One advantage of being a Super Bowl champion player turned coach is that you have a lot of examples of great players you played with to share with the ones you're now coaching.
It's part of Houston Texans' linebackers coach Mike Vrabel's style. He thinks about which of his former teammates players can relate to and offers them as examples of what works.
As his coaching career progresses, there will likely come a time when he starts using players he coached for those examples.
Vrabel and I sat down on Thursday to discuss his coaching philosophy, leaving Ohio State, rookie outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney and more. I'll break it up into three posts, starting here, with his thoughts on Clowney, Brian Cushing and Brooks Reed.
How has Clowney done so far learning to play outside linebacker?
Mike Vrabel: I think his attitude, much like all of our guys, their attitude has been great. They've come in, they've tried to be vocal in the meeting rooms, not always right, but at least they have the confidence to try to make the calls, make the adjustments and make the corrections while we're in there. He's somebody that we're excited about because he has the natural ability, but he also has the attitude to want to learn. He doesn't think he has it all figured out.
What did you learn about his mentality before the draft?
MV: I got to meet with him. I didn't make the decision, obviously Rick [Smith] and OB (head coach Bill O'Brien) make the decision to draft, and Rick and Mr. McNair (Texans owner Bob McNair). But meeting with him before the draft, I enjoyed my conversations with him. He was conscientious, he wanted to learn, he wanted to study. He knows a little bit about the history of the game, the great players who played. So our conversations went very smoothly through the draft, at the combine. We brought him here on a visit, him and I got to go to dinner, so that was an easy conversation. It was a kid that you would want to coach.
Was the taking plays off thing overblown?
MV: Everyone gets critiqued on their performance. Whether I get critiqued as a coach or players get critiqued as players, people are going to find the worst things. We need to change the things that we don't do well and we need continue and advance the things we are doing well. So as a coach, if I'm doing something well, I need to keep doing it. If I'm not doing it very well, I need to change it. Effort is something that we're not going to sit here and coach. We're not going to coach effort on our defense. I think anybody, the 11 guys that we put out on our defense, [defensive coordinator] Romeo Crennel and our head coach, we're going to make sure they're playing with great effort.
Inside linebacker has been a bit of a question. How has Brooks Reed done playing in there?
MV: He's an unbelievably coachable kid. If J.J. Watt's in here the most hours and our quarterbacks, Brooks Reed's gotta be a close second. It means a lot to Brooks Reed. It means a lot to Brian Cushing. It means a lot to all of these guys. And they're in here putting time in. it's a completely different defense, completely different coaching style, completely different philosophy. He's putting the time in. he gets excited. I'm happy when it does well. He's frustrated when he doesn't. I look forward to working with him each day.
I've heard you and Brian Cushing are similar. Do you see that?
MV: He's the only guy I think that's married with kids. We have guys that are married and we have a guy that's got a kid. So he's the only guy that's married with kids, so right there I know he's the only guy that's got a wife and kids. He has done well. He's been limited. We all understand that. He's been limited, he hasn't been able to practice with us, but he's at every meeting. He's there. He's conscientious, he's making the calls. I know he's studying. And it's important now that he's getting mental reps. He's staying in tune with the team. He's not a distraction. He's focused on learning the defense and being a leader.