On Jeff Fisher and lame-duck status

January, 8, 2011
1/08/11
10:23
AM ET
Jeff Fisher will coach the Titans in 2011. Beyond that, who knows?

[+] EnlargeMike Munchak
AP Photo/Kevin TerrellOffensive line coach Mike Munchak is among the assistants who have an uncertain future because of coach Jeff Fisher's contract status.
Jim Wyatt’s report that came before Bud Adams' statement said there was not even a discussion of an extension for Fisher. He's due to make about $6.5 million and only has one assistant coach under contract.

So what does he do going forward? Some of his staff and some from the outside will accept one-year deals, though it’s hardly what they want. Others might be able to do better, particularly if they have avenues to the markets where new coaches are going to take over.

In that regard, Carolina, Cleveland, Denver, and Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco have an advantage. They have something to offer that Fisher does not.

Jacksonville’s assistants all have one year left on their deals. I wrote recently that I’m not opposed to lame-duck status for them as it could serve as motivation. But I talked to one assistant after that who did much to change my thinking.

It’s not like the head coach is on the line -- Jaguars head man Jack Del Rio will get two more years of big money whether he’s working or not, while younger coaches still trying to build their lives could wind up flapping in the breeze.

Most will be buried in their week-to-week work during the 2011 season and it won’t matter. But if things are going badly, talk of college jobs begins in November and they might have no choice but to explore those options -- a potential major distraction.

Fisher looks to be a lame duck and I’m inclined to say that’s not a bad thing for the top guy. It would be less of an issue if his assistants also had a year left, but only one does.

Fisher cannot offer assistants any long-term security, and his status might impact his decision-making. Will he endorse the drafting of a quarterback at No. 8 and install that guy in the best long-term interest of the franchise? Or will he be compelled to lean on a veteran QB who will help him win a game that might help him get a new deal?

What if Dirk Koetter, the Jacksonville offensive coordinator who got my vote for assistant coach of the year, gets the head- coaching job in Denver? Del Rio will have a difficult time drawing a good replacement when he can only offer a year or two.

It’s complicated stuff, not as simple as I’ve suggested in the past. Assistant coaches stand to suffer as much as a result of the uncertain labor situation as anyone involved in the business.

As for Fisher’s staff, his contract gives him control of it, but Adams might have dictated he make changes. We’ll have to wait and see on that, but Titans assistants such as offensive line coach Mike Munchak and defensive line coach Jim Washburn might have options.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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