According to Don Banks of Sports Illustrated, the Tennessee Titans and Jeff Fisher have severed their relationship. Fisher had been the longest-tenured coach in the NFL. Over 17 seasons spent exclusively with the Oilers/Titans franchise, he compiled a record of 142-120 (.542). Under Fisher, the Titans missed the playoffs in 11 of 17 seasons. His post-season record was 5-6. Three Titans teams won as many as 13 games in a season. Twice, however, highly anticipated playoff runs ended in home losses to the Baltimore Ravens and Ray Lewis (2000 and 2009). In 1999, Fisher led the Titans to the Super Bowl on the heels of what became known as The Music City Miracle vs. the Buffalo Bills in a wildcard game.
In recent years, the fan base in Tennessee rode the ups and downs of a franchise unable to unseat the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South. The Colts have had double-digit wins in 11 of the past 12 seasons, won 7 division titles, appeared in two Super Bowls (winning one), and even forced Fisher to don the jersey of Peyton Manning.
Meanwhile, the Titans have been up and down. Tennessee finished 8-8 five times, 7-9 two times, and concluded this season at 6-10. Over the past 7 years, the Titans have won 4 games, 5 games, 6 games, 8 games (twice), 10 games and 13 games. There has been no consistency and there is little clarity about the future direction of this team.
Sidebar: I love how ESPN came out 3 or 4 hours late with the Fisher story and tried to act like they had an inside source talking to John Clayton. The story was broken by Sports Illustrated in the early evening. Hours later, BSPN came out with some tired ass cut/paste job from “ESPN.com News Services.” The original article did not mention Sports Illustrated or the writer. WEAK!!! Scooped again.
“A source told ESPN.com’s John Clayton that one of the final disagreements that led to Fisher’s departure involved his son, Brandon. Jeff Fisher wanted to have his son on the staff as a quality control coach and thought that was going to be approved. Brandon Fisher helped out during the season while offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger was receiving cancer treatment.”
For the record, Fisher had the rep of being a player’s coach for years. Perhaps that was when he was closer to 40 than 50. Fisher was the youngest coach in the league when he was hired at age 36. At 53, he may have lost his touch. Keith Bullock, Kevin Mawae, and Kyle Vanden Bosch (legends for this franchise) were never given straight answers when they sought information about remaining with the team. Fisher could have interceded one way or another to clarify the situation. He never did.
Then there’s the facility lock out of Steve McNair. Perhaps Jeff Fisher got a raw deal on this incident. After all, he was in Los Angeles when it happened. He would not have responsibility for a decision like this. We’re talking about legal liability for an NFL franchise. That is strictly the purview of management and ownership. But, couldn’t Fisher have reached out to his quarterback, the heart and soul of the franchise, to communicate the position of the franchise? Of course, this should have been done by the general manager, but Fisher’s physical and vocal absence here merely reflects a recurring theme. There has been a tension around quarterbacks with the Titans for years. McNair’s situation was complicated. It is unfair to blame Fisher for this particular situation. Bud Adams was resolved to let McNair go to another team. In 2006, Steve McNair played for the Baltimore Ravens. McNair’s team finished 13-3, but lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts, 15-6. The Titans finished 8-8.
2006 was the year that the Tennessee Titans drafted former Texas Longhorns quarterback Vince Young with the third overall pick. Young, who led the Longhorns to a classic win over Fisher’s alma mater USC, was selected ahead of former Trojans QB Matt Leinart and Vanderbilt phenom Jay Cutler.
No organizational conflict in Tennessee has been greater than the one between Vince Young and Jeff Fisher. It has been a powder keg from the beginning. And, Tennesseans are still waiting for the dust to settle. After a locker room argument and several incidents, public and private, the Titans released Vince Young. With Fisher’s departure, a team that began the 2010 campaign with a 5-2 record featuring wins over the Super Bowl favorites like the Cowboys, Giants, and Eagles, faces an uncertain future.
I can understand why he didn’t want VY on the team. Vince plays the part of a drama queen. If the rumors of his lack of preparation are true (Jay Glazer on Rich Eisen’s podcast), Fisher could not continue to endorse Young. I can also understand why Adams wanted VY on the team. He won games. Young’s 30-17 record included outstanding performances against solid teams. Remember the 99-yard drive last year to beat the Cardinals and Leinart — again? Young took a dead in the water 0-6 team from Fisher and Collins and transformed them into an 8-8 playoff contender.
Adams is the boss. Fisher had to go and it should have been done when he directly went against his boss. I’ve always thought Fisher was a solid coach because his teams were always prepared, tough, and willing to roll the dice in big games. However, his biggest failing may be that 2 of his best 3 teams were both beaten by inferior Baltimore Ravens teams AT HOME (2000 and 2009).
For me, I thought Fisher’s decision to bench VY during the Steelers game this season was really the last straw. If anyone remembers, the Titans opened the season with a smashing victory over the Raiders. They scored 38 points.
The next week, the team is getting throttled by the Steelers, but the defense is keeping the game close. In the second half, the Steelers said that Chris Johnson quit after getting SMOKED by Bryant McFadden on an inside run. It was also the same game that Harrison escaped a huge penalty/fine for dumping VY on his head. The Titans, who were Charmin soft in my estimation this season (their tough guys are gone: Haynesworth, Mawae, Bullock, Vanden Bosch), did nothing to obtain some GET BACK for their QB.
The word out of TN was that VY routinely messed up play calls and that they were often cleaned up before leaving the huddle by one of the linemen. So, folks on the field were not singing his praises and neither were the fans. Still, when you’re getting pushed around, its all or nothing. In that game, it was nothing — until Kerry Collins came in. If Troy Polamalu doesn’t dive OVER the offensive line to sack Collins in the backfield, the Steelers might have lost a game that they led 19-3. Much of this has been forgotten, but their season really began to unravel in that game. The Titans started out 5-2, but when things got tight, Fisher made the wrong calls. Or did he?
The Titans season fell apart on a bizarre play. During a Week 8 game at San Diego, the Chargers had a 4th quarter lead of 33-25. Vince Young is driving the team down the field and takes off on a scramble. He falls awkwardly to the turf and clutches his left ankle. No Charger defenders touched him on the play. It was just a strange play in a strange season. Young goes down. Collins comes in. Titans lose…and lose…and lose. Tennessee lost 6 in a row and 8 of 9.
What would you have done with a QB with rabbit ears and a propensity for botching calls en route to the line of scrimmage? What would you do with a wonderfully gifted star who captured the heart of your boss, but had yet to submit himself to the discipline required to master his craft? Would you use the Dan Reeves scorched earth approach? Would you go fire and brimstone like Chuck Noll did with Terry Bradshaw or as Bill Parcells did with Phil Simms? What would you do?
The Titans have never been great. They were considered over-achievers for all of Fisher’s tenure. The defense and special teams were always good. The offense always struggled. The franchise never had elite WRs, but they had Frank Wycheck, Eddie George, McNair and Derrick Mason for years. Bottom line: were it not for the Music City Miracle, Jeff Fisher would have many “skins” to hang on his wall. Yesterday, Jeff Fisher ranked third among active coaches in wins, but only 10th in winning percentage — behind such perennial Hot Seat Poster Boys Tom Coughlin and Lovie Smith.
Is Jeff Fisher a sympathetic figure? Not really. He has been duly compensated for his work. He has the respect of his peers and probably never lost his locker room. He has his health and countless job prospects as he looks forward. Fisher has no need for sympathy. He is merely a man on the move.
Fans of the Tennessee Titans have a great deal to be concerned about today. Bud Adams is beginning to show signs of wear and tear. If Adams’ defiant “F. You!” to the crowd was not sufficient warning, the last few weeks have been bad enough to wake the dead. No coach. No quarterback. No identity. No toughness. The Titans, it seems, have been destroyed from within. The Titans are dead! Long live the Titans!!