Today in Patriots History
Mr. Versatility: Vrabes
Mr. Versatility: Vrabes
Happy 46th birthday to Mike Vrabel
Born Aug 14, 1975 in Akron, Ohio
Patriot LB, 2001-2008; uniform #50
Signed as a free agent on March 16, 2001
Mike Vrabel was a 1997 third round pick by Pittsburgh, out of Ohio State. He never started in four seasons with the Steelers, departing when his contract expired and he became a free agent. Ironically his only notable play during that time involved the Pats. Vrabel sacked Drew Bledsoe to clinch a 7-6 Steeler victory over the Patriots in the '97-'98 divisional round playoff game. That turned out to be the first of twenty postseason games for Mike.
Bill Belichick saw something in Vrabel that he liked, and signed Vrabel in 2001; it was probably one of the best decisions he made in his twenty-plus years as a general manager. Mike became a starter and proceeded to miss just three games over seven seasons with the Patriots.
In 2007 Vrabel forced three fumbles, had three sacks, recovered an onside kick, and caught a touchdown pass - all in one game. He finished his career with 10 receptions on 14 targets - with all ten going for touchdowns. On defense Vrabel was an effective force not only at defensive end and outside linebacker, but also when injuries necessitated him to play inside linebacker in 2005 and 2006.
Over eight seasons with the Patriots Vrabel recorded 606 tackles (412 solo), 48 sacks, 11 interceptions (with one touchdown), 24 pass deflections, 13 forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.
Late in the 2001 season Vrabel intercepted a pass in a game at the Jets. The turnover was clutch, triggering a momentum change which led to the Patriots outscoring New York 17-3 in the second half, to win 17-16. Then in Super Bowl 36 it was Mike Vrabel who applied the pressure on Kurt Warner that forced a bad pass that was intercepted by Ty Law, returned 47 yards for a touchdown.
Early in the 2002 season Vrabel lined up as a tight end and grabbed a one-yard TD pass to give the Pats a 14-7 lead at San Diego. In doing so Mike became the first New England defensive player to catch a touchdown pass since 1974, when John Tanner caught a two-yard TD from Jim Plunkett. Little did any of us know at the time this would be the first of many.
The following year Vrabel had three sacks in a 9-3 win over Cleveland; at the time it was the most sacks in a single game in franchise history, tying Henry Thomas' record set in 1998. (That mark has since been surpassed by Willie McGinest with 4.5 in '06, and Andre Carter with 4.0 in '11.) Mike had 9.5 sacks in '03, the most by any Patriot in the Bill Belichick era, and most by a Patriot since McGinest had the same amount in 1996. All that was accomplished despite missing three games Vrabel capped off the 2003 season with a strong postseason, finishing with three sacks - including two in Super Bowl 38. He also had another touchdown reception in the fourth quarter which was crucial, changing a 22-21 deficit to a 29-22 lead with 2:51 left to play; that was the first offensive touchdown by a defensive player in a Super Bowl since Refrigerator Perry scored in SB 20. And earlier in the game Vrabel's hit on Jake Delhomme late in the first half caused a fumble which was recovered by Richard Seymour deep in Carolina territory. The Patriots would score four plays later to take a seven point lead. Super Bowl 38 was simply an incredible game by Vrabel.
On December 26, 2005 Mike Vrabel became the first player in NFL history to record two touchdowns and a sack in a single game, since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. Herm Edwards had no answer for Vrabel that day; Mike also had a game-high six tackles as the Pats won 31-21 in New Jersey. In 2006 Vrabel was captain on a Pats defense that set a franchise record by allowing just 14.8 points per game. That defense allowed 237 points, the fewest by any Patriot club in a 16-game season.
Along with his versatility, Mike Vrabel was clutch. He had four strip-sacks in the postseason. The first came with the Steelers to clinch a 7-6 Pittsburgh win in the 1997 divisional round against Drew Bledsoe. There was another on Jake Delhomme in the Super Bowl (see above), and a year later one on Peyton Manning in the 20-3 win against the Colts. Vrabel also had a strip sack on Philip Rivers in the epic 24-21 2006 divisional round game against the Chargers; that was recovered by Tully Banta-Cain and led to a Stephen Gostkowski field goal.
Mike Vrabel is a member of the New England Patriots All-Decade Team of the 2000s as well as the Patriots 50th Anniversary Team, alongside linebackers Andre Tippett (HoF), Nick Buoniconti (HoF) and Steve Nelson (who should be in the HoF).
After retiring as a player following the 2010 season, Vrabel was the linebackers and defensive line coach at Ohio State for three seasons. His NFL coaching career began in 2014 with the Houston Texans as their linebackers coach and then defensive coordinator, before becoming the head coach of the Tennessee Titans in 2018. During that time the Titans have improved from third place to second to first in the AFC South, compiling a 29-19 record with playoff victories at New England and Baltimore in the 2019 offseason. All that occurred while navigating an undesirable quarterback situation that compelled the difficult decision to bench Marcus Mariota, the second overall pick of the 2015 draft.
Best of Mike Vrabel | Offense and Defense Highlights (4:04)
A look back at the career of Mike Vrabel | Patriots.com (14-page slide show)
After 14 NFL seasons, former Patriots LB Mike Vrabel retired from the NFL. Here's a look back at his career in New England, where he won three Super Bowl titles and was a key figure during a championship era.
Mike Vrabel: A career retrospective | Patriots.com (21-page slide show for Pats HoF voting)
We take a look back at the career of Patriots Linebacker Mike Vrabel (2001-2008), who was named a 2019 finalist for the Patriots Hall of Fame. Cast your vote at Patriots.com/hof
Apr 30, 2019: Patriots Hall of Fame: The Case For Mike Vrabel | Patriots.com
Former All-Pro linebacker is arguably the most versatile, productive winner of the 2019 Patriots Hall of Fame finalists.
July 13, 2019: Mike Vrabel's wife responds to his 'I'd cut off my d--- to win' comment
Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel's wife, Jen, has responded to the "cut off d---" story. After Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel jok...
Mike Vrabel is in his fourth season with the Titans after being named head coach on Jan. 20, 2018. He became the 19th head coach in franchise history. In 2020, the Titans made their second consecutive playoff appearance under Vrabel, who tied Jack Pardee