Jim Wyatt, SENIOR WRITER/EDITOR
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Mike Vrabel was a proud coach in an emotional Titans locker room on Sunday.
His team had just beaten the Texans 20-17, on a day when the Titans played with their back-up quarterback, and with reserve tackles. The Titans were also missing one of their key pieces in tight end Delanie Walker, but heading into the game Vrabel refused to take the woe-is-me approach.
So after Vrabel talked to the team on Sunday at Nissan Stadium, Titans center Ben Jones thought he should be rewarded with a game ball after his first win. He stepped in and made sure he got one.
“He said, “Let’s break it down’,” Jones said of Vrabel. “And I said, ‘Hold on a second. Be quiet. We have to handle something right here.”
Vrabel was happy to get the keepsake, even if he didn’t say it.
“I hope someone got a picture of that smile,” Jones said of Vrabel. “He deserved it more than any of us. The way he prepared us all week, keeping us focused all week. He outcoached them. He’s a hell of a leader, and he knows what it takes to win. I think it meant a lot to him.”
Other Titans agreed.
“His first win as a head coach. His first win at home. His first win against his old team. His first win against a division team,” Titans cornerback Adoree’ Jackson said. “He’s a humble guy, the way he carries himself, and the way he coaches and talks to us. But he has to feel good inside. He may not be showing it, but I guarantee you he is feeling really good.”
Blaine Gabbert started at quarterback in place of Marcus Mariota. Tyler Marz and Kevin Pamphile started at the tackle position, and the team began life on the football field without Walker.
The Titans showed some imagination on offense, using the Wildcat. Vrabel went for it on 4th down in their own territory, and got it. The team executed a perfect fake punt that went for a touchdown.
“Any time you get your first win as a head coach, with a new squad, that’s big,” Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. “It seemed like he was elated. He gave us a Victory Monday, so he was happy. But of course he’ll go back and look at the film and coach us tough on Wednesday, but that’s the way it’s supposed to be to be a great team.”
Vrabel deflected questions about his first win after the game.
He talked about his respect for Texans coach Bill O’Brien, his former boss. And he talked about how tough it is to win in the NFL.
And he was quick to remind another big game is coming up in seven days against the Jaguars.
“It wasn’t about me, and it shouldn’t be, and it won’t be,’” Vrabel said. “It should be about the players and the coaches who got them ready.
“I am proud of our defense, I proud of our offense, I am proud of our coaches. Winning in the NFL will never be about the coaching. It will never be about the head coaching. Losing will, but winning is all about the players, and the staff getting them ready.”