INDIANAPOLIS – Titans head coach Mike Vrabel spoke to reporters here on Tuesday at the NFL Combine.
Among other things, Vrabel discussed his coaching staff, the team's free agents, the quarterback position – and he even got a jab in on former Patriots teammate Tom Brady during a spill-over session…
Naming a DC?
Vrabel still hasn't officially named a defensive coordinator for 2020, after passing on a chance to do so on Tuesday.
Dean Pees retired last month.
While the Titans hired veteran Jim Haslett, he was named inside linebackers coach.
"Right now we are working through the process of who is going to be running the defensive side of us," Vrabel said. "I'm really excited about the staff, but I am working through the process of doing what is best for the players and the Titans. But I am excited about the group of guys we have and about how we expect to play defense for the Titans."
Vrabel cracked a joke when asked about him potentially spreading himself "too thin" if he elects to call the defense.
"I'll never be too thin, as you can see – I (haven't) missed too many meals," Vrabel said. "My job is to always do what is best for the team and my role as a head coach is to be around and be in meetings … and that will continue no matter what path we go down."
On Jim Haslett
Haslett joined the Titans after spending three seasons (2016-18) as the linebacker coach for the Bengals. Haslett also has 12 seasons of experience as an NFL coordinator – New Orleans (1996), Pittsburgh (1997-99), St. Louis (2006-08) and Washington (2010-14).
As the defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh, he coached Vrabel and led defenses that finished in the top 12 in yards allowed in all three seasons. Haslett also spent five seasons (2000-05) as the head coach for the Saints, where he earned AP Coach of the Years honors in 2000 after improving the team's record from 3-13 to 10-6 in his first season at the helm.
"He's a veteran presence, and is a knowledgeable football coach, a passionate football coach," Vrabel said of Haslett. "He's a guy that coached me in Pittsburgh. I think he'll be a great veteran presence for our young group of inside linebackers."
So, is there a chance Haslett could end up being the defensive play-caller?
"Right now I am still working through that process," Vrabel said. "There's a lot of chances, but right now Jim is just focused on coaching the inside linebackers and learning that position and getting to know those players."
On Derrick Henry, Ryan Tannehill, Jack Conklin and Logan Ryan
After Titans general manager Jon Robinson addressed questions about running back Derrick Henry and quarterback Ryan Tannehill, Vrabel was asked questions about some of the team's biggest free agents as well.
"Ryan did a lot of great things for us," Vrabel responded when asked if he'd like to see Tannehill back as the starter in 2020. "He came into a tough situation, led our football team. All those players who have expiring contracts, that's Jon's job and my job to help put our football team together and we continue to have those conversations."
As for Henry, who led the NFL in rushing, Vrabel said he was "physical and durable" in 2019 while helping lead the offense.
Vrabel was also asked about right tackle Jack Conklin and cornerback Logan Ryan, whose deals are also set to expire next month.
"We have a lot of players with expiring contracts -- that's part of this business," Vrabel said. "I am excited that Jon has allowed me to be a part of the process of having a conversation of how we want to put our football team together. We'll have to make decisions – free agency is a two-way street. Players have to want to be back and teams have to make tough decisions who to bring back. We'll continue to have conversations."
Logan Woodside Praise
In addition to Tannehill, back-up quarterback Marcus Mariota's deal with the Titans is scheduled to expire in March as well.
On Tuesday, Vrabel went out of his way to praise a quarterback whose deal is not up -- Logan Woodside.
Woodside spent last year on Injured Reserve.
"Logan Woodside is under contract and I'm excited about him," Vrabel said. "We're going to keep working with Logan and then continue to add pieces to strengthen our roster, especially at that position."
Woodside spent the first three weeks of the 2018 season with the Titans on the practice squad, and he re-signed with the club during the 2019 offseason following a stint with the Alliance of American Football League's San Antonio Commanders. The 6-foot-1 inch, 213-pounder was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the seventh round (249th overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft, and he established program records at Toledo in passing yards (10,514), touchdowns (93), passing efficiency (162.87) and 300-yard games (17) during a four-year career. His 93 touchdown passes ranks fifth all-time in MAC history.
"Logan was a player we felt very good about," Vrabel said. "He's put a lot of work in, he's gotten stronger. He studied throughout the year and was prepared, even though he was on the practice squad at one point and then unfortunately injured reserve, but watching him study and game plan each and every week when he didn't have to. I know that Pat O'Hara, our quarterbacks coach, and (offensive coordinator) Arthur Smith were impressed by that."
When asked to describe his relationship with Brady, Vrabel smiled before delivering a pretty good one-liner.
"Undefeated," said Vrabel, referring to his 2-0 record as a head coach vs. the Patriots.
Vrabel also reflected back to joint practices between the Titans and Patriots in training camp, when Brady handed him a small trophy for coaching the Titans to a regular season game win vs. the eventual Super Bowl champions in 2018.
The Titans beat the Patriots in Foxborough in the AFC Divisional Round during the 2019 season's playoffs.
"I asked him for a bigger trophy this year," Vrabel said of Brady. "I am still waiting for it."
Check out Titans players over the years at the NFL Scouting Combine. (AP Photos)