Boclair: Fisher has no room for error, must make right moves with Moss

Monday, November 22, 2010 at 10:00pm

It’s time to find out just how much Jeff Fisher has learned.

There are six weeks to play in the current NFL season, and just about every team — the Tennessee Titans included — is still in playoff contention to some degree.

No other club, though, was willing to gamble as much for potential playoff success as the Titans were when they made the waiver claim on wide receiver Randy Moss. The fact that no other team made a similar bid to become the well-traveled wide receiver’s third stop of the season spoke volumes.

Now the onus is on Fisher to make that move pay off.

By all accounts (including the first impression he made in Tennessee), Randy Moss is a great teammate. He’s a joy to be around in the locker room. He offers meaningful counsel to younger, less experienced
teammates on the nuances of playing in the NFL. He treats the equipment staff and training personnel well.

Moss’ attitude goes south — and drags on his production — when he takes some issue, real or perceived, with a person of authority.

Moss’ first steps out of New England last month came in a post-game press conference, when he opined that it was clear there were people who didn’t want him on that team beyond this season. Read between the lines and it’s apparent that his agent had preliminary discussions with the Patriots regarding a new contract (Moss’ current deal expires at the end of this season), and the franchise expressed little or no interest.

Moss makes no secret about the fact that shortly after he was traded to Minnesota, he decided that he and coach Brad Childress could not see eye to eye on much of anything.

Bypassing all the standard talk of professional responsibility and chain of command and the like, it’s clear that Moss’ personal feelings have a direct impact on his performance. Thus, it’s best to make sure he’s happy.

Enter Fisher.

Not only is he the NFL’s longest-tenured head coach, he’s officially an executive vice president of the franchise. He is, by far, the most identifiable name and face within the organization, and his voice is the loudest and most often heard. Consequently, he is the one in position to have the most profound
effect on Moss’ state of mind.

Thankfully, the Titans have dealt with relatively few self-involved superstars of this sort during their time in Tennessee, though two immediately come to mind: Albert Haynesworth and Pacman Jones.

Fisher displayed a deft hand in dealing with Haynesworth’s emotional swings over a seven-year period. He coaxed the big man through the fallout from an ill-conceived stomp on an opposing player’s face, numerous altercations on the practice field and a frustrating string of injuries.

Eventually, Haynesworth played some terrific football, made the Titans a better team for a time and made himself a huge pile of money.

Fisher’s approach with Pacman had decidedly different results. The reputation that preceded the cornerback going into the draft was only enhanced during his two seasons in town, and his eventual exit was a clear case of addition by subtraction.

The difference now is that Fisher does not have the time to try different things to keep Moss motivated. He has half a season to bring out the best in a great but fading player, and to make his team better than it was through the first eight games.

Presumably, he’s learned from his successes and failures. Now is his chance to prove it. 

Contact the writer at dboclair@nashvillecitypaper.com