee Titans, fired general manager Jon Robinson in the middle of his seventh season in charge of the team's front office Tuesday. The move was surprising; it's the first time since at least 2000 that an NFL team has fired its general manager in the middle of a season where it has a winning record. And Vrabel maintains he had no part in the decision to get rid of the general manager who hired him to coach the Titans in 2018.

"I was informed of the decision," Vrabel said Wednesday. "This was not a decision that included me. This was a decision that was made and I was informed of that decision."

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Now the Titans are in an interesting position. Tennessee (7-5) has a three-game lead over the Indianapolis Colts (4-8) and Jacksonville Jaguars, tied for second place in the AFC South. A third-straight division title and a fifth playoff berth in six seasons feel imminent. But without Robinson at the top of the organization, Vrabel and interim general manager Ryan Cowden (formerly the team's vice president of player personnel) will have to maintain the roster and keep things going through December and January with their eyes set on the postseason.

Vrabel said he believes those decisions will be collaborative between he and Cowden. He said that in the event of a disagreement, he believes Adams Strunk would have final say on personnel decisions, though he doesn't foresee it happening at this point in the season when almost all personnel moves involve signing players off opposing teams' practice squads.

The bigger question is what happens next. The Titans said a "comprehensive search" for Robinson's replacement will begin after the season ends. It wouldn't be unheard of for Vrabel − the reigning NFL Coach of the Year − to want input in the hiring process or even want consideration for the job.

Vrabel's former coach Bill Belichick has been the New England Patriots' de facto general manager for years and in the past coaches such as Bill Parcells and Bill Walsh pulled double duty as well. But the practice is rare, and has backfired before, including recent examples with former Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien and former Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly.

Vrabel said he and Adams Strunk haven't had conversations about the future yet, but he's willing to be involved in any capacity he's asked.

"I’ll support them and help in the process however I can," Vrabel said. "We haven’t had those conversations. So my focus again is on today and where we’re at. I’ll absolutely fill whatever role or help whatever way when the time comes."

When asked if he's qualified to serve as both coach and general manager, Vrabel answered he's qualified to talk to his players about this week and their matchup against the Jaguars on Sunday (noon, CBS) at Nissan Stadium. Vrabel skirted around questions about what he would've wanted Robinson to do differently or whether he had enough say in personnel decisions in recent seasons. He tried to pull as much focus away from the past and toward the present as possible, adding that the only thing Adams Strunk has asked of him is to continue to do what he thinks is best for the players.

Whatever constraints Vrabel and the staff were under while Robinson was general manager will still constrain them this Sunday, and likely for the rest of the season. The roster is what it is, and save for a few adds this week like defensive back John Reid and outside linebacker Tarell Basham, it's not likely to change much.

That's why, when asked if he was restricted by the moves Robinson made, Vrabel said that doesn't necessarily matter.

"That’s coaching," Vrabel said. "Figure out who is available and find ways to win the football game. We’re charged to win. That’s all we’ve ever tried to do."

Nick Suss is the Titans beat writer for The Tennessean. Contact Nick at nsuss@gannett.com. Follow Nick on Twitter @nicksuss.