Titans HC Mike Vrabel conference call (12.2.20)

Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel conference call

On this week’s matchup between two 8-3 AFC teams:

“Both teams have put themselves in position to play meaningful games in December. That is what this is. They have won three games in a row. We have played better the past two weeks. I know that they are preparing for us in the same way that we are for them. We will have to continue to build towards Sunday to make sure we are ready to go.”

On the Browns running game:

“It looks like it is really well coordinated. It looks like everybody has a great understanding of what they are being asked to do. The line gets it going, and they have excellent backs. I have a lot of respect for these guys and the way that they run the football. They take care of it. They are running hard. The ball is not loose. It is going to be a huge challenge for us to be able to defend that running game because they have a good scheme and really good players.”

On QB Baker Mayfield’s performance this season:

“It looks like he has been taking care of the ball lately. He plays it live. He looks like he is comfortable throwing it outside of the pocket, which they have done extremely well, and they have been able to create some plays. It looks like he is comfortable at the line of scrimmage working their cadence system and the checks that he wants to get them into. It looks like there is a comfort level there. It looks like there is a clear understanding of what they want to do.”

On what Titans RB Derrick Henry has done to become such a high-caliber performer:

“I think he has had a lot of success and a lot of help from the guys around him. We are asking our receivers to block, and we are asking our line to do a nice job and try to get him going. He has been durable. He has taken care of the football for us. We try to get him to the second level, and the rest has been up to him.”

On the Browns having an 8-3 record for the first time in the expansion era and if part of him is happy for the organization as an Ohio native:

“One of my best friends who I am sure will read this back home is a season ticket holder, is a diehard Browns fan and his dad was a diehard Browns fan. That is how they grew up. I know that Kevin is probably going to be hearing this, and he roots for us and he roots for the Browns so we probably won’t talk this week. Just being in Northeast Ohio, growing up playing football, just how important football is to that area and how prideful everybody is in high school football that we play there and obviously the colleges that we have in the state, and then the Browns and the tradition and going away and coming back… We went there for the opening game last year, and the crowd was packed 45 minutes before the game started. They were catching punts, and the crowd was going nuts just catching punts in warmups. I was talking to my family, and it was a tremendous atmosphere and one that we needed to handle in order to win that football game last year. Just the fan base and what they have kind of been through with ‘The Drive,’ ‘The Fumble’ and leaving and everything else. (Head Coach) Kevin (Stefanski) has done a fantastic job with those guys this year and has put them in position to play a lot of meaningful games here down the stretch.”

On Titans QB Ryan Tannehill and if Tannehill’s success is based on a perfect marriage between Tannehill’s skillset and the offensive system or Tannehill’s natural improvement:

“It is probably a little bit of both. I do not know. I am not in a position to sit there and figure out why. We just want to continue to improve and help him in every way that we can and allow him to function and run our offense effectively. That is really what we are trying to do.”

On if he sought ‘after players like him’ who are smart and tough or if that was something he learned playing for the Patriots:

“I think that is what we try to be. I think that you want to be talented first and foremost. You have to be talented to play this game. We can’t hire smart guys who know what to do but are not going to get it done. I think that is the biggest thing, they know what to do and they smart and you have to be talented. Guys are all going to learn and all are going to have a different level of awareness, just where they are in their maturation in the defense or offense. Yes, smart and tough are great attributes. Talent is going to be mandatory. We would like to try to see everybody to see the game and how we want to work through things through the same set of eyes, situationally, gameplan-wise, communication and out on the field – all of those things are critical.”

On how he has grown as a communicator as a head coach:

“I felt like I communicated as a player, probably with a much less audience. Now, I have a much larger audience with the football team and the coaching staff.”

On DE Myles Garrett’s performance reaching another level this year:

“He is just an unbelievable athlete. I do think that his instincts and awareness have improved just over the course of his career. His talent is amazing. He plays hard. He has great length and the ability to play with body lean, power, run past you and disrupt the quarterback. He is doing a really nice job of getting the football out, as well. He will be a huge challenge for us this week.”

On if he knew he wanted to become a coach when he was a kid or during his NFL playing career:

“I never knew what I was going to be. I knew when I got to Ohio State that I wanted to play football as long as I could – that was obvious. I never had a Plan B. I always wanted to focus on Plan A, which was playing professional football for as long as I could. I do think having grown up with my dad, who was a basketball coach… (Cincinnati Head Coach) Luke Fickell was coaching at Ohio State and we talked pretty much regularly on those drives into work in the morning. He was at Ohio State, and I was playing for the Patriots. Just talked about those types of things, and the opportunity presented itself. I got my first start back in coaching the boys’ basketball teams and baseball teams in the offseason so that kind of got me going. You love the game and you love competing and trying to get players to become a team and function as a team. It is a great challenge, and it is obviously a difficult one. It will be even tougher here this week going against the Browns, who have seemed to have that unity and identity.”

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