Coach’s mas­tery at win­ning for los­ing

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - DERON SNY­DER

On an early episode of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” last sum­mer, Los An­ge­les Rams coach Jeff Fisher sum­moned wide­out Deon Long to the of­fice. Turns out that Long had brought a woman to his dorm room dur­ing train­ing camp, a vi­o­la­tion of the Rams’ strict no-vis­i­tors pol­icy.

He was cut on the spot and Fisher later ex­plained the de­ci­sion in a team meet­ing. “I’m not f---ing go­ing 7-9 or 8-8 or 9-7 … we have too much tal­ent here for that,” he said. “We had some 7-9 bulls--- this morn­ing and we can’t have that. Deon is gone. That is 7-9 bulls--- and we don’t need that.

Fisher was right. He doesn’t need a rule-breaker to go 7-9.

He’s a mas­ter all by him­self. News broke early Sun­day that Fisher is get­ting a two-year con­tract ex­ten­sion. Although the agree­ment re­port­edly was reached dur­ing the pre­sea­son, the tim­ing was odd be­cause the coach re­cently emerged from a pub­lic spat with Rams leg­end Eric Dick­er­son, who is not a Fisher fan.

In fair­ness, Dick­er­son isn’t alone. Fisher is un­likely to find many sup­port­ers out­side of fam­ily and team man­age­ment.

A “Tale of the Tape” graphic dur­ing Sun­day’s Rams-Pa­tri­ots broad­cast showed ex­actly how far he is from be­ing great. He has coached 22 sea­sons, the same as New Eng­land’s Bill Belichick. But Belichick en­tered the con­test with 77 more wins, 44 fewer losses and a 14-6 lead in play­off ap­pear­ances. Fisher needs just two more de­feats this sea­son to sur­pass Dan Reeves as the NFL’s all-time losingest


The Rams are well en route to the typ­i­cal un­der­whelm­ing cam­paign with Fisher at the helm. At 4-8, the best pos­si­ble out­come is a .500 sea­son in their re­turn to Los An­ge­les. That ac­tu­ally would be quite an ac­com­plish­ment. Over his first four years with the fran­chise, his teams in St. Louis went 7-8-1, 7-9, 6-10 and 7-9. Tak­ing his en­tire ca­reer into ac­count — he spent 17 sea­sons with the Hous­ton Oil­ers/ Ten­nessee Ti­tans — Fisher’s teams have ex­ceeded eight vic­to­ries just a half-dozen times.

But as the ex­ten­sion demon­strates, clearly he knows how to win at SOME­THING. Just not foot­ball very of­ten. Fisher found the per­fect place for con­tin­ued em­ploy­ment – a rev­o­lu­tion­ary fran­chise that eval­u­ates a coach by cri­te­ria other than the won-loss col­umn.

“Ev­ery­body will want to judge Jeff through the prism of just the record, but that’s to­tally un­fair when you look at the set of cir­cum­stances he was handed this year,” chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Kevin De­moff told re­cently. “It was dif­fer­ent than any team in the NFL.

“We moved half­way across the coun­try, then had OTAs in Ox­nard. Train­ing camp was in Irvine, now we’re in Thou­sand Oaks. We moved coaches and play­ers and fam­i­lies. To pro­vide lead­er­ship and con­sis­tency, he’s done a model job.”

De­moff must be us­ing a five-point scale whereas every­one else gives out 10s for top mod­els.

It’s fair to won­der if Fisher’s agent, Marvin De­moff, tam­pered with his son’s eye­glasses. That might be the only ex­pla­na­tion for the COO see­ing some­thing in Fisher that’s in­vis­i­ble to every­one else, es­pe­cially Dick­er­son.

No NFL player has rushed for more yards in a sin­gle sea­son than Dick­er­son’s 2,105 with the Los An­ge­les Rams in 1984. It was the Hall of Famer’s sec­ond of four sea­sons in L.A., where he led the league in rush­ing thrice and set the rookie record for most rush­ing yards in a sea­son. The Rams never missed the play­offs dur­ing his ten­ure, mak­ing him the team’s last link to great­ness in south­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

He’s also among the masses who are pos­i­tive that the team needs a new voice. Dick­er­son didn’t need much con­vinc­ing, but Fisher pro­vided it any­way, ban­ning him from the side­line due to crit­i­cism in the me­dia. Now Dick­er­son is a lead­ing fig­ure in the “Fire Fisher!” crowd.”

“He’s not the coach for this foot­ball team,” Dick­er­son said Sun­day on Fox 11 Los An­ge­les. “He’s had five years of this. I feel bad for all the Rams fans be­cause I feel like I’m the Rams fans’ voice. I’m a fan like Vince (Fer­rag­amo, the Fox 11 co-an­chor and for­mer Rams quar­ter­back) is a fan, like (Hall of Fame right tackle) Jackie (Slater) is a fan, and I feel like we’re go­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion with the foot­ball team.”

Fisher shouldn’t get too com­fort­able. Even as news of the ex­ten­sion spread, so did sug­ges­tions that it merely buys time un­til the In­gle­wood sta­dium opens in 2019. Why not get the added buzz of a new hire to go with new digs?

The Pa­tri­ots cruised to a 28-10 vic­tory Sun­day, hold­ing Los An­ge­les to just 25 yards of of­fense in the first half, the low­est to­tal for any team this sea­son. The Rams are dead-last in the NFL in to­tal of­fense (284 yards per game), first downs per game (15.7) and last in third-down con­ver­sion rate (32.5 per­cent); they’re merely near the bot­tom in all other of­fen­sive cat­e­gories.

What­ever Fisher is do­ing, it’s not work­ing.

Maybe he should al­low vis­i­ta­tion dur­ing train­ing camp next sea­son.

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