Meyer Decides to Keep Vrabel after Talk with Belichick

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Last updated: 12/21/2011 4:47 PM

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Meyer Decides to Keep Vrabel after Talk with Belichick
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — New Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was not quite sure what to make of Mike Vrabel after he took the job back in late November.

So he spoke to someone who was.

Before making a final decision on whether to keep Vrabel, who spent the 2011 season at Ohio State’s linebackers coach, Meyer made a few phone calls.

Mike Vrabel
Photo by Jim Davidson
Mike Vrabel

“I spoke to a number of people I know well, who also know Mike very well, including Bill Belichick,” Meyer said Wednesday after announcing he would keep Vrabel as assistant coach on the defense.

“Coach Belichick and I had a really good discussion about Mike.”

Of course Vrabel played under Belichick in New England from 2001-08. He helped the Patriots to three Super Bowl victories (2002, 2004-05) in a span of four seasons as New England became the most dominant team in the National Football League.

Vrabel was a Pro Bowler on defense for the Patriots, but also became the first defensive player to score a Super Bowl touchdown on offense since William "Refrigerator" Perry.

He was named to the Sports Illustrated All-Decade Team and closed out his 14-year NFL career in Kansas City before joining the coaching staff at his alma mater this year.

“While Mike is young, we both agreed that the unique experiences he has had as a player, coupled with the things he has already accomplished as a coach and recruiter for Ohio State, has prepared Mike for this opportunity,” Meyer said.

“I am very pleased he will be on the staff.”

Vrabel was obviously a highly decorated NFL player who starred for the Buckeyes in the mid 1990s, but he was only one year removed from his playing days. He had come back to Columbus to help his best friend, Luke Fickell, coach Ohio State through some turbulent times, but Meyer needed to know more about Vrabel—both as a coach and as a man.

“I had heard such great things about Mike Vrabel as a player, but the key thing for me was I wanted to talk football with him,” Meyer said.

“I wanted to see him recruit, and I wanted to meet his family. I have since spent a lot of time with him, and he has a wonderful family.”

That was important to Meyer when filling out his staff at Ohio State. Finding talented coaches who wanted to be a part of his team was the easy part. Finding guys who fit what he is looking for in a coach, however, was about more than just football.

“You have to find guys that don’t have agendas and are in it for the right reasons,” Meyer said earlier this week.

“Then, I use the term alignment and you try to find guys who are aligned with what we do, and that’s treating your players like they’re your own on the field and off the field.”

That is not always as easy as it sounds.

“Not everybody wants to do that,” Meyer said.

“They want to draw circles and X’s and straight lines. That’s fourth on my list when I try to evaluate a coach. That’s why I am taking my time.”

In addition to keeping Vrabel on staff, Meyer also announced the hire of 24-year coaching veteran Everett Withers, who will be the Buckeyes’ co-defensive coordinator and assistant head coach. 

The announcements of Withers—currently the interim head coach at North Carolina—and Vrabel increase the number of assistants on Meyer’s staff to six, and the number of defensive assistants to four.

Fickell, who will call plays as co-defensive coordinator, and Taver Johnson are additional defensive assistants. Stan Drayton will move from wide receivers coach to running backs coach. And Tom Herman, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Iowa State University the past three years, has accepted the same position with Ohio State.


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