Friday, January 13, 2012
Jeff Fisher, Rams finalizing deal
ESPN.com news services
ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams say they are finalizing a deal to hire Jeff Fisher as their new coach.
The team confirmed reports Friday that Fisher will be joining the Rams after considering a job with the Miami Dolphins.
The 53-year-old Fisher interviewed twice with the Rams, once in Denver with owner Stan Kroenke and again in St. Louis when he toured facilities and met with quarterback Sam Bradford.
Fisher also was a strong candidate to fill the Dolphins' opening. At one point Wednesday night, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter it was "80-20" that Fisher would choose Miami over St. Louis as his next job.
However, the Dolphins and Fisher could not agree on the structure of the organization, league sources said. Fisher was willing to make some compromises, but the Dolphins wanted general manager Jeff Ireland to remain as the No. 1 man in the organization, and ultimately, it helped unseal any potential deal with the Dolphins, according to the sources.
Fisher sat out the entire 2011 season after being fired by the Tennessee Titans in January. He had served as coach of the franchise for 16 full seasons, including before the Titans moved from Houston to Tennessee. He led the Titans within a yard of tying the 2000 Super Bowl in the final seconds of regulation.
St. Louis is replacing coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney after a 2-14 season.
St. Louis' offer may have trumped Miami's for several reasons. The Rams have former No. 1 overall pick Bradford at quarterback, the No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft and a favorable salary-cap situation. In addition, chief operating officer Kevin Demoff is the son of Fisher's agent, Marvin Demoff.
Fisher had only six winning seasons with the Titans franchise, and a succession of 8-8 finishes prompted detractors to deride him as "Coach .500" or "Coacho Ocho." His most recent playoff victory came in January 2004, and his most recent winning record was in 2008 when the Titans squandered the No. 1 seed in the AFC by losing in the divisional round.
But Fisher led his team to at least 12 wins four times, and his career record is 142-120 (.542). He coached more games for one franchise than all but six coaches, all Hall of Famers.
"I'm pumped," fullback Brit Miller told The Associated Press. "I figured that because he wanted a little more control that Miami was probably not the place for him. I'm really pumped."
Fisher inherits a franchise with a recent history of futility. The Rams have totaled just 15 victories the last five seasons under Scott Linehan, interim coach Jim Haslett and Spagnuolo.
On the plus side: Although the 49ers won 13 games this year, the NFC West is perhaps the weakest division in the NFL. The Seahawks won it last year despite a 7-9 record, beating the Rams in a tiebreaker.
St. Louis opted for an experienced hand after failing with Spagnuolo, a former defensive coordinator who was just 10-38 in three seasons. The Rams interviewed several assistant coaches, including Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski on Thursday in Denver, and were en route to San Francisco to interview Saints assistant Aaron Kromer when news of the deal surfaced.
Even though the Fisher deal was all but done, team spokesman Ted Crews said the Rams conducted the Kromer interview.
St. Louis was considered a franchise on the rise after making a six-win improvement in 2010 and playing for the NFC West title in the finale, but were a total flop in 2011. The Rams haven't had a winning season since 2003, and they had the NFL's worst offense last season. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels recently left to return to the Patriots.
The Dolphins now will turn to other candidates. They've interviewed Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, Chicago Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub, and Todd Bowles, Miami's interim coach for the final three games after Tony Sparano was fired.
Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press was included in this report.