Chiefs Roster Evaluation: Mike Vrabel


We continue our evaluation of the Kansas City Chiefs roster today by taking a look at OLB Mike “Mr. Intangibles” Vrabel.

I know some of you (Big Matt) have really been looking forward to this one.

Vrabel came to the Chiefs as a throw in to the Matt Cassel trade. Chiefs GM Scott Piolo made his first big personnel decision by trading a 2nd round draft pick for New England Patriots backup QB Matt Cassel and OLB Mike Vrabel. Obviously Cassel was the centerpiece of the deal with Vrabel being a bonus, like a used care salesman throwing in free air conditioning. It seemed like a good deal. The Chiefs were going into the 2009 season with a potential franchise QB and an experienced OLB with Super Bowl pedigree.

Unfortunately, the 2009 Chiefs were a collection of castoffs and leftovers of a serious roster gutting project. It was unfortunate for Vrabel who was watching his time as being a productive NFL player rapidly coming to an end.

Somewhere along the way in 2009, Pioli’s 1975 Vrabel broke down (as these old players so often do) and had to go to the shop for repairs. Fortunately for Piloli, he had a barley used 1985 Studebaker left to him by Herm Edwards in Edwards’ will, just sitting in his garage. Pioli wasn’t even sure if the Studebaker would run but he had no choice. He had Todd Haley fire up the Studebaker and take it out for a spin.

It turned out the Studebaker handled pretty well. In it’s first time on the road (as a starter) the Studebaker pulled back in the drive with 2 interceptions and a victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers.

Pioli eventually got the Vrabel back but found he wasn’t handling as well as he did before he broke down. Pioli went to “Paddy And Big Matt’s Mechanic Garage Of NFL Truths” for some advice. Mechanic Matt told Pioli he could probably squeeze another season out of the Vrabel but that the guy just had too many miles on it to perform well.

“Why don’t you sell the Vrabel, get what you can for it and see what you’ve got in that Studebaker? I think the Bluebook might have him undervalued,” said Mechanic Matt.

“ 2010 is the perfect time to test him out,” added Mechanic Paddy. “At the very least, start driving the Studebaker and keep the Vrabel in the garage for another year in case of emergencies.”

Unfortunately, Pioli ignored the advice of his trusted mechanics and played Vrabel most of the season.

“Didn’t work out too well for Pioli,” said Mechanic Matt.

“Yeah,” said Mechanic Paddy, “now he can’t get anything for the Vrabel and he has no clue what the Studebaker’s worth. The only other guy he’s got is the Sheffield he drafted last year but he’s been in the shop for a year and he was brand new.”

We break down Vrabel’s (hopefully last) season after the jump. And no more car analogies, I promise.

I’m not doing this just to hate on Vrabel. I love Mike Vrabel. I’m from Ohio. I cheered him on when he played for the Buckeyes. He’s from Akron, home of Swenson’s Drive In Restaurant (home of the greatest burger in America) as well as the King of Adulthood Duchery, LeBron James. Vrabel rules and yes, he has intangibles. I am sure he has really helped the Chiefs young players immensely. I really mean that.

But Vrabel is finished. It was evident to a degree in 2009 (though harder to identify because the team was so horrifically bad) and glaringly obvious in 2010. It was so obvious that even the biggest Chiefs homers, who would have defended Matt Cassel if he had personally walked over to Ray Lewis and handed him the football during the Wild Card playoff game, won’t even speak up to defend his play. They don’t jump on the bashwagon, but they don’t start passing out hateraid either.

Vrabel can take his intangibles to the sideline to coach next season. If that is the path he chooses, I think he’ll do a fantastic job. I’d love for the Chiefs to hire him as an assistant linebackers coach. I think it would be really great for guys like Sheffield and Studebaker to have him on the sideline.

As usual, we’ll refer to the evaluation and grades from our friends at Pro Football Focus to show how age has caught up with Vrabel.

The Numbers:

-Of the 37 OLB’s that played at least 25% of their team’s defensive snaps in 2010, PFF ranks Mike Vrabel at #30.

– When a QB threw to a receiver or back or TE being covered by Vrabel, the QB had an average rating of 120.2.

Stops: 19

Missed Tackles: 9

QB Pressures: 12*

Batted Passes: 0

*10 of Vrabel’s 12 pressures came in the first 6 games. After that, the Chiefs either stopped blitzing him completely because of lack of production or he just didn’t generate any pressure. It was probably a combination of both. Interestingly, the other 2 pressures came in the Baltimore game…cause you know, if he couldn’t do it all year, better have him do it in the playoffs.

Sacks: 0


Coverage: -3.1

Pass Rush: -2.1

Run Defense: -2.0

Overall: -7.6

The Verdict:

Vrabel just isn’t a guy that can get it done anymore. He was poor across the board in all areas except

leadership. I have no idea how good Studebaker really is. I don’t know that the Chiefs would have done better with Andy on the field and Vrabel on the bench. Maybe Studebaker is seriously limited in what he can do. All I know is that whenever he has been given extended playing time, Studebaker has made plays. He did it in the Steelers game in 2009 and lit up some chumps in the Eagles preseason game. He even got a couple of sacks this year with limited snaps. I sure would have liked to have seen more of him.

Vrabel is a descending starter. Actually, he is a descending backup at this point. He really isn’t good enough to be starting but he’d be ok as an injury fill in for a few plays but not for much longer.

Anyway, Vrabel’s contract is up and we might get a retirement announcement from him any day now. That or we will hear that Scott Pioli has re-signed him.

If we do, I just hope it as a coach and not a player.

Chiefs Roster Evaluation:

Jovan Belcher

Barry Richardson

Kendrick Lewis

Branden Albert

Wallace Gilberry

Tony Moeaki

Verran Tucker