Thursday, January 27, 2011
Updated: January 28, 11:42 AM ET
Jeff Fisher out in Tennessee
ESPN.com news services
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In a surprising move, the Tennessee Titans have parted ways with Jeff Fisher, who just completed his 16th full season as the NFL's longest-tenured coach.
The team said in a release Thursday night that "Fisher will no longer be the head coach of the team." The Titans announced the move within an hour of a report by SI.com that they were negotiating Fisher's departure.
A source told ESPN.com's John Clayton that one of the final disagreements that led to Fisher's departure involved his son, Brandon. Jeff Fisher wanted to have his son on the staff as a quality control coach and thought that was going to be approved. Brandon Fisher helped out during the season while offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger was receiving cancer treatment.
For several years, owner Bud Adams has stressed he didn't want family hired on the Titans' coaching staff and he apparently stuck by those principles this week in conversations with Fisher.
Heimerdinger is recovering from his bout with cancer and would be willing to be a candidate to replace Fisher, a source said.
A team release said the search for a new coach would begin Friday.
Titans linebacker Stephen Tulloch told The (Nashville) Tennessean that he believes Fisher would be in demand around the league "because he's a good coach and very well-respected."
"At the end of the day, he's a players' coach," Tulloch said, according to the newspaper. "He's somebody I can definitely say a lot of players enjoyed playing for. He knew how to coach us and treat us like men.
"He's a guy you could always talk to about your situation and was respectful of his players. I really don't have anything bad to say about coach Fisher."
Though Fisher, 52, had been derided locally as "Coach .500" or "Coacho Ocho," he seemingly had just survived a battle with quarterback Vince Young. Adams decided on Jan. 5 to either release Young or trade him, and announced two days later that he would be keeping Fisher.
The Titans released a statement about the change of plans Thursday.
"After the season was complete, we had numerous discussions on the direction of the team and were pleased that we were moving forward with Jeff at the helm," the statement read. "Since that time, 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."
Fisher and Young never really jelled in five seasons together after the Titans drafted the former Texas standout with the third overall pick in 2006 under orders from Adams. The relationship frayed even as Fisher publicly defended Young until Nov. 21, when the situation exploded.
That day, Young tossed his shoulder pads and other equipment into the stands after a 19-16 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins, in which the quarterback suffered a season-ending injury.
Running back Chris Johnson said Wednesday while practicing in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl that he didn't believe Fisher and Young could work together after "it hit the fan."
The Titans still plan to trade or release Young, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Even though Adams announced he was sticking with Fisher for the final year of his contract, the move meant Fisher would be coaching this season for his future. Fisher repeatedly has said he wanted to finish his career with the franchise, but the coach known for never losing his cool in public while hiding behind his sunglasses may have decided Adams' decision wasn't good enough.
"I want to thank Mr. Adams and the organization for a special 17 years," Fisher said in a statement released by the team. "I can't thank the fans enough for the support they showed us through the years; it has been a tremendous experience. We all did our very best and I think I can look back with fond memories and be very proud of what we accomplished. I want to wish the organization, the current players and the fans nothing but the best in the future."
More details could come out Friday. The team has scheduled a news conference for noon ET to discuss the first coaching change since the franchise relocated to Tennessee from Houston in 1997. One of the leading candidates to replace Fisher is Mike Munchak, the Titans' offensive line coach. The Hall of Famer is a favorite of Adams'.
A flurry of coaching changes didn't help Fisher's situation. He fired his defensive coordinator, Chuck Cecil, a week ago, after giving him a contract for the 2011 season. Defensive line coach Jim Washburn decided last week to take the same job with Philadelphia, and his departure was followed by that of running backs coach Craig Johnson, who signed with Minnesota to be its quarterbacks coach.
Fisher has coached more NFL games for one franchise than all but six Hall of Famers: George Halas, Tom Landry, Don Shula, Chuck Noll, Curly Lambeau and Bud Grant. He ranks third among active coaches in career wins with a record of 147-126, behind only Bill Belichick (176) and Mike Shanahan (160), and he is 20th all-time in coaching victories.
Adams promoted Fisher from defensive coordinator to interim coach with six games left in the 1994 season after firing Jack Pardee. Adams removed the interim tag after that season and has stayed with Fisher longer than with any other coach since the billionaire founded the franchise.
Fisher oversaw the team's relocation from Houston, during which the Oilers played in four different stadiums between 1996 and 1999, before being renamed the Titans and moving into their current home at LP Field in Nashville.
Since 1999, Tennessee ranks seventh in the NFL in winning percentage with a 110-82 record. The Titans also are tied for fourth with six playoff seasons since 1999, though a second straight miss this past season will drop the team down that list.
But the Titans haven't won a playoff game since beating Baltimore in a 2004 wild-card matchup. Tennessee lost a wild-card game in San Diego in 2007 and wasted the AFC's top seed in 2008.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
|Jeff Fisher took over as interim coach of the Houston Oilers in 1994, and guided the team through its move to Tennessee.|