NASHVILLE — There is only one person who could get away with it, calling out Tom Brady several times, mocking his bad plays for everyone to hear.
There is only one person who would even attempt to do that, with the opposing coaching legend Bill Belichick close by.
Then again, there is only one Mike Vrabel.
The second-year Tennessee Titans head coach was that same guy with the New England Patriots, from 2001 through 2008, one of the only players who had the gall to joke with Belichick.
Vrabel was fearless, on and off the field, and he’s brought that same approach to coaching.
“He’s extremely competitive, really a hard-nosed, tough player. Competed at everything,” Brady said on Thursday. “He’s built a team that’s very similar. Very hard-hitting, hard-working, just a good, tough, hard-nosed team. I mean, you see it every day in practice with these guys. They’ve got a really good team, it’s been a good couple of days.”
Vrabel is no joke as a head coach. While much different from Belichick — the former linebacker is big (6-foot-5, 260 pounds) and gregarious, not soft-spoken and tactical like his former coach — he has made an impression in his short time.
During practice, Vrabel is always right in the thick of things, interacting with his players and making sure everybody is on the same page.
While working with the defense, he watches the opposing offense like a hawk, reading their tendencies as if he were still playing and pointing them out to his unit.
The atmosphere is lively, with gigantic speakers by the field booming out a selection of hip hop and country music throughout the session.
At one point Wednesday, when Luke Combs’ “Beer Never Broke My Heart” came on, he stopped in the middle of a drill and shouted to the sideline “Hey, turn this [expletive] up!”
When a “fight” broke out between teams after Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore and Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown got into it after a play, Vrabel blew it up by grabbing jerseys and tossing players away from the scrum like rag dolls.
He ordered everybody back to their sidelines, and within moments everyone was right back to work.
When asked about the dust-up afterwards, he laughed.
“If you call that a fight, then you’ve probably never been in a real fight before.”
Vrabel, who turned 44 on Wednesday, still has to prove himself in the games that matter.
He’s off to a good start so far, going 9-7 and reaching the playoffs in his first season, but so far the only trophy he’s won is the participation trophy awarded to him by Brady before practice Thursday commemorating the Titans’ regular season win over the Patriots.
But while Vrabel’s friends on the Patriots are focused on winning another Super Bowl, they’re rooting for him to succeed as well.
“He’s been a good friend for a long time. Obviously, he’s done a great job leading this team, and [I’m] proud of him, everything he’s accomplished,” Brady said. “We all support him even though he’s coaching for another team.”
Vrabel’s son a BC star
Tyler Vrabel is a star in the making at Boston College.
He was lightly recruited out of high school, but the young Vrabel has come on like gangbusters at the Heights.
A redshirt freshman, he’s bulked up to 6-5, 310 pounds, and could be a four-year starter at left tackle.He played at St. Pius X High in Bellaire, Texas, while his father, Mike Vrabel, was coaching four years with the Houston Texans.
Pats at Titans
Time: 7 p.m.
TV: WBZ Channel 4