Let me ask you an honest question: in his twenty-one-year NFL head-coaching career, how many of St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher’s teams have actually been good? The answer, of course, depends on how you define good, so let’s put it this way: how many of Fisher’s teams have actually won a playoff game?
The answer will surprise you: out of twenty-one seasons, Jeff Fisher-coached teams have won a playoff game in exactly three different campaigns. That may surprise you, considering the fact that his career started with the Houston Oilers and is still going today, but Fisher’s overall career has actually been one borne out of mediocrity more than success. And yet, Fisher is no different from that gift you get on Christmas but know you’ll never use: he’s difficult to get rid of, and you feel guilty if you’re the one who dispatches him.
Why do I say this, then? This is why, from CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora:
Jeff Fisher’s job is safe in St. Louis, despite the 5-8 Rams closing in on their fourth straight losing season under Fisher. Rams owner Stan Kroenke is likely stuck in St. Louis for another year, and he is focused on a possible move to Los Angeles and is not in the business of paying people $6 million plus to leave for a product he isn’t all that engaged in right now, anyway.
Fisher will be back with the Rams next season, meaning that they are more likely than not to be as hopelessly average as they are now. Why in the world has he lasted so long?
Here’s one reason: there are a lot of unknown commodities when it comes to NFL coaches. Yes, the Rams could absolutely do better than Jeff Fisher, but it’s also important to note that they would also like to not do worse. Their choice essentially comes down to Jeff Fisher or any head coaching candidate they can find. And, if this guy is any indication, the waters of finding a new head coach can be pretty treacherous sometimes.
That’s just one reason, and it’s really more of a supposition than it is conclusive deduction. But there should be something to be said for Fisher; according to a USA Today study in 2012, NFL head coaches actually have the longest average tenures out of the four major sports. The average length of that tenure? 4.39 years. Fisher is in his 21st. That should be commended.
However, one cannot help but think that Fisher has been incredibly lucky in lasting this long. Here’s another exercise for you, the reader: try to guess Jeff Fisher’s career winning percentage, including last night’s 31-23 victory over the Buccaneers. You’re probably thinking somewhere in the high-50s, maybe even 60%. If you guessed that, you would be very wrong.
It’s exactly 52%. Fisher has lasted in the NFL for just about 21 years and has a career .520 winning percentage. For context, Colts head coach Chuck Pagano has won two-thirds of his games in almost four years in Indianapolis and he’s about to get fired. Mike Smith won 58% of his games in seven seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, a run that included five straight seasons from 2008-2012 with at least nine wins. He did get fired after last season.
Welcome to the NFL.
Seriously, though: how? How does a man whose teams are consistently mediocre retain job status for, with the exception of the 2011 season, every year since 1994? Again, his first head coaching tenure started with the Houston Oilers. Maybe it was because of complacent owners who were fine with the status quo of mediocrity (more on one of those owners later). Maybe it was the weakness of the pool from which the Oilers/Titans and Rams would have to take a head coach from in the event that one of them fired Fisher. It could be either one.
It pains me to say this, but at the same time, I just can’t emphasize this enough: he really isn’t a great NFL head coach. Gary Davenport
took the words right out of my mouth wrote about this for Bleacher Report Friday:
Jeff Fisher just isn‘t a very good head coach.
Mind you, he isn‘t a terrible head coach. He’s an experienced head coach, with this being his 21st season prowling an NFL sideline. He’s been to a Super Bowl. Six times, teams he’s coached have won double-digit games.
Of course, we just hit on part of the problem. Jeff Fisher teams have won 10 or more games only six times in 21 years. Meanwhile, nine seasons with Fisher at the helm have ended with his team winning seven or eight games.
The Rams appear headed for No. 10 in 2015.
All of three head coaches in NFL history have lost more games than Fisher. All three have more playoff and Super Bowl appearances. Many more.
The statistic that Davenport provided showed the top four head coaches in terms of most losses in NFL history. Fisher was number four. Numbers one, two and three were Dan Reeves (one of the better and criminally underrated head coaches in NFL history), Tom Landry, and Don Shula. Not for nothing, but I would take any one of those three over Fisher in a second. That’s nothing against Fisher and his longevity, but those men had greater success, especially in January and February.
I can’t honestly answer as to why Jeff Fisher still has a job in the NFL. What I can say is that it is virtually impossible for us to remove him; we can’t get rid of him and something tells me that we may not be able to anytime soon unless he decides to step away. His teams have been consistently mediocre, and nearly 21 years really isn’t all that small of a sample size, either. And it’s not like the Rams are magically going to get better under his tutelage next year (and the year after that, and so on).
Which is grounds to have his lifetime pass to being an NFL head coach removed.