AFC South: Steve Underwood

Titans hold front office together

January, 18, 2012
1/18/12
2:59
PM ET
How much do the Titans value vice president of pro personnel Ruston Webster and vice president of football administration Lake Dawson?

Enough that they shuffled their front office to keep St. Louis and Jeff Fisher from plucking either one away to become the Rams’ new general manager.

The team promoted Mike Reinfeldt to senior executive vice president/COO after serving as the team’s general manager for the past five seasons, and Webster was elevated to executive vice president/general manager after serving two seasons as the VP of player personnel. Dawson has been promoted to vice president of player personnel, replacing Webster.

It’s a bold move to keep together a trio the organization likes a great deal.

Reinfeldt will now serve as the primary Nashville connection to Houston-based owner Bud Adams and both Webster and coach Mike Munchak will be able to take issues to him. The last person to hold such a post, Steve Underwood, retired before the 2011 season.

“Mike has done a nice job for us as our general manager, but I believe we need someone in place who oversees the entire franchise there in Nashville,” owner Bud Adams said. “Mike is uniquely qualified for that position with his previous experience. Our VP’s have done an outstanding job over the past couple of years managing their departments, but this will streamline things to have someone on site to direct the entire organization and who will execute things the way I want them done.

“With this shuffle, we really have the best of both worlds -- as you might remember our final two candidates when we were filling the general manager position five years ago were Mike (Reinfeldt) and Ruston Webster. We now have both of them working for us and Ruston will take over the general manager role.”

It’s an effective move by the Titans to play keep-away with Webster and Dawson who were candidates for the general manager post in St. Louis, where Jeff Fisher is the new coach.
Eddie George’s lambasting of the Titans for not having already dealt with Chris Johnson's contract has been big news, and rightly so.

Here’s one thing the team’s front office can take away from this: Slow, patient, and even plodding is the right approach sometimes. But not all the time.

From the time I started covering the franchise in its final year in Houston in 1996, it’s always been very deliberate.

Often times, that’s fine. The team that rushes out in free agency doesn’t usually win the Super Bowl. The team that puts a guy on the bench after one big mistake might stunt his development and confidence. The team that jumps out to complain about officiating in a game may suffer consequences at the hands of the commissioner.

But, in the instance of Chris Johnson, George is right on target.

The team should have hit Johnson with a contract offer it worked up during the lockout the moment it ended, and in so doing could have at least talked of an “immediate” good-faith effort.

Steve Underwood was long owner Bud Adams’ right-hand man and top confidante. Underwood is a methodical lawyer, who never jumped to action on team matters, and that tone trickled down through the organization.

Underwood recently retired.

As Adams and the Titans’ front office move forward post-Underwood, their in-house review of how things operate might allow for the possibility that there are occasions where moving quickly can be beneficial.
Mike Reinfeldt’s is going into his fifth draft on the GM job for the Titans.

While we usually have a pretty good sense of a guy as he starts his fifth year on an NFL job, I’m not sure we’re certain on Reinfeldt. Jim Wyatt reports Reinfeldt now has a contract extension that looks to run through 2014.

Reinfeldt’s a well-reasoned consensus builder, for sure. Indications are that he is easy to work with and for, and stays out of people’s way once they are set up to do their job. He’s clearly a favorite of owner Bud Adams, having played for the Oilers and played a role in prompting the owner to make some front-office hires and some big decisions (like the one to part with Vince Young.)

At the same time, Reinfeldt is a reserved guy in a market that still fondly remembers his outspoken, entertaining and often successful predecessor, Floyd Reese.

Reinfeldt’s worked quietly in an organization that up until recently had been fronted by coach Jeff Fisher and where the big operation is overseen by Steve Underwood, the franchise’s senior assistant vice president, general counsel and executive assistant to Adams.

But Fisher's been replaced by first-time coach Mike Munchak and Underwood is set to retire this summer.

Though the team won’t make a big deal of it, Reinfeldt is clearly gaining power and profile. How he handles it will go a long way towards determining his ultimate story as a lead executive.

I think he’s a pretty shrewd drafter who’s learned from mistakes -- two of his worst were in the his first draft, in second-round running back Chris Henry and third-round receiver Paul Williams -- and will get better.

We will get a better idea of that at the end of the month, and as we see how another class pans out.
By saying Vince Young could return to the Titans, Chris Johnson gives volume to a concept that continues to have some life but is simply incorrect.

Johnson told Jim Wyatt that with Jeff Fisher gone, there is a chance for Young to return.

But in the end, Tennessee’s decision to part ways with Young was an organizational one, not one handed down by Fisher. In fact, when owner Bud Adams was sold on making the move, it was the team’s top executive, Steve Underwood, and its general manager, Mike Reinfeldt, who were in Houston making the case for how the quarterback should be handled and why.

It’s not like the Titans brought in an outsider who needed to evaluate Young for himself. Mike Munchak saw all five years of Young’s tenure and is completely on board with the franchise's decision.

The Titans would look like idiots to go back on their repeated proclamation that they are done with him now. And they won’t.

Johnson wants Young back. Surprise. Young’s his pal.

Johnson wants the Titans to draft Cam Newton. Surprise. Newton’s a star.

If you’re a Titans fan, you don’t want Johnson making your personnel decisions. And he knows he doesn't have a platform here, just an opinion.

"At the end of the day, no matter what I think, the coaching staff and the organization is going to make the decision," Johnson said. "They are not going to ask any of the players or have a meeting with the players and ask them what they do."

Johnson talked longingly about Randy Moss when the Vikings traded for him, then saw Moss inhabit a nearby locker after the Titans claimed the receiver off waivers.

Johnson didn’t influence the Titans brass to make that move.

How did that endorsement and the ultimate acquisition work out?
Titans executive vice president Steve Underwood went out of his way Monday to say new coach Mike Munchak has broad leeway with regard to his staff, so long as it fits a budget.

But the man who’s boss to both of them didn’t exactly echo the sentiment.

"I told Mike just get who you want and I'll pay the bill," Bud Adams told Mark Berman.

Adams said the idea of Bruce Matthews, an offensive line assistant with the Texans who could be named Munchak’s replacement as Tennessee’s offensive line coach as early as Wednesday, “would be kind of great.”

Munchak and Matthews are the closest of friends and presented each other when they were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"Mike told me he wanted Bruce badly,” Adams said.

Berman also reports that former defensive coordinator Frank Bush will interview with Munchak for the Titans linebacker coach job.

Dave McGinnis is still in the post under a one-year deal he got from Jeff Fisher before Fisher and the Titans parted ways.

Munchak fired offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger and two low-ranking assistantsTuesday and is clearly considering further moves.

There is a scenario where Bush is hired to coach linebackers and McGinnis is retained as assistant head coach/defense, Jim Wyatt reports.
Mike Munchak’s made his first big decision as Titans coach. According to Jim Wyatt, Munchak will have a new offensive coordinator. He’s fired Mike Heimerdinger.

“Mike is going to do what is best for Titans," Heimerdinger told Wyatt. "I know it is part of the business ... I appreciate my time here. Every head coach has to make their decisions and this was his."

Too many people are marveling that one of the team’s four candidate for Jeff Fisher’s old job is now out of work. But once Munchak was hired, he was not asked to line up with the existing one-year contracts for assistant coaches.

Executive vice president Steve Underwood and general manager Mike Reinfeldt viewed Heimerdinger as a potential head coach. That’s a separate deal from Munchak keeping Heimerdinger as his offensive coordinator.

I think Heimerdinger is an excellent coach who had a bad year, failing to do enough to get Chris Johnson opportunities in space in the passing game and unable to get his middling quarterbacks to force the ball to Randy Moss after the team acquired him on waivers.

Heimerdinger handled his fight against cancer that began during the season with absolute grace: showing football coach stoicism and missing virtually no time with the team.

What’s next for him? It’s hard to guess considering most staffs around the league are filled.

Who’s in line to replace him? Munchak emphasized that he wants a staff filled with teachers, and odds are the new guy will be grooming a draft pick while overseeing a veteran newcomer.

Whoever he is, he’ll now have at least a small voice in selecting who those quarterbacks are.

Wyatt also says the Titans will interview Bruce Matthews for the offensive line job. Matthews had a two year offer from the Texans to remain as an assistant offensive line coach, but has not signed it, Wyatt reports.

UPDATE (3:15 p.m.): The team sent out an official announcement that Heimerdinger, offensive assistant Richie Wessman and defensive assistant Rayna Stewart will not be retained.

Munchak on Heimerdinger: "I have a great deal of respect for him as a person and admiration for the way he is fighting against cancer. He is an innovative offensive mind and we have worked well through the years, but I believe we need to go in a different direction at offensive coordinator. This wasn’t about his health -- he is feeling good -- it is a change of direction for us. This is not something that I take lightly and I wish him and his family the best.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Given an opportunity to indicate he plans on Mike Heimerdinger remaining the Titans offensive coordinator, new Titans coach Mike Munchak steered well clear.

[+] EnlargeMike Heimerdinger
Brett Davis/US PresswireThe status of Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger remains uncertain under new coach Mike Munchak.
"Obviously we’ve had a very good relationship, we’ve worked together for a long time and had success together,” Munchak said. “… I’ll now have the chance to talk more specifically about what my vision is with [all the assistants] and then decide what’s best.”

Pressed on whether he expects Heimerdinger to be back as coordinator, he said:

“Right now, anything is open. We’re starting fresh, it’s not the same old same old. I think we come in and figure out what’s the best for the Titans going forward with what we have here … Anything is possible.”

If he didn’t start talking to potential holdovers today, he will start conversations Tuesday with the 13 assistants who have one-year contracts and begin sorting things out. He can fire them and they’ll still be paid for 2011 by the Titans.

Titans executive vice president Steve Underwood said Munchak will have "broad discretion" over staff he will "be married to” but that things will have to fit parameters, including budgetary ones.

Hiring outsiders will be a tough go, and Munchak might miss on a lot of his top choices.

Coaches under contract with other teams cannot talk to the Titans unless they are asked for and receive permission. An old rule mandating a team be allowed to talk to a coach under contract if he would be offered a promotion no longer exists.

Tennessee GM Mike Reinfeldt said teams are still pretty good about allowing position coaches to interview for coordinator jobs, but that position coach-to-position coach moves are a “dicier proposition.”

(Bruce Matthews, Houston’s assistant offensive line coach, is off limits until or unless Houston grants permission for a division rival to talk to him. Do the Texans allow him to advance his career if he wants? Or do they take a tougher stance about helping a team they play twice?)

Munchak said over the last week he’s reviewed who’s available.

“There are always good coaches,” he said. “…I hope you’ll find out, in the next few weeks as we start filling those positions, you’ll say ‘Oh, geez, that guy’s pretty good,’ ‘I didn’t know he’s available,’ ‘Oh, that’s good.’ Or there will be some guys you don’t know, you’ll have to do your homework on them, and you’ll say ‘Yeah, this guy’s pretty solid.’

“I’m looking for guys that are good teachers … that can push guys that are going to need pushing in certain rooms.”

Munchak's network isn’t limited from having been with one team for so long. He’s seen and connected with good coaches through the years on scouting trips and the like. And of course his phone is already ringing regularly.

"It’s amazing how many people you know," he said with a grin.

More than once he talked of harmony.

In 2010, we've come to learn, Fisher’s staff was not a super-unified group. Defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil -- who was re-signed, then fired by Jeff Fisher -- raised the ire of some coworkers and players for what they saw as a lack of direction and response to input.

“We need harmony in this building, harmony with the coaching staff,” Munchak said. “You want the players to see what we’re doing. You want them to see on the sidelines how the coaches are acting, how we’re interacting, because that’s how they are acting. If I’m a head coach that’s screaming and yelling at people and losing my cool, they’ll lose their cool.”

He’s looking for a similar demeanor, it sounds like, in his staff. He's already got five openings. He might be about to create more.

It’ll be interesting to see who he retains, then who he recruits.
He was the favorite the day Jeff Fisher and the Titans parted ways. According to The Tennessean, long-time offensive line coach Mike Munchak held on to the top slot and could be named head coach as early as Monday.

Nashville’s been abuzz about the coaching search since the Titans and Fisher decided a lame-duck season was too complicated going forward and reached a settlement.

The team interviewed only four candidates: Munchak, offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.

Was that a deep enough pool for the team to give itself a chance to find the best coach? Or was it the minimum it could get away with in an attempt to appear to be taking a broad look while intending to go with Munchak?

I think there is a difference between having a leader going into interviews and being set on who your next coach will be as you start the process.

I wish they looked at more candidates. The team’s senior executive vice president, Steve Underwood, and general manager Mike Reinfeldt are a deliberate duo. Their timetable and determination in this search appears different than their MO, and certainly came at the behest of owner Bud Adams, who’s long been a Munchak admirer.

What kind of coach will Munchak be?

We’ll learn a lot more when he’s introduced. But we know he’s a thoughtful, focused, quietly intense and very smart guy. Like any new coach, he deserves a chance to make his changes and put his program in place.

It’s inevitable that fans will jump to conclusions. I’ll urge patience as we watch how he operates.

It’ll start with staff decisions. He'll inherit 13 assistants under contract, and most believe that Munchak will keep most of them. I think that’s presumptuous, and I suspect he will make more changes than many expect.
When Ray Sherman left the Tennessee Titans staff, he was viewed as a coach with a bit of wanderlust: He always thought the next job he got would be better, and might position him for the big step to a head coaching job.

Sherman was on Jeff Fisher’s staff in 2005 and 2006, hardly a monumental time for receivers with the team. He was on the Oilers' staff in 1988 and 1989 as well. So Bud Adams knows him from two stints.

Now he’s a candidate for the Titans' head coaching vacancy (somehow Adam Schefter tweeted that Chris Mortensen is reporting it).

Sherman interviewed with the Cowboys, fulfilling their requirement under the Rooney Rule to discuss a head coaching vacancy with at least one minority. Skeptics will say he’s a token interview in Nashville, particularly if Mike Munchak is hired quickly as Fisher’s replacement. Munchak interviewed Monday.

John Wooten is chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, an organization that works with the NFL promoting diversity among front office executives, coaches and scouts.

He said he spoke with Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt Monday to let him know of the group's “ready list.” Sherman is one of seven remaining minorities the group promotes as ready to be head coaches. Three others from the earlier version of the list – Leslie Frazier, Ron Rivera and Hue Jackson – have attained head coaching jobs.

Wooten said he’d love to see Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and Packers assistant head coach/inside linebackers coach Winston Moss get a look from the Titans. Moss cannot interview until after the Packers play in Super Bowl XLV Sunday.

I know Jim Wyatt’s conversation with Bud Adams that I cited in this morning’s RTC entry indicated the owner sees things happening quickly. Maybe they will.

But general manager Mike Reinfeldt and senior executive vice president and general counsel Steve Underwood are sorting out the pool and doing the interviewing.

They are deliberate guys who emphasized Friday that they would take as long as they need to. That makes me think we learn the new coach later rather than sooner.

Of course, this franchise has not been in this position for some time, its lead by an eccentric owner and anything can happen.

As for minority presence: of the four assistants that are gone from Fisher’s 2010 staff, running backs coach Craig Johnson and receivers coach Fred Graves, are African American.

Now only two of the 14 assistants who are under contract to the team are minorities -- secondary coach Marcus Robertson and defensive assistant/quality control coach Rayna Stewart.

Whoever the new head coach is, he will have to consider diversity as he pieces together his staff.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans will take their time and they will be thorough in searching for Jeff Fisher’s replacement.

But incumbent offensive line coach Mike Munchak’s candidacy has one major thing going for it.

[+] EnlargeMike Munchak
AP Photo/Kevin TerrellHall of Famer Mike Munchak has been an assistant with the Oilers/Titans since 1994.
Regarded as the top in-house candidate, Munchak’s been an assistant with the Oilers/Titans since 1994. The Pro Football Hall of Famer has strong relationships with the staff, and he’s one of 14 remaining assistants from Fisher’s staff who is under contract.

Bud Adams hates to pay people who are no longer working for him. But he’s paying Jeff Fisher $4 million and paying former defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil an unknown amount for the 2010 season.

The Titans will also be paying those assistants -- whether those coaches remain in Nashville or not.

But the new coach will have the discretion to choose who to keep.

Munchak -- or offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger or linebacker coach Dave McGinnis, also likely candidates -- would be more apt to retain holdovers.

And that would save Adams money at a time when he could lose revenue because of a lockout. He’d rather pay one coach per position than two, and an outsider is more likely to want to infuse the staff with his own people.

Fisher didn’t offer an endorsement of Munchak when asked, leaning on his regular stance of not getting into hypotheticals.

Instead, he encouraged confidence in the two men with whom he could not move forward, the team’s top Nashville official, Steve Underwood, and GM Mike Reinfeldt.

“You should have all the confidence in the world in Mike and Steve and the decisions they make going forward,” Fisher said. “That allowed me to be successful here, the confidence they had in me and vice versa.”

Munchak is an Adams favorite. He's dealt with him as a player and as an assistant. He’s made the owner proud by gaining football immortality with a bronze bust in Canton and a yellow jacket. He’s reasonable and measured, and while I think it would take time for him to become comfortable as the face of the franchise, he could surely work well with Reinfeldt to achieve the sort of consensus the team wants to have key the center of its operation.

I looked at the three current assistants on Thursday, here.

To me, it’s still wise to be thorough and allow for the possibility that you encounter the next Mike Tomlin.

But if you follow the money, it says place your early bets on Munchak.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In one last visit to the podium in the Titans' main auditorium, Jeff Fisher spoke slowly and affectionately about the organization.

[+] EnlargeMike Reinfeldt
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyTitans GM Mike Reinfeldt, left, and senior executive vice president Steve Underwood answer questions about coach Jeff Fisher's departure.
He never gave the slightest hint of being tired or ready for a break during or after the 2010 season. But he’s tired now, he said, and ready for some time off, away from football.

Coaches who leave for a year after 10 seasons come back three times better coaches, he said. He’ll take his break after 16 full seasons at the helm of the Oilers/Titans.

“My regret is that I won’t have a hand in that process back to success,” he said.

Bud Adams read a tidy statement about his affection for Fisher, but the time for change, over speaker phone. Then Fisher spoke and took questions before heading out. Senior executive vice president Steve Underwood and general manager Mike Reinfeldt talked after that.

“Jeff’s expertise, his optimism, his flexibility, he’s everything you look for in a head coach,” Reinfeldt said.

Which, if course, prompted the question:

If he is everything you look for in a head coach, how come he’s no longer your head coach?

“I think there are certain points in time where change is necessitated, and that’s kind of what’s happened here,” Reinfeldt said.

Said Underwood, who declined to talk in specifics: “In general, we had differences we were not able to resolve, and that’s the only time in our experience with Jeff that that’s happened. But when you’re not able to work through difference, you work out an arrangement by which you part company, and that’s what we did.”

Clearly, Fisher was less than forthright about extensions given his assistants late in the year -- one of whom, defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil, Fisher subsequently fired. He also said he had intended to hire his son, Brandon, as an assistant. But he knew full well of a long-standing team policy against hiring children of employees in supervisory positions.

That's not great payback for the thorough defense Underwood and Reinfeldt put on for Fisher with Adams in Houston after the season.

The staff issues created a wedge, and while all three smiled and praised each other, a rift between them developed that probably can’t help but leave a scar.

“I did my best, which I’ve done every year from start to finish, to move forward from the end of the season planning for this upcoming season,” Fisher said, dodging questions about specifics.

Fisher’s settlement will remain private, but is believed to be about $4 million. He was scheduled to make $6.5 million in the final year of his deal. Underwood said some reports were way high, obviously pointing to one that had him leaving with $8 million.

Asked about opportunities in TV, Fisher said he’d not thought ahead past today. Underwood said Fisher is free to coach this year if he wants to. It’ll be a surprise if he does, based on how late in the game it is and how much he talked about getting some rest.

“I will have time, I’m going to rest,” he said. “And we’ll just see where it goes.”

As Fisher thanked everyone and walked away, someone shouted: “What will football historians says about your tenure, Jeff?”

“You’ll have to speak with those historians,” he said.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Characterize the Titans as being in disarray all you want, but they will not agree to the premise.
  • They have no starting quarterback and said they plan to acquire both a veteran and one via the draft.
  • They just parted ways with longtime head coach Jeff Fisher weeks after saying he would remain.
  • Their senior executive vice president and general counsel, Steve Underwood, plans to retire at the end of the summer.
  • They have 14 assistants who’ve been given one-year deals that a new coach may not want.

“You’ve outlined the challenges we have to work with going forward,” Underwood said to a question that rattled the challenges off. "Change does not translate into chaos. All it means is we have our work cut out for us. There is nothing wrong with it.”

Said GM Mike Reinfeldt: “It’s a tough day. Jeff was an icon here, the face of the franchise for such a long time. But change can be a wonderful thing, it can be an opportunity.”

It's great that they can look at it that way. I don't know how many fans are convinced. I don't think "disarray" is unfair. But it's not like the pillars that line the gateway to the team's complex are going to crumble. Teams constantly dig out of trouble. It's just going to be harder and slower in the current landscape with a player lockout likely.

But both executives are methodical guys who have a lot of experience and have been good at their jobs. Now they are charged with heading a rebuilding effort that starts with finding the right replacement for Fisher.

They didn't say there were any characteristics, like previous head-coaching experience, the new coach will need to have.

Their search is under way. There is no timetable, and Underwood and Reinfeldt intend to take as much time as they need to find the right guy, they said.

More to come, please bear with me.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Will the Titans’ news conference set to start in an hour feel like a funeral?

It’s going to be an odd setting, with outgoing coach Jeff Fisher seated beside the team’s top Nashville executive, Steve Underwood, and its GM, Mike Reinfeldt, for one last media session.

I think Fisher fractured his relationship with those two long-time supporters by signing the bulk of his staff to one-year extensions late in the 2010 season, apparently without mentioning it to his colleagues.

Those seem to be a major factor in the team’s statement Thursday explaining the separation weeks after owner Bud Adams decided to let Fisher work the final year of his deal.

“It became evident that consensus was increasingly hard to find and reality wasn’t matching the vision we discussed. It is unfortunate that this decision is coming at this juncture, but we believe that we have reached the point where change is in the best interest of both parties.”

Contracts for assistants will be one topic they’ll certainly all be asked about, and I expect they’ll dance around it.

Adams may be part of things via speakerphone, which could create a disastrous scenario with all sort of interruptions and audio issues.

I’ll be there to ask everything I can think of, and I’ll share as much as I can as soon as I can.

You can listen to the news conference here starting at noon, 11 a.m. CT.
In what has to rank as one of the sloppiest divorces in recent NFL history, Jeff Fisher and the Titans are parting ways after all.

"The Tennessee Titans and Jeff Fisher have agreed to part ways and Fisher will no longer be the head coach of the team," said a release just issued by the team.

The parting was initially reported by SI.com's Don Banks.

Banks reported it’s unclear whether it will be couched as a firing, a mutual separation or a resignation.

[+] EnlargeTennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerAccording to a release from the team, "The Tennessee Titans and Jeff Fisher have agreed to part ways."
Titans owner Bud Adams sounded every bit the 88-year-old owner to hear Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean tweet it before the announcement:

  • Just talked to #Titans owner Bud Adams about Jeff Fisher news "“Where did you hear that? I better check on that. I can’t talk about it now."
  • More Adams: " I really can’t talk about it now because I don’t know what’s been said. I want to see what is going on.’’ #titans

With Fisher’s remaining one-year salary of more than $6 million in play, Adams elected to retain his long-time coach earlier this month. That came after he announced the team would part ways with quarterback Vince Young, whose relationship with Fisher had become unmanageable.

I find it hard to believe Adams has changed his mind and will pay that salary to someone not working for him. My best guess is that they reached some sort of agreement in which Fisher will get some but not all of the money, and we will see him surface as a TV analyst for a season before becoming a candidate for open jobs in 2012.

Since the initial decision, Fisher has been operating as a lame duck. He lost highly regarded defensive line coach Jim Washburn to Philadelphia (though the Titans did offer him a three-year deal to remain) and running backs coach Craig Johnson to Minnesota.

Last week, Fisher surprisingly fired defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil, his close friend who The Tennessean reported actually signed his one-year contract offer late in a disastrous 2010 season.

Now what?

Fisher has two NFL disciples who’ve gone on to success. Jim Schwartz is under contract as Detroit’s head coach. Gregg Williams is currently defensive coordinator in New Orleans, and while his stint as head coach in Buffalo was a failure, some strong coaches have fared better in their second chances.

But if Adams has a clean slate, he’d be wise to go a new direction as he looks for someone to take hold of a team in disarray, with no starting quarterback and, as far as we know, only offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger under contract in terms of a coaching staff. Heimerdinger was diagnosed with cancer and began treatment late in the season.

When the Titans let general manager Floyd Reese’s contract run out in January 2007, the team’s top executive, Steve Underwood, created a list of GM candidates and helped Adams sift through them. I suspect the winner of that job, one-time NFL defensive player of the year Mike Reinfeldt, who played for the Houston Oilers, likely would be asked to run a similar coaching search.

A top candidate could be someone he overlapped with during his stints as an executive in Green Bay and Seattle.

Jeff FisherJim Brown/US PresswireJeff Fisher may still not be safe now that Vince Young is out.
Bud Adams loved Vince Young, but the Titans' owner was not beyond convincing.

He came to see Young as Jeff Fisher had. Senior executive vice president Steve Underwood and general manager Mike Reinfeldt backed Fisher’s stance and evidently persuaded Adams that Young was not right for the future of the franchise.

The Titans are moving forward with Young out of the plans. (See this post for the statements with the news.)

Fisher has won Round 1, but he has not won.

Included in Adams’ statement was this: “I also informed Jeff today that I was continuing the evaluation of the coaching staff and I am hoping to make a decision soon.”

I’ve been saying that in Fisher versus Young, Fisher had to win.

But has Fisher become stale and expendable as well? He certainly overestimated his 2010 roster, underestimated the leadership void and oversaw insufficient in-game adjustments. Judge him strictly on his merits, with Young now out of the equation, and a case can still be made for change.

Maybe he had a quarterback forced on him, but Adams didn’t push any defenders on Fisher. A defensive coach, Fisher had an awful defense this season.

Still, with Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis getting a new contract and Houston's Gary Kubiak and Jacksonville's Jack Del Rio surviving, it's hard to envision Adams paying Fisher for 2011 as well as paying a new coach while labor strife may result in a lockout.

I suspect this will all amount to an in-house trade -- Young off the roster and the right for Fisher to approve the next quarterback in exchange for Fisher making some staff alterations.

Fisher’s under contract through 2011, but all but one of his assistants have expiring deals.

The most controversial guy is defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil, who Fisher promoted from defensive backs coach two years ago when Jim Schwartz left for Detroit. I thought he was growing on the job, but several players have grumbled about his unwillingness, or inability, to make in-game adjustments. And he’s not the one assistant with another year on his deal.

It would be very difficult for the super-loyal Fisher to sign off on parting with Cecil, but he probably must be flexible here.

While we await Phase 2 of Adams’ decision, here’s numerical context on Fisher that Keith Hawkins of ESPN Stats & Info compiled for us.

  • Fisher’s winning percentage now is .542 (142-120). Among NFL coaches who have at least 140 regular-season wins, only Dan Reeves has a lower win percentage. Reeves was 190-165-2 in the regular season, for a .535 mark.
  • Among head coaches with at least 140 regular-season wins, no one has had fewer winning seasons than Fisher’s six. The next closest would be nine winning seasons (Mike Shanahan and Marv Levy).
  • If you knock that down to a 120-win threshold, Fisher still has the fewest winning seasons. Jim Mora (215), Dick Vermeil (120), Mike Ditka (121) and Weeb Ewbank (130) all had seven winning seasons.
  • Among coaches with 140 regular season wins, Fisher’s 5-6 playoff record makes for the third-worst playoff winning percentage (.455). Marty Schottenheimer is at .278 (5-13) , Chuck Knox at .389 (7-11) and Bud Grant is also at .455 (10-12).

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