Two AFC South coaches sit at opposite ends of the second-guessing spectrum following Sunday's overtime games. While Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich gets questioned for going for it on fourth down not playing for the tie, Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel is praised for his decision to eschew a game-tying field goal attempt.
"I think that the players like being aggressive, and again, I've said this before, making the call is really the easy part," Vrabel said after the 26-23 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, via the team's official website. "I have to talk to [GM] Jon [Robinson] and [owner] Amy [Adams Strunk] afterwards and explain it to everybody that the players are the ones that have to go out there and make it happen, and they did. Matt [LaFleur] called a great call that was well executed and I have faith in them. I have faith in their preparation, their practice and being able to execute in the most critical situations."
The Reich and Vrabel decisions weren't one-for-one comparisons. The Colts were tied and on their own side of the field. Vrabel's team was down three points in overtime when he called three successful fourth-down plays.
The similarity, however, is that both coaches played to win.
Facing a 4th-and-2 from the Eagles' 32-yard-line, Vrabel left Ryan Succop on the pitch for a 49-yard field goal to tie the game with just over a minute left in overtime. Succop is a career 83.5-percent kicker and is 9 of 10 on field goals for the season. The kick would have been the safe play. Vrabel didn't play it safe. Instead, pulling his kicker off the field to play for the win.
"Matt [LaFleur] is not panicking, Matt called a great game today," Vrabel said. "He knew what he liked. He and Marcus [Mariota] were on the same page ... Just executing at the most critical times and I think that we can gain a lot of confidence and draw a lot for the next time you need, and we're going to need it next week."
The Titans coaching staff has been one of the most impressive to open the season. Despite being thrust into difficult situations with Mariota's elbow issue and injuries throughout the roster, Tennessee continues to churn out victories.
They might not be the prettiest affairs, but no one in Nashville cares. In January, every win counts the same. Through the first month of the season, Vrabel's team is at a 75-percent win rate.
"I felt like we deserved to win," Vrabel said. "Trust the players and that's what we did and they executed."