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Friday, January 28, 2011
As he leaves Titans, Jeff Fisher ready to rest

By Paul Kuharsky

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In one last visit to the podium in the Titans' main auditorium, Jeff Fisher spoke slowly and affectionately about the organization.

Mike Reinfeldt
Titans 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.