Morning sports update: How Mike Vrabel compares to Bill Belichick, according to Malcolm Butler

"It’s the Patriots system, one of the greatest systems in the NFL."

Malcolm Butler New England Patriots
Malcolm Butler during the AFC Championship Game in 2018. –Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

Xander Bogaerts homered in his first at-bat a day after hitting a walk-off grand slam as the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays 5-2 on Sunday. Boston enters the All-Star break with its best record since 1949.

How Mike Vrabel compares to Bil Belichick, according to Malcolm Butler

Ever since Bill Belichick arrived in New England, the Foxborough High School football team has been in danger of losing its best players to the squad playing a few miles down Route 140. Zac Robinson, then the Patriots’ backup quarterback, was once told that the local varsity’s quarterback could do a better job under center. Tom Brady has often heard the same.


Belichick built a juggernaut around that sense of accountability, where no player — not even a five-time Super Bowl champion — is above a sharp rebuke if the situation demands one. Although Belichick’s disciples have found trouble installing similar systems elsewhere, the latest branch of his coaching tree appears to be trying once again to use his methods in hopes of replicating New England’s success.

Mike Vrabel, who steeled Belichick’s defense for eight seasons, has the reins of the Tennessee Titans and employs a fellow Patriots veteran for his opening campaign. Cornerback Malcolm Butler told The MMQB that he’s noticed a resemblance between his new coach and the man who left him on the bench in Super Bowl LII.

“It’s the Patriots system, one of the greatest systems in the NFL,’’ the cornerback said. “You can tell Mike played for Belichick because you can see some of the similarities. They’re about winning the way New England is about winning.’’

Vrabel also shares a willingness to hold his best players to account, Butler said.

“One thing I saw early: Mike will put you on blast,’’ he said. “He don’t care who’s around. He’s going to say what’s right. He might be a bit looser than Bill Belichick, but they’re both great guys. A man caught a ball on me — honestly I don’t know his name yet — but Mike let me hear about it. ‘Don’t get stuck on top of the routes like that! Make a play!’ Nobody cares where you come from or what you make. Everyone’s equal. And you can tell from the head coach all the way down to the interns, everybody wants to win.’’


Vrabel isn’t the only former member of the Patriots organization making his head coaching debut this fall. Matt Patricia took charge of the Lions in February. He’s already bringing Belichick’s lessons to bear in Detroit.

When The MMQB asked cornerback Darius Slay if Slay could speak about the team, Slay responded, “Lawd Jesus, not the Lions. I ain’t fin to have Patricia calling me. He already done warned us man! They’re strict.’’

A midseason look at who’s leading the race for MLB awards: Chris Sale has finished in the top six of the Cy Young vote in each of the past six seasons, but he has yet to win the coveted award. This year, the Red Sox pitcher leads the American League with a 2.23 ERA and 188 Ks. (

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Pussy Riot upstages Putin with protest that halts World Cup: The protest group claimed responsibility for four people who brought the World Cup final to a brief halt by running onto the field dressed in police uniforms in the 52nd minute. Croatia defender Dejan Lovren helped stewards tackle the three women and one man. (

Former NHL goalie Ray Emery drowns in Hamilton, Ontario: Emery drowned in his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario on Sunday morning. The 35-year-old helped the Senators reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2007 and won it as a backup with the Blackhawks in 2013.

“The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion,” the team said in a statement. (

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