NASHVILLE – Veteran Titans assistant Jim Haslett has coached for seven different NFL organizations, and played for two more.
A 24-year coaching veteran who played eight seasons in the league, Haslett acknowledged on Tuesday he's pretty much seen it all over the years.
Then came the offseason of 2020, when he joined the Titans as the team's new inside linebackers coach.
Since taking the job under Titans head coach Mike Vrabel – a player he once coached – over four months ago, Haslett still hasn't been able to meet face-to-face with his pupils. Because of NFL restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic, he's spent a good chunk of the offseason working from home, getting to know his players from a distance on Zoom calls.
But he's learned to adapt while doing his best to set a tone in the virtual world.
"It has been difficult because I haven't met the players in person yet," Haslett said. "I've been on Zoom with them every day, which is much better than I thought it would be. I think it's been really good the way the players have been receptive, and the coaches. I think they're the most enthusiastic about it, just to get to football. It's a strange year, but I think over the years you kind of see it all. You've been around long enough, you've seen 9/11, you've kind of seen everything. (Hurricane) Katrina (while in New Orleans), it's endless. But this is one of the weirder (offseasons), that's for sure."
Already, however, Haslett feels like he's in a good spot.
Haslett spoke to reporters in Tennessee on a Zoom call on Tuesday for the first time since taking the job.
"I was involved in drafting Mike (Vrabel) when we coached in Pittsburgh, and I coached him for a few years, and then I worked with (tight ends coach) Todd Downing on the staff," Haslett said. "You get to know the head coach and you kind of know what he stands for, and you watch tape, and you watch how the players play, and that kind of won me over. They do a great job. The players play hard, they love football, they like being around one another. I think it's more of the atmosphere than it is anything (that I like)."
Back in February, Vrabel hired Haslett as the team's new inside linebackers coach. He'll take over a group that includes returning starters Rashaan Evans and Jayon Brown, along with a promising second-year player in David Long, among others.
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, Haslett coached Vrabel, who is set to begin his third season as the team's head coach.
"As a player, he was kind of how he is now -- he was really smart, played a lot of different positions, tough as nails, loved the game, you could tell his love for the game and still is today," Haslett said of Vrabel. "That's a common reason you want to work with and work for."
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 also had stints as a head coach in 2008, on an interim basis with the St. Louis Rams, and for the Florida Tuskers in the United Football League in 2009. Overall, Haslett also spent six years as an NFL linebackers coach – L.A. Raiders (1993-94), New Orleans (1995) and Cincinnati (2016-18).
Titans outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen said on Tuesday Haslett has already proven to be a great resource for him following the departure of veteran defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who retired following the season.
"It's been great getting to know Has," Bowen said. "Much like Dean in my experience, just working with him, soaking up everything I can from him. He's been in the league a long time. He played in the league, he's seen it all. Very similar to how it was with Dean, nothing really surprises him. He's got different perspectives on things and that's really been beneficial."
A four-time little All-America defensive player (LB and DE) at Indiana (Pa.) University, who was a second-round draft pick by the Buffalo Bills in the 1979 NFL Draft, Haslett played seven seasons with the Bills and one with the Jets. He totaled 86 NFL starts and 94 games played.
After sitting out last season, he focused on his health, and had surgery to repair a troublesome ankle. Haslett wasn't sure if he'd get another chance in the NFL.
The opportunity in Tennessee, however, came at a perfect time.
Haslett isn't sure when he'll get to meet his players face-to-face, but he's familiar with all from watching film and interacting with them on a regular basis this offseason.
Already, they should have an understanding of what Haslett expects of them.
"They'll know the expectations because I don't beat around the bush," he said. "I kind of come out and tell them what I think, and what I think they need to improve on, and what they're really good at, and where we can get better as a team. There's no hidden agenda there. We've got to get together at some point, obviously, and when we do – all the other stuff, how you handle the players and what do you expect from them, that will come when we get together."