Mike Vrabel is suddenly looking for an offensive coordinator with the departure Friday of Arthur Smith to be the Atlanta Falcons new head coach. Vrabel's history says he likes coaches with whom he has had a past coaching or playing relationship with. So here are six potential offensive coordinator candidates who have past ties to Vrabel at some of his previous coaching stops both as a player and a coach.
Here they are in alphabetical order:
Current position: Titans tight ends coach.
Ties to Vrabel: Worked for Vrabel for past two seasons as tight ends coach.
Downing came to the Titans after Smith became OC in 2019. Though Vrabel gave Smith his first shot to call plays – and also Matt LaFleur in 2018 – Downing is the only person on the Titans current offensive staff with play-calling experience in the NFL. He was the Raiders offensive coordinator in 2017, before a stint with the Vikings before coming to Tennessee. Smith was the tight ends coach before getting the offensive coordinator gig. Could lightning strike twice? For that matter, you can't rule out running backs coach Tony Dews, quarterbacks coach Pat O'Hara or offensive line coach Keith Carter getting consideration, though O'Hara is the only one of that group to have been a play-caller and that was back in his days in the Arena Football League.
Current position: Dolphins tight ends coach.
Ties to Vrabel: Coached together with Texans for three seasons.
Godsey and Vrabel first worked together in 2014 when Vrabel was Houston's linebackers coach and Godsey was quarterbacks coach and then was promoted to offensive coordinator for two seasons in 2015-16. He was fired by Bill O'Brien after the 2016 season, but in fairness, Godsey was trying to coach an offense led by the likes of Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage at quarterback, so he never really had much of a chance.
Current position: Out of football.
Ties to Vrabel: Played for Haley with Chiefs for two seasons.
Haley was Vrabel's head coach during Vrabel's final two years of his playing career in Kansas City in 2009-10. And while Haley has a reputation for being hard to deal with at times, he has at times been a successful play-caller at the NFL level. He was offensive coordinator when the Arizona Cardinals, led by Kurt Warner, made the Super Bowl as the league's most prolific offense. He has seemingly been around forever, but he is still only 53 years old.
Current position: Recently fired by University of Texas.
Ties to Vrabel: Coached together at Ohio State for two seasons.
Herman was recently fired by the University of Texas, and if he is looking to jump to the NFL, then Vrabel could be his ticket. They spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons together coaching under Urban Meyer for the Buckeyes. But word is that Herman is not close with Meyer anymore. Would Vrabel use that to his advantage and lure the former Longhorns coach to go against Meyer now that he is in Jacksonville? Herman would have to adapt his spread system to the Titans and there would be a learning curve, but it's an interesting possibility if he wants to add NFL experience to his resume.
Current position: Texans offensive coordinator.
Ties to Vrabel: Coached together with Texans for four seasons.
Kelly and Vrabel both arrived together in Houston in 2014. Kelly has been the Texans offensive coordinator for the past two seasons, and was given the play-calling duties once Bill O'Brien was fired as head coach. By most accounts, Kelly did well as Deshaun Watson had a banner season in 2020, despite the Texans struggling to a 4-12 season. With the Texans looking for a new head coach, Kelly could be free to pursue other jobs. Another plus for Kelly is that, after arriving in Houston, he worked his way up from quality control to quarterbacks coach to OC, similar to how Smith waited his turn in Tennessee. Also, he is the brother of Titans right tackle Dennis Kelly.
Current position: Lions quarterbacks coach.
Ties to Vrabel: Coached together with Texans for two seasons.
Ryan is currently the quarterbacks coach for the Detroit Lions, who are currently without a head coach. That means he could be on the open market very soon once a new regime sets up shop in Detroit. Ryan and Vrabel worked on the Houston Texans staff together in 2016-17 before Vrabel became the Titans head coach in 2018.
Ryan has also worked for the New York Giants as both a quarterbacks and receivers coach. At age 34, he is considered an up-and-comer in the ranks, but has yet to be an offensive coordinator. Of course, Arthur Smith had never been one either, and that worked out OK.