Rams' slide threatens to take down Fisher despite extension
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) Jeff Fisher was freezing on the New England sideline last weekend, so the Rams coach put on a long coat and wind pants. When he needed to challenge an incorrect call later, the native Californian couldn't find his red flag under those trappings of winter.
''It was hilarious,'' Fisher said Tuesday. ''It was just one of those funny moments on the sideline. It's what happened. I could feel it, but I couldn't find it.''
Fisher has maintained a calm, good-natured demeanor throughout the Rams' homecoming season, but Los Angeles' record (4-8) is no laughing matter. A loss to Atlanta (7-5) on Sunday would formally end the Rams' playoff hopes for the 12th consecutive season.
Los Angeles' skid of seven losses in its last eight games has put Fisher in position to make a bit of ignominious history this month as the NFL's losingest coach. He has 164 career losses, and one more would tie Dan Reeves for the NFL record.
Although he received a contract extension before the regular season began, Fisher has been in the game long enough to realize his fifth consecutive losing season with the Rams still could cost him his job. The front office has made that clear by its lack of fanfare over the new deal, which wasn't even formally announced after the team got off to a 3-1 start.
After the slump was compounded by Fisher's messy public spat with Rams Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson last week, the coach still holds out hope the Rams will finish their tumultuous year on an upward trajectory.
But if they lose once more this season and Fisher still moves forward with the club, he would be only the third coach in NFL history to make it through five straight losing records - and the first since Tom Landry with the expansion Dallas Cowboys in the 1960s.
''I'm expecting to be the coach of this franchise,'' Fisher said. ''However, I really understand the wins and losses fall on my shoulders. That's the fact of our business, and I get that.''
The Rams' homecoming honeymoon ended quickly in Los Angeles, where fans mindful of the team's recent history have criticized Fisher from the opening weeks of the season. Across talk radio and on television, those fans' reaction to the leaked announcement of Fisher's extension last weekend ranged from bemusement to anger.
Fisher is 31-44-1 with the Rams, who hired him in 2012 to rebuild a franchise coming off a 2-14 season. Fisher and general manager Les Snead immediately lifted St. Louis back to mediocrity, but the Rams haven't been able to win eight games in a season during their concurrent tenures.
Snead also received a preseason contract extension that wasn't revealed until last weekend. Fisher claimed Tuesday that he didn't even know Snead had been given a new deal, and he offered qualified support of the duo's work together.
''I look at this being my responsibility, the win-and-loss record,'' Fisher said. ''We need to do a better job from a personnel standpoint. We've had some unfortunate things take place with some high picks ... but we're moving forward.''
Going back to his 17-year tenure with the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans, Fisher is finishing up his seventh consecutive non-winning season. He has coached just six winning teams in 22 years on an NFL sideline. He has also coached 10 teams that won seven or eight games, but no more.
Since leading the Titans to the Super Bowl after the 1999 season, he has won two postseason games. He hasn't had a playoff team since 2008.
Fisher can only move forward to face the Falcons, who have quarterback Matt Ryan leading one of the NFL's best offenses. Los Angeles fell apart quickly during the middle portion of the season, but the Rams still believe they can put it back together in time to help Fisher, who remains popular in the locker room.
''Deep in our heart, we know we should be playing better,'' defensive lineman William Hayes said. ''We know how good of a team this is. I hope people know this group is striving to get better. We're not content with where we are.''
For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL