Coach Vrabel no surprise to former teammates

Coach Vrabel no surprise to former teammates
January 28, 2014, 8:00 am
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Mike Vrabel joined the Ohio State coaching staff in 2011. But he was coaching long before that.

The Texans’ new linebackers coach played in the NFL for 14 seasons, and according to his former teammates, he wasn’t just one of the most knowledgeable players in the game, he was a teacher too.

That’s why his former teammates knew he was going to make a good coach. Well, that, and he told them too.

“If Mike was going to do anything else, he had me fooled,” former Patriots teammate Dan Klecko said. “The first time I met Mike he told me he was going to Ohio State to coach and I would have been shocked if he did anything else.”  

Vrabel’s best years came in New England. He was a part of those three Super Bowl-winning defenses under new Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. A solid player, Vrabel went to just one Pro Bowl, in 2007, and was also an All-Pro that year.

But it wasn’t just his play, it was his knowledge of the game, that made him so well-respected. Former teammate and 610 radio host Ted Johnson said Vrabel was the smartest player he ever played with.

And Johnson isn’t alone in that sentiment.

“Vrabel is one of the smartest guys I’ve ever been around,” said former Patriot and NFL Network analyst Willie McGinest. “He’s just smart, not even just on the field but off it.”

“I learned more football from sitting next to Vrabel and (Tedy) Bruschi than from anyone,” Klecko said. “It wasn’t that they could just do it, they could explain it and break it down. They could tell you what you were doing wrong and how to fix it.”

In 2010, Vrabel finished his 14-year NFL career by playing all 16 games for the Chiefs under Crennel, who was the defensive coordinator at the time.

At the same time Vrabel announced his retirement, he announced his new job as linebackers coach at his alma mater Ohio State. There was no question: coaching was for him. And when Urban Meyer was hired as the Buckeyes’ head coach, he retained Vrabel to coach the defensive line.

But now, the 38-year-old is back with his former coach, Crennel, in Houston. There’s been some speculation that longtime Patriots assistant Pepper Johnson could join the staff in Houston. If that happens, it would be likely that Johnson would coach the inside linebackers and Vrabel would coach outside ’backers.  

“He played in Romeo’s system. He knows what Romeo is trying to accomplish. He’s a smart guy, sometimes too smart for himself. He can be a smart a**,” McGinest said chuckling. “Yeah, but we always knew he would be a good linebackers coach one day.”

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