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Mike Vrabel hired as coaching/personnel consultant

Mike Vrabel was born in Akron and grew up a Browns fan. After an All-American career at Ohio State, three Super Bowl wins in 14 years as an NFL player and six seasons as head coach of the Titans, he’s back in the orange and brown.

The Browns hired Vrabel as a coaching and personnel consultant, a league source confirmed to The Chronicle-Telegram on Friday.

Coach Kevin Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry have developed a close relationship with Vrabel, who was fired by the Titans after the season. He was part of the Browns contingent at the scouting combine last month in Indianapolis.

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The Browns pride themselves on looking at all avenues to improve, and Vrabel brings quite a resume to an organization coming off a playoff appearance and trying to reach its first Super Bowl. Stefanski won his second Coach of the Year award in four seasons on the job and is expected to get an extension as he has entered the final year of his contract.

Vrabel, 48, starred at Walsh Jesuit High School and Ohio State. He was a third-round pick of the Steelers in 1997, won three Super Bowls in eight seasons with the Patriots and was an All-Pro in 2007.

He played for Hall of Fame coaches Bill Belichick and Bill Cowher and developed a hard-nosed, old-school style.

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Vrabel retired as a player after the 2010 season and quickly began his next career as a linebackers coach for Ohio State. He was hired as linebackers coach by the Houston Texans in 2014, promoted to defensive coordinator in 2017 and hired as head coach of the Titans in 2018.

He was The Associated Press Coach of the Year in 2021, went 54-45 in the regular season, won two AFC South titles and was 2-3 in the postseason, reaching the AFC Championship Game after the 2019 season.

The Titans went 7-10 and 6-11 the last two seasons, and Vrabel was fired.

“As I told Coach Vrabel, this decision was as difficult as any I’ve made as Controlling Owner. I appreciate Mike’s contributions to the Tennessee Titans both on and off the field,” Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk said in a statement in January. “Anyone who has ever met him knows how passionate and genuine he is, and he’s been a strong supporter of the Nashville community.”

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Vrabel interviewed for at least three head coaching jobs after getting fired — with the Falcons, Panthers and Chargers — but wasn’t hired. The Titans hired Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan to replace him.

Vrabel has another interesting connection with the Browns. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz worked for Vrabel in Tennessee for two years as a senior defensive assistant before being hired by the Browns last offseason. Schwartz, a longtime coordinator, had been dealing with health issues and Vrabel gave him a role.

“A lot of you guys know I was in a tough spot a couple of years ago, I had to step away from the game,” Schwartz said last year before the Browns beat the Titans 27-3 in Cleveland in Week 3. “My thyroid had gone berserk, and I needed a bunch of different operations and procedures. Mike Vrabel called me it seemed like every week for about four months, and he never once talked about football. He just always just asked me how I was doing and everything else.

“I’m greatly indebted to Vrabel for what he did and for helping me out. I just hope that I gave as much as I received in those two years.”

Vrabel lived in Springfield Township and moved to Stow during middle school. He played football, basketball and was on the track and field team for Walsh Jesuit.

He had 36 sacks for Ohio State from 1993-96 and was named an All-American.

In the NFL he started 140 of 206 games, totaling 57 sacks, 11 interceptions, 19 forced fumbles, 41 passes defense and 762 tackles, 63 for loss. In 20 playoff games he had nine sacks, 88 tackles, three forced fumbles, three passes defensed and two fumble recoveries.

He was also a goal line threat on offense, lining up as a tight end and catching 10 passes — all for touchdowns. He added two more in the playoffs.

Vrabel is 0-2 against Stefanski but set the tone for Freddie Kitchens’ disastrous tenure as coach with a 43-13 Week 1 win at Cleveland in 2019. Kitchens was fired after the season.

“Yeah, I grew up a Browns fan,” Vrabel told the Akron Beacon Journal last year. “My first NFL game with my dad was in the Dawg Pound and was at Municipal Stadium for the last game (in 1995).

“I grew up wearing the dog bones and all that other stuff, just because football was popular and important where I grew up.”

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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