Commentary: Titans, Fisher should explain Byner firing

Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 1:10am

As Ricky Ricardo would say, Jeff Fisher has some ’splainin’ to do regarding the dismissal of Earnest Byner as running backs coach.

On Byner’s watch, Titans star running back Chris Johnson merely became the best running back in the National Football League and enjoyed a 2,006-yard season to prove it. So how does Byner get rewarded? He gets shown the door, and in comes Kennedy Pola to take his place.

Pola’s credentials are solid enough, given his work in Jacksonville with Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. But Byner and Johnson quickly bonded partly because of their East Carolina connection.

Also, Byner’s resume contains something that no other coach in league history can claim. There have only been six men in the history of the NFL to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, and Byner has coached two of them — Johnson this season and Jamal Lewis in Baltimore in 2003. In addition to that, Johnson also became the first player in league history to run for 2,000 yards and have 500 yards receiving in a season.

Certainly if the Titans were looking to shake up the coaching staff as a way to show that there would be repercussions for an 0-6 start and an overall 8-8 season for a team that harbored Super Bowl aspirations, the running backs coach would seemingly be one of the last places to look for scapegoats.

After all, Johnson’s successful quest for two grand was brightest spot in an otherwise disappointing campaign. That, even with Tennessee working its slim playoff hopes until Week 15, kept the Titans’ season interesting to the very end. So, based on Johnson’s accomplishments alone, performance in no way could have been the issue in Byner’s dismissal.

Perhaps we will never know for sure what was behind the move, but speculation is that Byner didn’t fit into what the Titans were looking for on the coaching staff. For one thing, Byner apparently wasn’t afraid to voice his opinion on matters, even when the message wasn’t one that others necessarily wanted to hear.

Maybe that didn’t play well, but a voice of dissent isn’t always a bad thing in the workplace. Sometimes it can even be a good thing if channeled the right way. Also, Byner apparently wasn’t afraid to voice criticisms of the players in his own room when he felt it was necessary.

Whatever the method, Byner got results. The two-year career of Johnson thus far is on par with some of pro football’s all-time greats after their first two NFL seasons. Don’t forget, too, that Byner coaxed a superb season out of LenDale White in 2008 with 15 touchdowns even in a part-time role after he had been the featured starter the year before.

Byner’s stint in Tennessee was brief, but plenty productive and memorable for Titans fans, which makes it even more important for someone in the organization to explain why he was let go.


26 Comments on this post:

By: frank brown on 1/26/10 at 1:36

I doubt that Jeff Fisher will dignify this article by responding in any form. Jeff Fisher only needs to justify his actions to Bud Adams.

By: TitansFan035 on 1/26/10 at 7:19

It should have been Field Goal Fisher, and Chuck Cecil the ones that needed it to be fired!!! Another bad decision for Fisher, what about Fred Graves, can we get rid of him too please. The wide outs have not been doing that good of a job either!

By: willtw on 1/26/10 at 7:23

Sure but the cheerleading coach has done a good job!!!!

By: localboy on 1/26/10 at 8:15

Coach .500 strikes again.

By: cmarcus45 on 1/26/10 at 8:33

Coach .500?? His career record is 141-116, which is much, much better than most of the coaches ever to try it in the NFL. Fisher needs to stay. I'm not big on Cecil, but I do remember how tough of a time Schwartz had in his first year of being D coordinator. I hope Cecil shows marked improvement next year.

All that being said, I agree with McCormick that the Titans should give an explanation. And I say the Titans because this might be more meddling in personnel and coaching by Bud Adams or there may have been interests at play other than Jeff Fisher's.

By: cmarcus45 on 1/26/10 at 8:34

And the 141-116 record includes taking over in the middle of his first season and seeing the Oilers through the move to the Titans without a true home stadium for two years!

By: rumble1 on 1/26/10 at 10:28

The Byners are a great family and I hope they can find a way to stay in Nashville.

By: localboy on 1/26/10 at 11:51

I mispoke - I meant Coach .549.
Thanks for the correction.

By: GUARDIAN on 1/26/10 at 12:25

I think if you fire someone you should have to say why not only to him but to everyone . the truth shall set you free lol . or make a lot of people mad . Bud Adams, the team and the fans should be told . we are all in this together aren't we

By: fishfry on 1/26/10 at 12:29

As I said weeks ago, Fisher is THE problem! Yes, we the fans deserve an explanation for a lot of things...especially for hiring thugs, drunks, and murderers and then firing a really NICE guy! Is there a picture forming here?

By: TITAN1 on 1/26/10 at 1:03

LOL! At the Fisher haters! Both of them are dumber than a box of rocks!

By: TITAN1 on 1/26/10 at 1:05

And some of the negative posts aren't even from Titans fans. Go figure!

By: jyoung on 1/26/10 at 1:08

Judging on performance, you'd think that if any of the offensive coaches were going to get the boot, it'd be the receivers coach.

The Titans haven't had a go-to receiver since Derrick Mason, and what did we do with him? The same thing we do to all our best players -- let him go to another team via free agency instead of paying him money.

When will the Titans realize that cheap labor at WR can only get your offense as far as the quarterback is able to take it? Peyton Manning might be able to get it done with guys like Garcon and Collie at WR, but obviously, Vince Young is no Peyton Manning.

By: wayneCaluger on 1/26/10 at 1:29

I agree 100% with TitansFan035. When Schwartz took the Lions job Greg Williams was sitting at home knowing his former Oiler coaching bud Fisher would call him (Greg Williams own statement) and so did Sean Payton. Greg Williams was Houston Oilers Special Teams coach of the under then defensive coordinator, Buddy Ryan. From 1994-1996 and then became the Oilers linebackers coach.

From 1997-2000 Williams became the Oilers/Titans Defensive Coordinator. As the Defensive Coordinator, the Titans led the league in total defense and only gave up 191 points, the third fewest in the NFL since the league adopted the 16-game schedule in 1978. His defense also helped lead the Titans to Super Bowl XXXIV where they lost to the St. Louis Rams.

Instead Fisher promoted Chuck Ceil and Sean Payton offered and took a voluntary $250,000 cut in salary to help facilitate signing Williams to take over a Saints defense that ranked 23rd in the NFL in yards allowed and tied for 26th in points allowed in 2008.

Results: The Titans defense went from one the top in the NFL to near the bottom. the Titans stayed home in 2009 to watch the playoff's, AFC Championship game and Superbowl.

On the other side in one season Greg Williams took the Saints from one of the worse defensive teams in the NFL all the way to the Superbowl using pretty much the defensive talent the Saints had with a few free agents here an there.

So there is no answer to the logic of firing someone who had success while passing on someone like Williams and then keeping your mistake!

By: TITAN1 on 1/26/10 at 1:42

Hey, Wayne! What happened to your "Friend" who said Fisher was was preoccupied when he ran into him a couple of weeks ago and thought he might be going for the USC job? LMAO! Apply for the Tennessee Titans head coaching job, Mr Know it all! LOL!

By: TITAN1 on 1/26/10 at 1:54

Wayne, New Orleans defense ranked 25th for 2009 regular season, Tennessee 28th. Not much difference there, Einstein! You are one who likes to try and nitpick things to death whether you are right or wrong. Get behind our home town team and stop acting like you could field a perfect team. As for 035? I just shake my head at his childish bitterness and unfounded complaining.

By: wayneCaluger on 1/26/10 at 2:01

What happened to your "Friend" who said Fisher was was preoccupied when he ran into him a couple of weeks ago. Still around, but was not aware of the rumor.

However the rumor of hiring a current head coach in Tennessee with strong USC ties was right on, UT not the Titans and it was Lane not Jeff.

Apply for the Tennessee Titans head coaching job! And, work for Bud not a chance in hell I would soon work for Jerry Jones. At least Jones doesn't sit on his wallet hoping 8-8 seasons will keep fans coming while tax payers sweat out a $129 million bond that they are obligated to as Bud drives the train.

By: TITAN1 on 1/26/10 at 2:32

LOL! Same old garbage!

By: kingcobra289 on 1/26/10 at 4:15

Who cares people come and go, It is a business!!!!!

By: TitansFan035 on 1/27/10 at 8:03

Wayne no point to argue with Titan1, by the way his arguments go you can tell he is very very young.. Fisher needs to go and eventuallly this will be the year!! The NFL is getting younger on coaches, the evolution on the wildcat, but yet Fisher doesn' believe in it but yet he probably has the best personell on the NFL to run that package but guess what Old Time Field Goal 500 don't believe in it!!

By: FAMUAce on 1/27/10 at 8:43

TITAN1, you sound pretty ignorant. So if you are not totally on board with EVERYTHING Jeff Fisher does or says, then you aren't a true fan? Are you serious? Were you even in the area when Gregg Williams was the D Coordinator? Furthermore, his defense would have been better suited for the current personnel because of its attacking style. With Gregg Williams, I can almost guarantee that Michael Griffin would have been an All-Pro because he could have matched what Darren Sharper accomplished this year. As far as the Byner issue, there has to be more than what meets the eye on this. You can see the effect he had on CJ. He was a more patient runner; he read his blocks a lot better toward the end of the season as opposed to the beginning of the season. He was also able to get LenDale to buy into not getting ANY playing time, especially when he was in the top 3 in TDs last year.

By: TITAN1 on 1/27/10 at 9:34

FAMUAce, maybe you are ignorant. Once again, the Saints D ranked 25th during the regular season, the Titans 28th. Not a lot of difference there. They didn't make the playoffs because of their D.

TitansFan035, once again if 54 is young, I thank you, sonny. So now you are saying he will go this year, what happened to you saying he would not be back this year? If you keep saying it every year, you might get it right in a few years, sonny! LOL!

By: TITAN1 on 1/27/10 at 9:44

FAMUAce, according to the Tennessean, Byner was fired for a couple of reasons. One, Fisher did not want to pass on Pola while he was available. Two, Byner had run ins with different coaches while with the Titans. With CJ playing like he was, maybe Lendale did not earn more playing time.

By: jwk6179 on 1/27/10 at 10:39

Plus, the Saints Defense didn't really stop the Vikings at all during the game, it was more of the case of the Vikings Offense stopping them self and Brett Favre reverting back to his Gunslinger playing at QB, like he did so many times before with the Packers and last season with the Jets. If Favre didn't force that last pass or the Vikings didn't self destruct, would the Saints even be in the Super Bowl? Not likely.

By: TitansFan035 on 1/27/10 at 12:06

2 words people!!! FIRE FISHER!!!

By: TITAN1 on 1/27/10 at 12:33

035, Why don't you start up the so you can look as stupid as the first ones who did?

FAMUAce, I never said anyone had to agree with everything Fisher does to be a real fan. No coach is perfect. I just think those who bash him all the time don't have sense enough to get in out of the rain. There, hope that clears things up.