Albert Breer of The MMQB first reported the promotion Wednesday. He also noted Romeo Crennel, the team's defensive coordinator, is expected to remain with the organization as an assistant head coach. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle confirmed the report.
Vrabel has quickly moved through the coaching ranks since his 14-year playing career ended in 2010. He worked at Ohio State for three seasons, one with the linebackers and two with the defensive line, before joining the Texans in 2014.
The 41-year-old Ohio native and former Buckeye is a three-time Super Bowl champion who was named first-team All-Pro in 2007. In all, he racked up 740 combined tackles, 57 sacks, 40 passes defended, 19 forced fumbles and 11 interceptions across 206 games in the NFL.
He's translated that on-field experience into almost immediate coaching success. The reported promotion from the Texans is likely an effort to keep him on their staff as long as possible amid outside interest. It's the most logical explanation for changing Crennel's status after he guided the top-ranked defense in 2016.
Wilson reported earlier in January the Los Angeles Rams even considered him in their search for a new head coach before hiring Sean McVay. Vrabel talked to Wilson about what he's learned since making the transition to the sideline:
I think you're always learning and trying to study the game and trying to understand schemes and concepts. The biggest thing in coaching is being able to reach your players.
The schemes can be great. The concepts can be great, but until you make that connection with your players and get them to believe they're getting better and they can see they're getting better and you're giving them ownership of the room and having conversations and dialogues.
That's been the biggest thing for me as a coach is trying to make a connection with the players. Once you can set the hook, you got their attention.
It seems like only a matter of time before Vrabel becomes a head coach. A successful year with the Texans defense next season could make him the most prized option available next offseason.
Moving up the ladder again in Houston could be possible in 2018. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported the Texans considered moving on from Bill O'Brien before their playoff win over the injury-depleted Oakland Raiders, either through a trade or a "mutual parting of the ways."
Whether it's the Texans or another organization, Vrabel is setting himself up to reach the pinnacle of coaching in short order. Perhaps that shouldn't be a surprise for someone who played under Bill Cowher and Bill Belichick.