MOBILE, Ala. -- While the Houston Texans certainly didn't want to lose Mike Vrabel to a head coaching job this offseason, Bill O'Brien knew it was a possibility. And as with the rest of his coaching staff, the head coach had a plan in place should he need to replace his defensive coordinator.
Vrabel was named head coach of the Tennessee Titans last week, and O'Brien said moving assistant head coach Romeo Crennel back to his former role as defensive coordinator should be a smooth transition.
“I think one of the reasons why you put together a staff is you always have plans, if someone were to leave, what would be the next step? And that’s what you have to think about,” O’Brien said. “You can’t just think about that individual person. You have to say, 'OK, what’s the best thing for the whole organization? So if this coach leaves, who’s next in line at this position?' And that’s what we try to do."
Crennel served as the Texans’ defensive coordinator from 2014-2016 before transitioning to the assistant head coach role in 2017.
The former head coach has worked with O'Brien since 2014, and O'Brien said that in the last year Crennel did "a lot" to help him, "whether it was things within the office, different projects he did for me -- research projects -- or on game day, being upstairs for me.
“I think that [year] helped him, even with the experience that he has in this league, to take a step back and take more of a head coaching view of things,” O’Brien said. “And now he’s back into it, and I’m sure that year gave him some ideas.”
O’Brien also joked that the year out of the defensive coordinator job “probably helped [Crennel] stress-level-wise a little bit.”
The Texans knew losing Vrabel would be a possibility this offseason, even though Houston’s defense allowed an NFL-worst 27.3 points per game in Vrabel’s first and only season as defensive coordinator. In 2016, the unit allowed an 11th-ranked 20.5 points per game and allowed the fewest yards per game in the NFL. Last offseason, Vrabel’s name was in the mix for the Los Angeles Rams head-coaching job, and in January 2016 Vrabel reportedly turned down a job as San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator to stay with the Texans.
“When you have great coaches on your staff ... that’s something to be proud of, that teams want to hire your coaches," O'Brien said. "There’s only 32 of these jobs, so when you get to that level and you’ve got really good coaches, it’s inevitable that some of them are going to be head coaches. [Vrabel] deserves the chance, and he’s going to do a good job.”