January 11, 2012

The NFL coaching saga known as the "Courtship of Jeff Fisher'' continued without resolution Wednesday as both the St. Louis Rams and Miami Dolphins awaited word of a decision from him regarding their head coaching offers.

Fisher, the highest-profile candidate who's both available and being sought after on this year's coaching carousel, was expected to choose between the Rams or Dolphins by Wednesday night and perhaps conclude his decision-making process in time for the winning team to announce his hiring. At one point on Wednesday afternoon, an ESPN radio report said the Dolphins would hire Fisher and that a news conference was expected to take place later in the day.

That turned out to be at best premature, and at worst an erroneous report, as sources indicated Fisher was still deciding Wednesday the pros and cons of the Rams job versus the Dolphins job. While both teams have continued on their coaching search and have interviewed other candidates besides Fisher, he remains the leading candidate in St. Louis and Miami.

While the Rams were considered the early favorite for Fisher, there are increasing indications that he's leaning Miami's way. It was originally thought the Rams were in the lead given that they have a more attractive starting quarterback option than the Dolphins in 2010 No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford. Plentiful salary cap room in the coming two years and St. Louis owning the coveted No. 2 pick in April's first round were also thought to be pluses in the Rams' favor.

But sources say Fisher is not scared off by Miami's current quarterback situation. Fisher is said to like the Dolphins' chances of acquiring a starting quarterback either through the draft or perhaps in free agency, and was encouraged as well by the strong play of veteran Matt Moore last year in Miami. Moore took over in October for the injured Chad Henne, with the Dolphins winning six of their final nine games after an 0-7 start.

Fisher interviewed last week with both teams, and then met again with the Rams on Sunday at their team complex in St. Louis, spending some time with Bradford and other members of the organization. Sources say he spent Monday considering his options, coming to the conclusion that night that he could be content and successful in either job. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is eager to make a headline-name splash with his next coaching hire and has made it clear he will not be out-bid for Fisher, who might command an annual salary approaching $7 million.

A league source said Fisher had specific requests regarding the jobs offered by the Rams and Dolphins, and he made them known to the teams Tuesday. While it is not known what he sought from Miami, Fisher expressed his concerns to St. Louis management regarding the potential for the franchise to move to the NFL-vacant Los Angeles market in the coming years, an issue first reported over the weekend by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

It is not known whether the topic is a deal-breaker for Fisher in St. Louis, but sources say he may not be enthusiastic about joining an organization that might potentially relocate, a chaotic situation he endured while coaching the Oilers as they left Houston for Tennessee following the 1996 season. Though Fisher starred collegiately at Southern Cal and would be comfortable living and working in the Los Angeles area, his experience with a franchise relocation makes him of the opinion that it's more difficult to win in that situation.

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