Jeff Fisher has agreed to part ways with the Tennessee Titans, ending the longest tenured head coach's run with the franchise.
A league source told TitanInsider that Fisher would be leaving the organization after 16 years and a 142-120 record as head coach. The Titans later issued a statement confirming the move.
"The Tennessee Titans and Jeff Fisher have agreed to part ways and Fisher will no longer be the head coach of the team," the team said in a release.
A statement from Fisher was released by the team Thursday night.
“I want to thank Mr. Adams and the organization for a special 17 years. I can’t thank the fans enough for the support they showed us through the years; it has been a tremendous experience," Fisher said. "We all did our very best and I think I can look back with fond memories and be very proud of what we accomplished. I want to wish the organization, the current players and the fans nothing but the best in the future.”
A head coaching search will begin immediately, but a source indicated to TitanInsider that offensive line coach Mike Munchak, who signed his contract extension earlier this week, is the leading candidate to fill the vacancy.
Fisher was told by owner Bud Adams that he would return after the season with one year
remaining on his contract, as Adams announced that Vince Young would be let go. Young is still on the roster, but could be released or traded.
TitanInsider reported earlier this week that in a somewhat odd twist that Fisher did not accompany the team scouts and coaches to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., despite his team having three assistant coaching vacancies and the eighth pick in the draft with a need at quarterback.
TitanInsider spoke by phone with Adams as the news broke, but the owner would not yet confirm the move, but indications from within the organization are that Fisher is out.
"Where did you hear that from? I've been at my ranch all day and I still have to talk to people," Adams told TitanInsider before the move was officially confirmed. Later efforts to reach Adams were unsuccessful. The Titans issued a statement of their own regarding the news.
“After the season was complete, we had numerous discussions on the direction of the team and were pleased that we were moving forward with Jeff at the helm," the statement said. "Since that time, it became evident that consensus was increasingly hard to find and reality wasn’t matching the vision we discussed. It is unfortunate that this decision is coming at this juncture, but we believe that we have reached the point where change is in the best interest of both parties."
Last week, the Titans lost long-time assistant coaches Jim Washburn and Craig Johnson, who departed for long-term deals in Philadelphia and Minnesota, respectively. But the more curious move was the firing of defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil a week ago, after it was later confirmed that Cecil had signed a one-year extension to return to the Titans just weeks earlier.
Fisher was scheduled to make $6.5 million in salary this season,but according reports said he will receive $8 million as he exits. Sources told TitanInsider, however, that Fisher deferred money from his contracts over the years, so that he would have a nest egg to take with him in the event he left the Titans. TitanInsider learned that the deferment amount of Fisher's severance is $6 million.
The Fisher-Young battle occupied center stage for most of the season after Young stormed out of the Titans locker room following a Nov. 21 loss to the Washington Redskins, a game in which Young suffered a torn tendon in his thumb and was upset that Fisher would not put him back into the game.
Fisher's long run with the Titans as the team's winningest head coach was still pock-marked with problems. In five of his final seven seasons as head coach, Fisher's teams endured five-game losing streaks, and the Titans have not won a playoff game since the 2003 season. Tennessee also lost in the divisional round in both 2000 and 2008 with a No. 1 seed in hand.
Still, players were stunned as the news began circulating in various reports.
“That was the last thing I was thinking, Coach Fisher being gone,” defensive end William Hayes said. “That's definitely a shock. I have no idea who they will bring in as head coach, d-line coach or defensive coordinator.”
Linebacker Will Witherspoon also was surprised at the move.
“I'm really taken aback by it, and don't really know what to say,” Witherspoon said. “It very surprising to say the least. You were talking about Chuck being gone last week, so who's the new defensive coordinator? Coach Fisher was the consistency of the whole situation, and now the likelihood is that things will be moving in a very different direction.”
Defensive end Dave Ball said he didn't know whether to believe the report at first or not, but said he still wants to stay in Tennessee, despite the change.
“This is out of the blue. You hear one thing and you can't really take it for what it's worth. I didn't even know whether to believe the article on Sports Illustrated when I saw it,” defensive end Dave Ball said.. “It's just craziness with everybody leaving and all this change happening. … It's crazy to think about a totally new coach coming in and there being a different scheme, but I definitely want to be back, so we'll see what transpires.”