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Thursday, January 20, 2011
Fisher concedes defeat in parting with Cecil

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

Chuck Cecil will not return as the Titans defensive coordinator, Jim Wyatt reports.

Chuck Cecil
Chuck Cecil was hired as a quality control coach by Titans head coach Jeff Fisher in 2001.
Cecil was promoted by Jeff Fisher two years ago to replace Jim Schwartz when Schwartz got the top job in Detroit. But the defense underachieved under Cecil and players grumbled about the lack of adjustments he made and his unwillingness to take their input.

It’s a big move for Fisher, who’s heading into the final year of his deal and was close friends with Cecil, whom he hired as a quality control coach in 2001.

“Nothing surprises you in this business,” Cecil told Wyatt. “You just have to move on. That's life in the NFL. As good a friends as we are, sometimes you have to put the professional things first and it is a profession….

“He felt like he needed a fresh start, so that’s what we’re doing.’’

Fisher’s been fiercely loyal to players and staff throughout his 17-year tenure. He has control over his coaching staff. So admitting a change was needed at the head of the defense was a real concession for a captain that many assumed would stubbornly go down with his ship if his ship was going down.

I had heard about a potential for creatively restructuring Cecil’s responsibilities, but didn’t think such a demotion could work.

It does seem odd that Fisher waited as some other staffs were filled out, but he likely couldn’t draw the same guys that have landed with new head coaches who had long-term deals to offer. It’s also highly unlikely he’s made the move without having his contingency in motion.

Linebackers coach Dave McGinnis has extensive experience and is a quality coach. But his group was at the root of the defense’s issues this season, making very few plays.

Fresh perspective from an outsider seems called for now.

Only one Fisher assistant, offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, is under contract for 2011.

Two have left for other jobs. Highly regarded defensive line coach Jim Washburn went to Philadelphia despite what Wyatt reported was a three-year offer from the Titans. Running backs coach Craig Johnson, who worked with quarterbacks before 2010, took the quarterback coach position on the staff of old friend Leslie Frazier in Minnesota.

Part of why Washburn left was his unhappiness over the direction of the overall defense. Surely Fisher made the Cecil decision in time to use it in his case to retain Washburn and still came up short. If Fisher actually decided to let Cecil go a day after Washburn left, the lame duck coach really botched things. 

Fisher cannot offer long-term job security, but is now in the market for a defensive coordinator, a defensive line coach and a running backs coach.

The patience he had with Gregg Williams and Schwartz early in their tenures as the Titans' defensive coordinator is a luxury he was unable to offer Cecil any longer.