In recent weeks, a series of disagreements developed between Jeff Fisher and Tennessee Titans executives and continued until all involved finally agreed upon one thing: It was time for Fisher to go.
After 16 full seasons (and six games of one other), 142 regular-season victories and another five in the playoffs, the franchise cut ties with the man who had been in his position longer than any of his 31 peers in the National Football League. The team made the announcement Thursday afternoon, and the key parties made it official with a Friday morning press conference.
“There were some differences … it was just a situation that we got into,” Fisher said. “We had two difficult years, I was moving in the last year of a contract and I just felt like this is what’s best for everybody.
“…I think you just come to a point where I did professionally, and the organization agreed, where it was just time to move on. I’m not going to go into specifics. It’s just best.”
No one divulged the exact causes of the discord, but there were indications that the franchise was not moving smoothly into the offseason.
On Jan. 5, team owner Bud Adams, who was not at the press conference but read a prepared statement over speakerphone, sided with Fisher when he announced the team intended to cut ties with quarterback Vince Young. Two days later, Adams said he planned to retain Fisher for 2011, the final year of his contract.
In the weeks that followed, Fisher lost two assistant coaches (Jim Washburn and Craig Johnson) to other teams and then fired defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil. Since then, no replacements have been hired.
“I think it was almost a joint thing,” general manager Mike Reinfeldt said. “I think both sides came to that realization just with the issues we were dealing with. It was a mutual … the idea came to both sides at the same time.”
Fisher confirmed a report that he pursued the possible addition of his son to the staff in an entry-level position, but added “that was certainly not the issue.” Executive Vice President Steve Underwood confirmed that the organization does have a rule that prohibits the hiring of children of franchise executives.
Underwood dismissed other reports about the severance package negotiated between the team and Fisher as “completely wrong,” but said a deal was negotiated, which was mutually agreeable — in stark contrast to other issues.
“The differences that have arisen have come up, really, in the last two or three weeks,” Underwood, the franchise’s highest-ranking local official, said. “I think probably a week ago, something like that, it became obvious to [Reinfeldt] and I, and to Mr. Adams that we were not going to be able to successfully work through these.
“In general, we had differences that we were not able to resolve. That’s the only time in our experience with Jeff that that happened. But when you’re not able to work through differences, you work out an arrangement by which you part company. That’s what we did.”
Fisher is free to accept another coaching job, if he wants, as soon as he wants, although it seems that’s unlikely to happen for the 2011 season.
“I’ve been coaching for 25 years and I think I’m tired,” Fisher said. “I think I need to rest. … I’m going to take time. … I need a break. I think timing-wise this is a perfect opportunity to do this so the organization can move forward with their plan, and I’ll move forward with whatever happens in the future.”
In his remarks, he looked back to the day in 1994, when he was hired as the interim coach, and expressed no bad feelings over his departure.
“I’ve been blessed to have been associated with one of the best franchises in the National Football League for this long,” Fisher said. “As they say, all good things come to an end. I have a great deal of peace — personal peace — right now with this resolution. I have a great deal of confidence in this organization to be able to move forward.
“It’s been a tremendous experience for me, and I’m forever indebted to this organization.”