Published January 27, 2011
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Jeff Fisher said he and the Tennessee Titans had reached a point where it was "time to move on" and part ways with each other after 16 full seasons.
Fisher, who declined to address specific details about the decision, acknowledged some differences with the team, but said Friday morning it was the best decision in the wake of two difficult seasons. The Titans rebounded from an 0-6 start to finish 8-8 in 2009, then wasted a 5-2 start in 2010 by losing eight of the final 10 games for a 6-10 record.
"I've been coaching for 24 years, and it's time. I need a break," Fisher said. "And I think timing wise this is a perfect opportunity to do this so the organization can move forward with their plan, and I'll move forward with whatever happens in the future."
The team announced the split Thursday night, shocking players, assistant coaches and the rest of the NFL because owner Bud Adams decided three weeks ago to keep Fisher for the final year of his contract. Adams said Friday by telephone from Houston that unfortunately teams and coaches almost always reach a point when it's time for change.
"This is where we are," Adams said. "This isn't personal. It is just time for a change, and I believe both the team and Jeff will benefit in the long run from this move. Now I'm still confident about our future. I think we have good players. I believe in Steve Underwood and (general manager) Mike Reinfeldt to find our next head coach."
The search to replace Fisher is already under way, and Adams' general manager Mike Reinfeldt and senior executive vice president Steve Underwood will handle the process whose only timetable is "as long as it takes." Underwood said reports of the coach's settlement at $8 million were "erroneous."
Among the four major U.S. sports, only Jerry Sloan with the NBA's Utah Jazz has been with the same team longer than Fisher had been with the Titans. Andy Reid of Philadelphia now takes over as the NFL's longest-tenured coach having finished up his 12th season with the Eagles.
Fisher guided the team's relocation from Houston to Tennessee and took the Titans to their lone Super Bowl appearance. He also had losing skids of at least five games in five of the last seven seasons.
He 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 in career coaching victories.
He could coach again this season. A team executive noted that's up to Fisher, but the coach wouldn't speculate when asked if he might work on television for a season.
"I think I need the rest. Those that coach 10 years that take a year off are three times better coaches ... in year 11. I'm going to take time," Fisher said.
Reinfeldt noted Fisher's departure didn't change the Titans' decision to either trade quarterback Vince Young or release him later this offseason. The general manager also noted Fisher just finished his 17th season with this organization and called that unbelievable in a hard job that takes a toll.
"He was the face of the franchise for such a long time," Reinfeldt said. "At the same time, I think change is part of the NFL. You look other places where change has happened, change can be a wonderful thing, and we can use that change to get us to where we want to be."