On Jeff Fisher, readying to resurface

January, 3, 2012
1/03/12
4:16
PM ET
We know Jeff Fisher is in play for Miami and St. Louis. Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz told PFT he believes Fisher is in the mix in Indianapolis too.

[+] EnlargeJeff Fisher took over as interim coach of the Houston Oilers in 1994 and guided the team through its move to Tennessee.
Jim Brown/US PresswireJeff Fisher is a candidate for the head coaching job in Miami and St. Louis, but could also be in play in Indianapolis.
Indications are Fisher will listen to everyone. But coaching code says you don’t talk about a job that’s not vacant, so I don’t think he’d go beyond backchannel communication while Jim Caldwell remains in place.

At any rate, Fisher is the hot veteran coaching candidate and until he’s coach somewhere, he still qualifies foremost as the Titans former head coach and falls under our purview. He said last week in an interview on Nashville’s 104.5 The Zone that a GM and a quarterback were the two biggest factors for him as he explores job opportunities.

So some thoughts on his eventual re-emergence in the coaching ranks.

Power: There can be a misperception he’d want general manager powers. He won’t. He wants to work with a GM he gets along with and can build consensus with. Fisher will want control of his 53-man roster. And he won’t want a situation where a GM is forcing free agents or draft picks on him that he and his staff don’t want. But wanting a voice is a lot different from wanting to be a de facto GM. He believes in the value of a traditional coach-GM split and has no desire to work the scouting end of things as a fulltime GM.

General manager friends: Fisher’s got strong relationships with Rich McKay of the Falcons and Bill Polian, just let go by the Colts, as he served with both on the NFL’s competition committee. McKay’s in an administrative capacity now, but could he want back into football? He wouldn’t come cheaply. Polian is probably too strong a personality. I have no feel for the relationship between Fisher and Chris Polian, who was also let go.

When the Titans replaced Floyd Reese in 2007 it was largely because Fisher and Reese’s relationship had frayed. Among the replacement candidates Fisher helped interview before the Titans hired Mike Reinfeldt were: Ruston Webster (now with Reinfeldt in Tennessee), Reggie McKenzie (Green Bay’s director of football administration), Ron Hill (NFL VP of football operations), Mike Ackerley (now a Texans scout) and Charles Bailey (former Jaguars pesonnel executive). The Titans wanted to talk to Randy Mueller, then with Miami, but didn’t get permission. He’s now with San Diego as “senior executive.”

Maybe Fisher hit it off with one of those guys and would like to work with them. At years of league meetings and functions, he’s likely formed friendships we don’t know about with other, future-GM types.

If Fisher lands in a situation where he comes in hand in hand with a GM or in advance of a GM, he’ll have a guy or two to put forward and be open to forming a new relationship if he hits it off with an existing GM or an owner’s candidate.

Assistants: His primary assistant coaches may be hard to predict.

His top defensive lieutenants from Tennessee are booked up. Gregg Williams is the coordinator in New Orleans and may be a head coaching candidate himself. If he was free, Fisher could pounce. Jim Schwartz is head coach in Detroit. (Brandon Fisher works on Schwartz’s staff.) Chuck Cecil may be radioactive as he was a central figure in things coming apart for Fisher with the Titans. He could return to the league as a defensive backs coach, but Fisher would have to answer for a lot if he wanted to make Cecil coordinator. He’d certainly take recommendations from Williams and Schwartz about up-and-comers from the defensive staffs with their teams. Detroit linebacker coach Matt Burke was a young assistant on Fisher’s staff who went with Schwartz for a promotion.

Fisher’s top offensive friend and long-time coordinator, Mike Heimerdinger, died recently after a battle with cancer. Fisher could look to his former running backs coach Sherman Smith, who’s now in the post with Seattle. But Smith’s lone stint as an offensive coordinator didn’t include play-calling duties under Jim Zorn in Washington. Titans quarterback coach Dowell Loggains is a bright young mind, but like Burke he may not be ready yet.

While Fisher spent time away from the game in a year off, he certainly has lists of coaches he would pursue and could get. But he’d be going with people he’s not worked with before at a lot of spots -- like on the offensive line, where his former position coach, Mike Munchak, and his best line player, Bruce Matthews, are not available.

Markets: He can be a star behind those shades. But don’t think he’ll take the bright lights of Miami over more low-key St. Louis or Indianapolis if he’s choosing.

Fisher enjoyed the ability to be anonymous at times in Nashville and the willingness of the population to allow him a large degree of privacy. He’s a Southern California guy who loves spending time at his Montana cabin.

He's not desperate for a beach, or television lights.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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