Like Him or Not, Fisher Showed Impressive Staying Power

David Boclair

NASHVILLE – All those 8-8 seasons – there were five of them – make Jeff Fisher’s tenure with the Tennessee Titans one of pro football’s most debatable topics.

Think he was a good coach? You can point to the fact that in 16 full seasons his teams finished with a losing record just five times, and only once in his last five years.

Think he wasn’t a good coach? Point out that in those 16 seasons his teams finished with a winning record just six times, including just two in his last seven years.

Either way, you’d be correct.

What was undeniable was his staying power. Fisher coached 270 games for the franchise, which also was known as the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Oilers during his tenure. That is nearly three times the number anyone else has been in charge.

In fact, Fisher has more wins (142) and more losses (120) with the Titans/Oilers than anyone else has games coached for them. Bum Phillips is second in terms of longevity with 90 games. No one who has followed Fisher has lasted more than 48.

“It was an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often,” Fisher said recently after he was named to the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2020. “I have to thank [franchise founder] Bud [Adams] and his family for believing in us. Even through the changes, the tough times and things like that they hung in there with us.

“… But after time, yeah, I needed time [off].”

Fisher became interim head coach with six games remaining in the 1994 season, had the interim tag removed during that offseason and stayed on the job through 2011. His departure was termed as a mutual parting of the ways by both sides.

Following a year off, he was named head coach of the then-St. Louis Rams and guided that team for nearly five full seasons. He was fired with three games remaining in 2016 and never won more than seven games with that team.

As a result, Fisher is one 13 coaches in NFL history to be a head coach for more than 20 seasons.

Stick around that long and you’re bound to win a lot of games. You’re also going to lose plenty. Fisher’s 165 career losses tie him with Dan Reeves (Denver, N.Y. Giants, Atlanta) for the most in league history. His 173 wins rank 12 all-time.

Once again, his supporters and his detractors have something to which they can easily point to support their perspective.

“If you coach 20 years in the league and you go 10-6 every year, you’re the losingest coach in the National Football League,” Fisher said. “That’s a half-full, half-empty type of thing.”

That’s the story of his career, particularly his time with the Titans. He’s not convinced, though, that it is the end of the story.

“It’s a great game and I was a part of it for a long time,” Fisher said. “Deep down inside I don’t feel like I’m done. But if I am, that’s OK. It’s really been a neat experience for me personally the last couple years just to unwind, take care of myself and I look forward to what’s ahead.”

Register today for free or log in to access this premium article.