Fisher proves strong survivor as NFL's longest-tenured coach Print
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Monday, 30 July 2007 11:08
NFL Headline News

 NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Jeff Fisher doesn't keep a cot in his office, even though he has slept on the leather couch a few times.
``I come to work, go home,'' he said. ``I'm going to be at a high school football game on Friday night, take my vacation time. It is a very complicated, sophisticated, complex - and I think other people would say pressure-oriented - business,'' Fisher said.
Fisher, who turns 50 in February, has come to understand what it takes to be an NFL coach. And none of it is easy.
``You come to get used to it. I think where you fail is when you become complacent. You have to respect it, and the thing that motivates me and is no different from what motivates anyone else is the fear of failure. You have to do everything you possibly can. You can't ever become complacent.''
With Bill Cowher leaving Pittsburgh, no coach has been with his team longer than Fisher heading into his 13th season. Not bad for a man first promoted to this job for the final six games in 1994 with a 2-14 team.
Fisher has survived everything from lame-duck status to relocation that forced him to coach in four stadiums in four seasons. He's gone from a Super Bowl appearance to rebuilding around salary cap constraints.
``I learned to deal with so many things that had really nothing to do with my job description,'' Fisher said of his first four seasons. ``The unusual things, the moving, playing in different places. That kind of prepared me for the what-ifs and the spontaneous things that can happen.''
Last season, he became the 13th coach in NFL history to coach 200 games with the same team. He ranks 31st all-time with 110 wins.
Fisher has rebounded from a 9-23 stretch in 2004 and 2005 to an 8-8 record in 2006 with offensive rookie of the year Vince Young. Owner Bud Adams picked up Fisher's option for 2007 while letting general manager Floyd Reese leave, and a contract extension is being finalized now.
The coach said none of this would have been possible without Adams' support.
``He's been in it a long time. He knows you can't avoid injuries. We had a couple years we underachieved, but there was a reason. He also understands there's going to be some salary cap things eventually (you're) going to have to work through, and he understands that,'' Fisher said.
Fisher deserves his own share of the credit.
He has kept most of his coaching staff together through his tenure. He lured Norm Chow to his first NFL job in 2005 and wasn't afraid to hire ex-head coaches Gunther Cunningham and Dave McGinnis as assistants.
Sherman Smith, assistant head coach and running backs assistant, has been with Fisher since that first full season in 1995. He's turned down other jobs because of the work atmosphere here.
``Jeff believes you work; you need your rest. You need to be with your family, so Jeff is well-rounded,'' Smith said.
Fisher holds a six-game edge over Denver coach Mike Shanahan thanks to his interim status in 1994. The men will become the 12th and 13th head coaches in NFL history to coach 13 full seasons with the same team this year.
Shanahan and Fisher coached together in San Francisco in 1993 and have been friends since. Shanahan called Fisher a good coach and a people person.
``Everybody's got their own style in how they deal with people. Jeff has always been a players' coach,'' Shanahan said. ``He gets along with players extremely well.''
That rapport can be traced to Fisher's own playing experience. He earned a Super Bowl ring with the 1985 Chicago Bears despite being on injured reserve with an ankle injury, and he still holds the Bears record for most punt returns in a season.
Veteran linebacker Keith Bulluck said he nearly lost faith in Fisher during the team's recent losing seasons. But he watched Fisher spend more time working with the young players required by the lack of salary cap room, helping them develop as quickly as possible.
``If he sees someone not buying into it or losing faith, he's the type of coach that'll definitely call you into his office and talk to you one on one like a man. You have to respect that he doesn't beat around the bush ... ,'' Bulluck said.
Critics have doubted how long Fisher, a native of California who played in college at Southern California, would last long in the home of country music. Fisher has thrived in a town where people give celebrities their privacy.
``There's other cities in the National Football League you would not have that type of situation or that luxury,'' Fisher said. ``I really like Nashville. I couldn't imagine living any place else. That also lends itself to looking forward to coming to work every day.''
Fisher loves to golf, fish and hunt, and Tennessee has lots to offer him. His vacations have taken him as far as Belize, with Montana a favorite spot.
A father of three, Fisher's biggest goal is having all three of his children finish in the same school system. His oldest son is in college, while his daughter is preparing to enter college. If his youngest son graduates high school here, that could keep Fisher here three more seasons.
``That's hard to do in the National Football League,'' he said.
Fisher ought to know.

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