ALL ACCESS: A lot of networks do TV interviews, but have you ever wanted to know the juicy details that never make air? You can tell a lot about who people really are when the cameras aren’t rolling. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the interview with the Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher.
Jeff Fisher was named interim head coach of the Houston Oilers on Nov. 21, 1994. Since then, there have been 118 head coaching changes in the NFL. Yes, you read that right. 118. Every team during this span has made at least one head coaching change … except for the Titans.
They say a team (or a coach) needs a change of scenery every six or so years as speeches and a message tend to get pretty stale. But somehow, now in his 17th season, Jeff Fisher keeps locker room after locker room fresh. After spending time with him for “PROfiles,” I started to understand why players say they love playing for him.
One player told me, “We’re grown men. We’re husbands and fathers. I don’t have time or energy to get to work and have my boss playing mind games with me. Just because we’re playing a game, doesn’t make us little boys. Coach Fisher is consistent in what he says and how he treats us, no matter what our record is.”
At no time was that more evident than last season after the Titans’ 0-6 start. I asked Jeff what he was able to do that prevented his team from quitting on the field or on him. His answer was that he didn’t change anything, saying if you have a philosophy and you believe in it, you can’t change it when it doesn’t go the way you want it. You just have to keep working on it.
After Tennessee’s 59-0 loss to New England last year, the team had a bye. Many (maybe most) coaches would’ve worked their team extra hard that week after being pummeled. Jeff gave them the week off, told them, “We’re gonna work a few days, then I want you all to get as far away as possible.”
They came back and he showed them the new shortened season, which had 10 games left. He said, “And our opener is Jacksonville-and we just need to win that one.” Nothing else changed. They went on to win eight of their last 10 games and just missed the playoffs.
I got a chance to see this consistency during one of my favorite locations I’ve ever been on for a shoot. Jeff’s son Brandon just graduated from the University of Montana and is taking a year off to hunt and fish before he gets into coaching. Jeff went to be with him for two weeks in Montana and Canada, completely getting away from it all: no phones, no computers no TVs …. just fish and golf.
Jeff allowed us to invade his privacy for his last day in Montana and there were two things that struck me: 1. The scenery was magnificent, and 2. I don’t think Jeff changes. If it’s being a coach, a father, a fisherman … he’s consistent.
I talked to Brandon about it and he called it his dad’s “California cool,” saying there’s never been a switch when it comes to who he is — whether it’s how he talks to his kids or his players.
His dad never missed a Friday night football game of his — or his brother’s. But it wasn’t just fishing. Whether we were at his charity softball game in Nashville or spending time with wounded warriors at a barbecue … there is no “on” button with Jeff … which is why this column is hard to write.
Normally on “PROfiles” we spend a lot of time with the person we’re featuring and a different side comes out that we haven’t seen before which makes for a great show and column. They light up when the camera is on or turn it on. Not Jeff. If it’s talking to players, coaches or wounded warriors, they all walk away saying the same thing: “Good guy.”
I hope that’s what comes out of watching this episode of “PROfiles. “ I think you’ll see what I got to see and what all of his past and present players see in him. Good guy … who happens to be a great coach.
“PROfiles” with Jeff Fisher appears on FSN all this week. Check your local listings.