This was a tough one. Harder than most of the others we’ve had to do this year.
Four or five guys can make the case for the award for Coach of the Year. PFT’s winner is the man whose steady hand guided his team to the best record in a top-heavy conference – despite not having his best player for more than half of the season.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel, who used the “no apologies” mindset he certainly learned in his time as a player on the Patriots, did not miss a beat when his team lost running back Derrick Henry, news that came the next day, that the Titans were apparently done. AFC South by conducting a sweep of the Colts on Halloween.
The Titans nonetheless kept winning, humiliating the All-in Rams one Sunday night in LA and then holding back a potent Saints team to get to 8-2. The correction came with a couple of losses, including a headscratcher at home to the Texans and a dunk against New England. After saying goodbye, however, the Titans rediscovered their foothold, shutting the Jaguars out before tripping over Pittsburgh before finding a way to overcome a 10-point deficit against the 49ers on a Thursday night in late December.
A dismantling of the Dolphins and an inexplicably close call at Houston gave the Titans the most coveted award in both conferences, the first overall seed. With Henry back, that extra week makes a huge difference. It can be the difference between returning to LA for the Super Bowl and getting out of the playoffs early.
Along the way, the Titans used more players than any team in NFL history, a record that was completely broken back in Week 12.
So yes, Vrabel deserved it in a year where lots of other coaches can argue for the honor. No other case is stronger than the one that can be made for Packers coach Matt LaFleur, who has put together a trio of 13 winning seasons to start his career as head coach. Also, Bengals coach Zac Taylor went from dealing with rumors of being fired after the 2020 season to an unlikely division championship that went worst to first place in the ultra-difficult AFC North.
And it’s impossible to ignore Raiders interim coach Rich Bisaccia, who kept his team together through unprecedented adversity to reach the playoffs, ending the season with one of the most memorable games of the regular season we’ve ever seen or ever want to see. His reward was to be the permanent job in Las Vegas.