Saturday, January 7, 2012

Why Jeff Fisher Can Succeed with the St. Louis Rams

With all the excitement surrounding the race for Jeff Fisher between the St. Louis Rams and the Miami Dolphins, there has been a slither of skepticism within the St. Louis fanbase.

Some of the hype surrounding the situation makes it seem as though the two teams are dueling with each other to fill their head coaching vacancy with a Tom Landry caliber legend, rather than Fisher.

With a career record of 142-120 (.542) over 17 seasons as a head coach in the NFL, the Pro Football Hall of Fame is not exactly starting to weld his statue in Canton.

In six playoff seasons over 17 years, Fisher's post-season record is 5-6, with three of those five playoff wins coming in a single season (1999).

However, his team's appearance in Super Bowl XXXIV gives his resume a little more validity.

Since there's nothing overly eye-popping about Fisher's application, it may lead some to believe that he just happens to be the best available option in a bad year for finding a head coach with experience.

Perhaps, the team could hire an up-and-coming coordinator, such as Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, who may possess a more modern train of thought and could prove to have more potential in the long run.

However, the last three head coaches in St. Louis have been flavor-of-the-month coordinators who ultimately failed (Mike Martz, Scott Linehan, Steve Spagnuolo), which makes any option other than Fisher an unpopular one.

But that is not necessarily a bad thing. As it turns out, Fisher might be the best option after all, despite not having an overwhelming amount of success in the past.

Here are some points to bring up regarding Fisher...


Fisher has never had the benefit of a bonafide franchise quarterback capable of consistently leading the team every year.

If Sam Bradford can reach the potential that most people feel he possesses, then he would be providing Fisher with a weapon he's never had—a star quarterback for multiple years.

Here are Fisher's previous quarterbacks that started a significant number of games during his tenure:

-Kerry Collins stared 32 games over five seasons under Fisher, throwing for 33 touchdowns and and 29 interceptions during that five-year stretch. He started in only one playoff game (a 13-10 loss to the Ravens).

-Vince Young started 47 games off-and-on for the Titans with a 30-17 record as a starter, but he greatly benefited from solid defensive play. He threw 42 touchdowns against 42 interceptions and was considered a problematic player in the locker room.

-Steve McNair was Fisher's most consistent starter at the position with 131 starts over 11 seasons. His best statistical season came in 2003 with 3,215 yards and 24 touchdowns, which means the best quarterback production Fisher received was still just above average. McNair led the Titans to a Super Bowl appearance in 1999.

As you can see, Fisher did not have luxury of having both production and longevity out of the most important position.

Fisher's career winning percentage is .542, which equates to approximately an 8-8 season if you condense that record to a single year.

Now, if Bradford can become an elite passer, you can surely imagine how adding someone like him could do wonders for a coach that can basically get to 8-8 without an elite passer.

The Colts

When you look at the fact Fisher has only made the playoffs six times out of 17 seasons, it is a bit alarming at first sight.

However, the Titans often fielded solid football teams, but they had to play the Colts twice a year and frequently played second fiddle to Peyton Manning and his elite passing attack.

It's not often when a team has to bi-annually face a team that has been absolutely dominate for the better part of a decade.

Though the 49ers looked solid in 2011, it's probably safe to say that Alex Smith will not lead a 10 year dictatorship in the NFC West. There will be room for other teams to win some division titles, which is not a benefit Fisher had in Tennessee.

Bud Adams

Fisher has been the face of the Titans ever since they moved to Tennessee from Houston in 1997. He has been the only head coach the team has ever known up until Mike Munchak took over in 2011.

However, owner Bud Adams never fails to make his face known, despite the fact his role as owner states that he would be better off remaining behind the scenes.

Instead, the final years of Fisher's tenure with the Titans was practically a daytime soap opera. Fisher wasn't the cause of the drama, but it was a result of Adams' antics, as well as an egotistical quarterback in Vince Young.

Adams is an overly involved owner, which usually has bad results.

The Rams, on the other hand, do not have any overly dramatic players like Young, and owner Stan Kroenke's nickname of "Silent Stan" says all you need to know about how often he forces himself into the everyday operations of his sports teams.

The general manager (who ever it may be) will handle the personnel, Fisher will handle the coaching, and Kroenke will make executive decisions and sign paychecks.

There won't be an owner putting extra pressure on someone who's already involved in an extremely stressful occupation. 

Closing Statement

While Fisher has not been the poster child of a Hall of Fame caliber head coach, it's clear that there were factors working against him in Tennessee that, perhaps, prevented him and his teams from reaching their full potential.

There's no guarantee that Fisher will have more success in St. Louis than he had in Tennessee. Actually, there's no guarantee that he'll even have an equal amount of success.

However, Fisher was the longest tenured head coach in the NFL by the time he left the Titans, and you don't keep a head coaching job in the NFL for 17 consecutive years without possessing significant knowledge on how a football team should be run.

The last three coaches in St. Louis were promoted coordinators with no prior head coaching experience, so after watching those coaches "learn on the job" just to ultimately fail, the fans are certainly ready to take a chance on an experienced head coach such as Jeff Fisher.  

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