First and foremost, I am a fan at heart and I was confused just like everyone else when Mike Vrabel and Jon Robinson promoted Shane Bowen to Defensive Coordinator. My confusion stems from the fact that we were told from the horse’s mouth that Shane Bowen was the defensive coordinator this past season, he just didn’t have the “title”. Here is where the confusion starts, the Titans were 28th in the league in defense and had the worst 3rd down defense in league history. That is an actual fact. I have thoroughly researched it myself. Also, the pass rush was almost non-existent. So with all that said, why would the Titans organization promote someone who was so bad at their job? My guess is as good as 90 percent of all the other Titans fans out there. In this article, I will attempt to make sense of it all. I will try my best but this one is going to be tough. I am also going to give the history of Vrabel and Bowen’s friendship in coaching.
Shane Bowen played college football as a linebacker for Georgia Tech under head coach Chan Gailey. He was not a starter but he did play a decent amount as a backup. In one particular game against the 23rd ranked Miami Hurricanes, he recorded 5 tackles and a sack in the 41-23 upset. An injury would later end his playing career in his senior season. He then pursued coaching and became a graduate assistant for Georgia Tech, then got hired on at Ohio State to learn under Urban Meyer as a defensive graduate assistant. This is when he met Mike Vrabel. Vrabel was the defensive line coach and they became close, often bouncing coaching ideas off each other throughout the season. They also became close friends. Bowen eventually got hired at Kennesaw State as a graduate assistant again. Soon after, he would become the linebackers coach and Kennesaw State started winning a lot of football games while he was there.
In 2016, Mike Vrabel was the linebackers coach for the Houston Texans. He sought out Bowen to become a defensive assistant. Vrabel and Bowen would coach under Romeo Crennel with the Texans. The next season would be good defensively for the Texans. They had one of the best defenses in franchise history during that season, ranking 6th in total defense and also ranked 5th best in 3rd down defense. The team attributed much of that success to Bowen and Vrabel. The Texans then fired Crennel and Vrabel took over as the Defensive Coordinator for the 2017 season. The defense would struggle greatly under Vrabel and Bowen, ranking 31st under them.
The Titans were coming off an up and down 9-7 season where they won a playoff game against the Chiefs in a comeback victory led by Marcus Mariota. They felt the need to move on from Mike Mularkey and hired Vrabel as their head coach. Vrabel once again sought out Shane Bowen and hired him as the linebackers coach, also reuniting him with former teammate Derrick Morgan. The Titans also hired Deen Pees and the defense ranked 8th in 2018. In 2019, the defense was more bend and don’t break and finished 21st in total yards allowed. Deen Pees retired the following season and Mike Vrabel did not hire a D.C. but in a press conference after the 2020 season, he said that Bowen was the Defensive Coordinator but he did not have the “title”. Well, the Titans had one of the worst defenses in Franchise History this past season.
This is where we all are confused. Why would you give a coach a promotion after he orchestrated one of the worst defenses in franchise history? We can make some excuses though like: It was a crazy year in the league, the Titans had a lot of injuries, the defense lost some vital players in the offseason last year. To me, there is no excuse. I believe you need to go out and hire an experience D.C. like they had in Deen Pees. Why not bring in someone fresh and let Bowen continue to coach the linebackers or be an assistant? Did Vrabel do this because of his friendship with Bowen or because he knows he will practically have control over Bowen and the defense himself?
This is a sink or swim decision for Vrabel. They will either improve for next season defensively or we’ll continue to see the same old formula over and over again next season. Kevin Byard did take accountability and took up for Bowen. The players do play the game, not the coaches but the coaching is a major integral part of it too. The definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. We will definitely find out if Mike Vrabel was “insane” for promoting Shane Bowen come next season.