“There can be only one.” While this may be the signature quote from the cult classic Highlander movie series, it also applies to Tennessee Titans Head Coach, Jeff Fisher, the winner of the 20th Annual Earle Greasy Neale Award as Professional Coach of the Year.
“There can be only one” man when it comes to longevity in the NFL and that man is Fisher. He has the longest tenure of any head coach currently in the league. In 2008, he finished his 15th season with the Titans. He has compiled a 133-108 record (.552 winning percentage) during that span.
The pinnacle (to this point) of Fisher’s career occurred during the 1999 season when he led Tennessee to a surprising 13–3 regular season record. Highlighted by the Music City Miracle victory against Buffalo, the Titans advanced all the way to Super Bowl XXXIV.
Fisher is known as a primarily laid back coach who has still manages to get the most out of his players. He explains, “I think you have to encourage, you have to teach, and you have help people be successful.”
He also knows when to delegate responsibilities to his assistants
“I think Jeff Fisher’s probably one of the premier game management coaches, and one of the reasons is, he doesn’t call offense or defense,” said former Titans’ defensive coordinator and new Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz.
Fisher has truly survived the high and low moments associated with being a head coach in the national football league. One of his best coaching jobs came in 2002. The Titans got off to a 1-4 start and critics began to surface, but Fisher kept the team on an even keel and rallied the players to win 11 of the next 12 games. Tennessee captured AFC South Division title and earned a place in the AFC Championship game. Fisher’s Titans struggled through the 2004 and 2005 campaigns due in large part to injuries and a purging of the roster due to a strict salary cap.
However, he quickly built the team back to prominence which was no more evident than this past season with the Titan’s 13-3 record and another division title. Perhaps most impressively, Fisher and the Titans reached this mark after starting quarterback Vince Young went out with an injury and the team had to turn to 36-year old journeyman Kerry Collins.
Often lost in his coaching accomplishments, Fisher was a standout defensive back at the University of Southern California and played in the secondary that included future NFL stars Ronnie Lott, Dennis Smith and Joey Browner. As a seventh-round draft selection of the Chicago Bears in 1981, Fisher proceeded to play five seasons for the team at defensive back and on special teams. He earned a Super Bowl ring after Chicago’s 1985 Super Bowl Season, despite spending the year on injured reserve with an ankle injury that prematurely ended his playing career. During that season, Fisher began his post-playing career by assisting Head Coach Buddy Ryan as an ‘unofficial’ coach.
Before becoming the head man at Tennessee, Fisher served as an assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles (now St. Louis) Rams, and Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans.
Dispelling the notion that football coaches concentrate only on football, Fisher is an active figure off the field. He is an avid fisherman and golfer. Fisher generously donates time and money to a number of different charities. He has three children, sons Brandon and Trent, and daughter Tara.
In another instance of where “there can be only one” Fisher edged out several other worthy candidates for the Greasy Neale Award. Runner up Tony Sparano, the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, turned a 1-15 squad into an 11-5 AFC East Division Champion. Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith took a 4-12 team that was reeling from the legal troubles of Michael Vick and led the team to an 11-5 record and a NFC wild card playoff birth.