Jeff Fisher didn’t answer when I cold-called him on a Tuesday morning last December. I left a message explaining that I’d heard he wanted to rent out his ranch outside of Nashville for events like bachelor and bachelorette parties, and that I was curious about what he’d been up to in the two years since the Rams fired him as the team’s head coach. I told him I was interested in writing about what his life looked two years after leaving the NFL. And I wasn’t hopeful that I would hear back from him.
But eight hours later, he called me back. And the first thing he said—with a surprisingly easy familiarity that I would soon come to learn is just Fisher’s way—was, “What are you up to?!” I told him I was trying to finish some work and pack because I was leaving the next day to see my family in Boston for the holidays. I must’ve sounded as frazzled as I felt, because the next thing Fisher said was, “You know what you need to do? You need to take nine deep breaths.”
Then he paused.
“So,” he said. “You found me.”
We talked for a while. He reminded me of The Dude from The Big Lebowski as he told me about the moose he’d seen driving through the Montana woods, the bears who’d chased him while he was hunting, the fish he’d caught with his son Brandon in the fall. He also told me how much he missed coaching and that he was hoping to get back into professional football. Eventually, after about an hour, he agreed to do the story and invited me down to Nashville in early January.
I’d gotten a lot wrong about Fisher before I met him. For one thing, his ranch is not a ranch—it’s a 900-square-foot cabin on 300 acres of land. And he doesn’t want to rent it out for bachelorette parties, he wants to rent it out for actual weddings (though he realizes he will have to put up a tent). He was also very different from the social media picture that’s been painted of him—you’ve all seen the jokes about the seasons where he went 7–9. When I watched Rams games before I met Fisher and imagined what he was up to, I pictured a slightly bitter man smoking a cigar in a leather recliner as he mumbled about how he was given a raw deal.
What I found was the opposite: a gracious guy with a chewing tobacco habit who says he’s at peace with his legacy as an NFL coach, but who wants another chance to add to it. The one thing I got right is that he definitely owns leather chairs.
After two days of spending time with him and reporting for the profile that ran on SI.com, my producer Jessica Smetana and a film crew met us to film a segment for season two of my show The Wilder Project on SI.TV. As the cameras rolled, Fisher taught me how to fly fish and even let me drive his camo-wrapped golf cart. We’re showing you a teaser here, and the full piece is in this week’s episode of The Wilder Project.
This is a great example of what you can expect from the show this season. Each episode features an in-the-field segment that takes viewers on an adventure with me, some of which include learning to be a die-hard Atlanta United fan, driving Porsches with NFL players, rehearsing with Disney On Ice, making very special items with the chef of the Diamondbacks and debating MJ vs. LeBron with the Sesame Street puppets (yes, that was as magical as you’d expect). We also have some really exciting guests lined up, starting with Good Morning Football’s Kay Adams. We talked about her impressive career, bonded over pierogies, argued about kayaking and planned a trip to Patagonia. She’s an incredibly talented, smart broadcaster, and she brought wonderful energy—and really great takes about pizza.