He was a three-time champion with the Patriots. A Pro Bowler in 2007. A valuable weapon on both defense (56 sacks) and offense (10 catches, 10 TD) over eight seasons with New England.
Yet in early 2009, Mike Vrabel's Patriots career came to an unceremonious end when New England traded him to the Chiefs along with Matt Cassel.
When NBC Sports Boston's Gary Tanguay stopped in Nashville as part of his "Tanguay Takes America" tour, he stopped by the Titans' practice facility to talk about Vrabel's relationship with Bill Belichick then... and now.
"I enjoyed every minute that I spent in New England with those players, those coaches, those fans. Bill was obviously a big influence on my playing career just to help me improve," said Vrabel. "I remember the call like it was yesterday. It was towards the end of February, he called and said 'Hey, I traded you to Scott (Pioli) in Kansas City.' And I said, 'It sounds like I should probably call Scott.'
"I hung up the phone and we didn't talk for probably two years, retired and called him and talked about coaching. And the relationship kind of picked up back from then, and now he's been a great asset to me, to my family, and just to help me work through situations, talk ball, and talk things that come up in being a head coach."
Vrabel had a successful first season in Tennessee, leading the Titans to a 9-7 record and a surprising 34-10 rout of the Patriots. And when Tanguay pointed out that Vrabel carries himself in a Belichickian fashion on the sidelines during games, Vrabel shared his takeaways from playing under the future Hall of Famer.
"I always appreciated the fact that there was some consistency there," said Vrabel. "I played a long time and I was excited with good plays and disappointed with bad plays. I think I probably carry a lot of those emotions inside. My wife refers to it as me getting good at puking in my mouth and not letting anybody know. And then just go coach the next situation."
Consistency wasn't the only lesson learned from Belichick during Vrabel's tenure in Foxboro. The former tight end also appreciated Belichick's adaptability.
"I think he has a good way of relating to guys. I think that he coaches guys differently based on their personality, which is critical. I remember one time, I think Pepper Johnson and I were arguing about something, and I went over and sat on the offensive side of the bench right out there on the field. You know, Bill had coached Pepper and obviously had been with me for about six years and he's like, '(You're) sitting down here like a wide receiver pouting. Get over there and let's get going.'
"I kind of chuckled, 'Yeah, that's probably a pretty good analogy.' "
If Vrabel can put those lessons to work in Nashville, he could have a chance at being one of the more successful head coaches on the Belichick coaching tree.
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