Late in 2010, a sports talk radio caller phoned into Nashville’s 104.5 The Zone and wondered what perceptions of Jeff Fisher would be like if the then-Titans coach were in charge of the Tennessee Volunteers. Disgruntled callers are of course nothing new in that medium, but this one, who said his name was Woody, sounded a whole hell of a lot like Randy Moss. (A supposition which, for whatever it’s worth, the team denied.)
Moss would have had a motive. After being released by the Vikings, the receiver was picked up by the Titans in early November; in eight games with the team, he caught six balls. Tennessee finished the season 6-10, and “Woody’s” hope that Fisher would be gone ultimately came to fruition. (Even before the Woody call, our site’s Jason Lisk had written it was time for Fisher to go.)
Perceptions of Jeff Fisher are a little bit weird. My instinct is that he is thought of as an elite coach by fans and media (a recent ESPN survey of NFL decisionmakers ranked him no. 11), but his teams haven’t finished over .500 since 2008 (he took a year off in between Tennseee and St. Louis), or won a playoff game since early 2004. In 18+ years as a head coach, Fisher’s record is 156-137 in the regular season, and 5-6 in the playoffs.
Fisher, who purportedly chose to sign with the Rams based partly on personnel input, went into this year with a below average starting quarterback (Sam Bradford) coming off ACL surgery, backed up by a 34-year-old journeyman (Shaun Hill) who hasn’t started a game since the 2010 season. Drafting second and thirteenth overall, the team passed on Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, and Teddy Bridgewater.
Only Sean Payton, Andy Reid, and presumably Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll have higher annual head coaching salaries than Fisher. Judging coaches by win/loss record can be as dicey as doing the same for quarterbacks, but there’s a pretty big sample size of mediocrity for Fisher’s teams, which is out of line with his compensation and reputation.