When he's out on the practice field, Houston Texans linebackers coach Mike Vrabel often looks like he could still suit up and play. He's active out there both with his words of instruction and by doing many of the drills with the players he's coaching.
He likes how the players have adjusted to his style, and this staff's style.
Vrabel and I sat down Thursday to talk about a variety of topics. It's the first time I've been able to chat with Vrabel, so I had a lot of questions.
Here's the first part of our Q&A, and the final part is below.
What's your teaching philosophy?
Mike Vrabel: First and foremost you have to learn the individual, how they learn. Some guys may learn through walkthrough. Some guys may learn on the board. Some guys may learn on film. Some guys may learn by drawing on a board. I think it’s my job first as a coach and a teacher to understand what that style is. I just can’t teach the whole room the same way. ...
It seems like a theme with this staff.
MV: I think so. First of all great coaches don’t assume that any player, however long they’ve played, whether it be one year or 13 years, that they know everything or they know the little details. So we’re going to coach every little detail here until our guys understand what it is we’re looking for from practice, from certain plays, from certain techniques. Certain fundamentals that are important to every position.
What do you remember about changing coaches when you changed teams?
MV: I went from Bill Cowher who was a very motivational coach, a very high energy coach, to Bill Belichick who may not be as high energy, may not come across as high energy, he puts a lot of energy in. He’s not going to be out there rallying the troops and firing them up, but he’s going to be very direct, to the point, honest about his evaluations as a player. The one thing you can appreciate about each coach is his consistency. ... Now I’m going to try to do the same thing with the linebackers, give them consistency so they know what to expect each day. ... There’s things we expect them to know after a certain amount of time. Continuing to not look past the little details, don’t let one thing pass with one guy and get on another guy. So, coach them consistently. A guy makes a mistake, coach him immediately. The other guys needs to see what’s going on because we can’t coach all 15 guys at the same time.
When you were playing, did you know you wanted to be a coach someday?
MV: I don’t know what else I’m cut out to be. I’m a husband, I’m a dad. I played football for half my life, more than half my life. It was a natural progression to get into the game. I got into the game at the college level and this opportunity came up and I was more than excited about taking advantage of it.
You're an Ohio guy, grew up there, played in college there, going back to Ohio State must have felt like going home in a way.
MV: We’ve always lived in Columbus. I’ve had a home in Columbus since 1993. A dorm, apartment, condo or house. And so we always went back there in the offseason. It was just, (moving to the Texans) was a good opportunity for me. This was a good step, it’s a transition into the best league in professional sports. Coaching linebackers, as opposed to coaching defensive line in college. Family was excited. They support me. We’re looking forward to getting everybody down here.
Will you go back to Columbus when it's all said and done?
MV: I go back every weekend, but they’re moving down in July. They’re nomads. My kids have adjusted. They did half the school year in Boston, half in Columbus. Half in Kansas City, half in Columbus. They don’t care.
What's the difference between coaching college kids and coaching pros?
MV: I don’t know. Other than that these guys are here more. They’re not required to go to class. Their job is a full time football player and everything that they do from the time they wake up if they want to be successful needs to be geared towards football. Whether that’s training, rehab, treatment, weight training, film study and practice, watching afterward, getting treatment afterward. Some of these guys are very young guys, we have a young group of linebackers. So we’re teaching them how to become professionals. Teaching them what guys that I played with, that were good pros, did. That they all have routines. That they take care of their body. They’re in early, they stay late. It’s one of the top three priorities in their life.