As he stepped back into the National Football League, Jeff Fisher intimated that it was his decision to walk away in the first place.
Fisher was formally introduced Tuesday as head coach of the St. Louis Rams and said he used his time away from the game to “rest and recharge.”
“Almost a year ago, I made a difficult decision,” he said. “… That was to get away, to leave the game, to do those things I hadn’t done before — to rest and recharge.
“And I did so. I do not second-guess that decision whatsoever.”
It was Jan. 27, 2011, that Fisher and Tennessee Titans officials announced their “mutual decision” to part ways.
The winningest coach in franchise history had just completed his 16th full season, which also was one of the most volatile of his tenure. It included a six-game losing streak following a 5-2 start and a public dispute with former quarterback Vince Young.
“I was able to reflect back on different situations and circumstances,” Fisher said. “… It was an extremely valuable time.”
Young, of course, was the handpicked choice of Titans owner Bud Adams when the Titans selected him third overall in 2006. After last season Adams ultimately sided with Fisher and announced the team’s intention to cut ties with Young during the 2011 offseason, but a little more than two weeks later Fisher was gone as well.
It was telling that Fisher said two primary things he sought in his next job were “a good owner” and “a good quarterback.”
“The process was about identifying some opportunities, looking at the non-economic issues and what was the best chance to be successful,” he said.
Rams owner Stan Kroenke also has teams in the NHL (Colorado Avalanche), NBA (Denver Nuggets) and Arsenal, a storied franchise in England’s Premier Soccer league, in addition to other teams in lesser leagues as well as notable sports venues.
Quarterback Sam Bradford was the first overall pick in the 2010 draft and started 26 of 32 games over his first two seasons. Injuries limited him to 10 appearances in 2011.
“He’s a great coach, he’s a great leader, he’s a great teacher,” Kroenke said of Fisher.
Fisher inherits a team that has gone 15-65 since 2007 — the worst five-year stretch for any franchise in NFL history. St. Louis went 2-14 in 2011, the same record the Houston Oilers had in 1994. Fisher led the Oilers to a 7-9 record in 1995, his first full season on the job.
“This team has a chance to win some games,” Fisher said. “… It’s a talented team. It’s a team that has some holes, and I’m looking forward to filling those voids and to move forward.”
He said he would coach the Rams much the same way he did the Titans, with an emphasis on the run game, pass protection, physical play and the ability to create turnovers.
Like his style, he added that his passion for the profession did not change during his time out of the action.
“I intended on getting back to coaching when I stepped away,” Fisher said. “I love this game. I love the competitive aspects of this game and I was really looking forward to the opportunity of doing it someplace else and having the opportunity to carry our philosophy forward with a new organization.
“It wasn’t difficult at all. I honestly got away from the game. Life as a coach is demanding. … There were some things I wanted to do and I did them.”