Should Mike Vrabel be Coach of the Year?

Coach of the Year is a tricky award to hand out—usually it goes to the flashy, exciting new offensive-minded coach, and nobody cares if that flash dims only a few seasons later (looking at you, Matt Nagy). But coaching is about establishing culture, solving problems, winning games, and making the playoffs. And the Titans have done—and will keep doing—all of that.

And they’ve done it in the face of pretty wild odds. The Titans are substantially outpacing the rest of the league not just in gritty wins, but also in games lost to injury. All this, to me, sounds like Vrabel deserves more laurels than just some nice segments on midweek NFL talk shows.

But there’s one fresh injury that has complicated not only Vrabel’s Coach of the Year case, but also the Titans’ championship hopes. Derrick Henry, who has long been the engine of the Titans offense, defied belief when he missed just one game during the 2019 and 2020 seasons, when he totaled an absurd 781 carries across the regular seasons and playoffs. After 219 carries in eight games this season—a 465-carry pace for the regular season—Henry fractured a bone in his foot, an injury that is expected to shelve him until at least early January.

Since 2019—when Tennessee traded for Ryan Tannehill and Arthur Smith installed his system, which is still largely being run by new offensive coordinator Todd Downing—we haven’t seen the Titans offense without Henry. Few players are more integral to a team’s offensive philosophy than Henry is. The NFL got its first look at a Henry-less Titans offense in the past two weeks, and it hasn’t been pretty.