Jeff Fisher is out as the head coach of the Tennessee Titans, the team announced Thursday on Twitter. But the NFL’s longest-tenured head coach will leave the franchise with a pricey parting gift, FOXSports.com has learned.
NFL sources said Fisher will receive $8 million as part of his settlement to walk away from the Titans after 16 full seasons — the majority of what was due in the final year of his contract. Fisher was to receive $5.6 million in salary for 2011 with a $4 million bonus. The move is expected to be announced as a mutual parting of ways.
The Titans said a news conference will be held either later Thursday night or Friday to discuss the Titans’ first coaching change since the franchise relocated to Tennessee from Houston in 1997.
The team said in a release Thursday night that "Fisher will no longer be the head coach of the team."
The Titans announced the move within an hour of a report by SI.com that they were negotiating Fisher’s departure and released a longer statement a couple hours later saying they will always appreciate his leadership through some of their "greatest heights" during 16 full seasons as coach.
"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," according to the statement.
According to NFL sources, the decision to walk away from Tennessee was in Fisher’s best interest — allowing him to avoid a 2011 season as a lame-duck coach without the full support of ownership.
Fisher, 52, was high on the wish lists of both the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos, two franchises that desperately wanted a high-profile head coach to salvage their team’s fortunes. Instead, he chose to remain with the Titans despite the tumultuous situation that developed throughout the 2010 season because of an ongoing rift between the head coach and volatile quarterback Vince Young.
Fisher had been with the Houston/Tennessee franchise owned by Bud Adams after being named interim head coach late in the 1994 season. On Jan. 7, days after Tennessee finished 6-10 — the Titans’ worst record since 2005 — Adams announced he would retain Fisher for a 17th season and that Young’s days as a Titan were over.
Now, it would not be surprising to see Adams move to retain Young as quickly as possible.
Despite the announcement that Fisher would return in 2011, there was league-wide speculation that the wedge that had been driven between Adams, Young — his prized fifth-year quarterback from his hometown of Houston — and Fisher was irreparable.
Fisher also didn’t help himself when he fired his defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil a week ago after giving him a contract for the 2011 season.
Fisher has coached more NFL games for one franchise than all but six Hall of Famers: George Halas, Tom Landry, Don Shula, Chuck Noll, Curly Lambeau and Bud Grant. He ranks third among active coaches in career wins with a record of 147-126, behind only Bill Belichick (176) and Mike Shanahan (160), and he is 20th all-time in coaching victories.
Adams promoted Fisher from defensive coordinator to interim coach with six games left in the 1994 season after firing Jack Pardee. Adams removed the interim tag after that season and has stayed with Fisher longer than any other coach with the franchise the billionaire founded.
Fisher oversaw the team’s relocation from Houston in which the Oilers played in four stadiums between 1996 and 1999 before moving into their current home.
Since 1999, Tennessee ranks seventh in the NFL in winning percentage with a 110-82 record. The Titans also are tied for fourth with six playoff seasons since 1999, though a second straight miss this past season will drop the team down that list.
But the Titans haven’t won a playoff game since beating Baltimore in a 2004 wild-card matchup. Tennessee lost a wild-card game in San Diego in 2007 and wasted the AFC’s top seed in 2008.