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Frustrated HC Mike Vrabel, Titans brass to discuss future this week

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Admittedly frustrated by the most difficult season of his tenure as head coach of the Tennessee Titans, Mike Vrabel is slated for regular year-end meetings this week with team brass that could raise difficult questions about how -- or perhaps if -- the sides should move forward together.

Sources say Vrabel has not approached ownership with any concerns about the structure of the organization or his alignment with general manager Ran Carthon, who was hired from the 49ers in January 2022. Vrabel has continued to coach the team with the same passion as when he was hired in 2018. But he also has done little to shoot down reports and social media speculation about his displeasure with the trajectory of things in Tennessee.

The Titans are 5-11 entering Sunday’s finale against the Jaguars, who clinch the AFC South with a win -- a division Vrabel's Titans won in 2020 and 2021 as part of three straight playoff appearances. Since a 7-3 start in 2022, Tennessee has lost 18 out of 23 games amidst personnel challenges and a variety of major changes, including at quarterback, offensive coordinator and general manager with the in-season firing of Jon Robinson last fall. Only the Cardinals have a lower winning percentage in that span.

Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk has not commented recently on the status of Vrabel, who is widely regarded as one of the NFL's top coaches. He signed a contract extension before the 2022 season that sources say runs through 2025 with a team option for 2026, and there's no reason to believe Strunk would simply let him out. Coach trades are also difficult to navigate.

If Vrabel did become available, though, league sources expect there would be a robust market. Among other teams, the Patriots -- who inducted Vrabel into their Hall of Fame in October and ignited speculation when Vrabel was spotted watching the game from owner Robert Kraft's suite while Tennessee had its bye -- potentially could have an opening soon and would be a logical landing spot.

Tennessee hired Carthon a year ago over in-house candidate Ryan Cowden, whom league sources believed to be Vrabel's preferred candidate. Former NFL executive Michael Lombardi, who worked for the Patriots and has close ties to Vrabel mentor Bill Belichick, said recently on his podcast that there are "real issues" between Vrabel and the front office, adding: "They wanna keep Vrabel, but I think Vrabel's not happy with the setup that he has."

Asked this past week about that and other speculation, Vrabel said: "If we believed everything that was on social media, it'd be Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and there's no tooth fairy, you know that. So I really have never responded to any of those. And we're not going to start now."

Vrabel added: "Of course I want to be here. Be here as long as we can win, as long as we can do this thing, and it's been great. But it also has been just this year. And nobody wants to be where we're at."

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