HEAD COACH JEFF FISHER, JAN. 18, 2008**
We've had some change here within the organization over the last week. I'm here this morning to officially present to you Mike Heimerdinger as our new offensive coordinator. What I'd like to do is just go back a little bit and clarify some things as far as a timeline is concerned.
When the season is concluded, a staff will gather on a moments notice and do the things that need to get done before you send the players out. A couple days into the week after the Charger loss, I allowed the coaches to take some time off, because it is much-needed time off. It was at that point when I started really considering and evaluating our situation on offense. I came to a decision over the weekend, a week after the Charger loss, that a change was in order. I informed Coach (Norm) Chow that I was making a change on Sunday night. At that point I contacted (Broncos head coach) Mike Shanahan and asked if it would be okay to speak with Coach Heimerdinger about replacing Coach Chow. He said, 'yes, it would.' So Mike and I began conversations. We got things rolling along pretty quickly. We officially sent the permission request in and were able to get things worked out and put together yesterday. It happened quickly, and it happened quickly for this reason – Mike and I are familiar with one another.
I spent five years with him here. He left on very good terms. We've maintained a friendship, and we've talked throughout seasons and over the years. I just felt that it was an opportunity to take advantage of a change, but also to take advantage of the opportunity to get, to me, the best play-caller I've ever been around, back in this building to help us improve our offense. I'm very excited about that. Mike and I talk, as friends do during the year, about players. We had a lot of common opponents this year, so we watched their offenses and defenses. Mike got a chance to watch film of our offense, so he's familiar with what we have. In a lot of ways, this is similar to the first time around, when Mike came in after the Super Bowl year, he was getting (former Titans quarterback) Steve (McNair) in his fourth year as a starter. This time he's getting Vince (Young) in his third year as a starter. So there are some similarities as far as those things are concerned. With that being said, I want to welcome Mike officially and open it up to questions for myself and/or Mike.
(Fisher on what specifically needed to be changed in the offense)
I think it's important for us to look forward and not go back. I went back, and I'm past that now. I really, really appreciate what Coach Chow did for us here over the last three years. He was an integral part in developing Vince and getting Vince to where he was. But it was time to take another step, so I'm really not going to go into any more specifics as to what happened to what didn't happen.
(Fisher on QB Vince Young's reaction to the coaching change)
I have not spoken with Vince. I've tried to reach him a couple times, but Vince is vacationing outside the country with Bo Scaife. I know Vince very well and I know that Vince will buy into whatever we do, particularly because Vince wants to get better. That's all he cares about is getting better and winning ballgames. And he also trusts that we're going to help to improve the players around him.
(Fisher on how similar or different the Heimerdinger offense will be to the offense already in place)
What Mike and I have talked about is that we've got a lot of work ahead of us as far as the playbook and the terminology. But we're going to try to stay consistent. Vince has spent two years with this terminology, and it would be unfair to him to completely put a new system in. So it's going to be more on Mike to utilize our terminology, then of course expand it a little but, but keep the terminology simple.
One of the things I mentioned to Mike when he came in (for his first stint as offensive coordinator in 2000), we wanted to keep this system intact for Steve (McNair). By the time Mike left, we had a system that had fingerprints on it by two coordinators. There was some potential for some misunderstandings, and I don't want that to happen again. Coach Chow's system is player-friendly. So I assume that if the players can handle it, Coach Heimerdinger could also handle it.
(Fisher on whether the Titans' current offensive personnel need to be upgraded)
I think every offense in the league is trying to get better right now. We're no different. This is the first step, hiring Mike. The next step is to go to personnel and see what you can do, and do everything you possibly can to upgrade. That's at every position.
(Fisher on whether he knew during the season that he would make this coaching change)
Again, this was a very difficult decision, any time you make a change like this. There is a thought process, there is a process that goes into it. Out of fairness to everybody involved, I came to a conclusion and made a decision. When that happened, that's confidential. I looked at it hard. Once things got quiet here after the coaches left, I looked at it pretty hard. I felt that was the best decision for us.
(Fisher on whether this team will still be focused on running the ball and playing hard-nosed defense)
It's not going to be a drastic overhaul, although we had some productive years with Mike here – 2003 and Steve's Co-MVP year with 30 touchdown passes. We ran the football well. It's balance, it's running the football well, it's attacking, it's going downfield. It's not protecting a lead or sitting on things, it's going out and trying to win ballgames.
(Fisher on what makes Heimerdinger successful as a coach)
It's his experience, number one. He's experienced and communicates very well. He's got a wealth of information from an offensive standpoint, particularly because of his experience with Denver and working with Mike (Shanahan). There's really not anything that we can't do offensively. I think the most important thing that [Heimerdinger] understands is that you have to use your personnel wisely. You can't ask people to do things they can't do. At the same time, continue to develop the players or get better players that can help you.
(Fisher on how he expects Young to react to the coaching change)
This is Vince's world right now. The season was over and he was going to get away, rest and recover, and come back as soon as he could to start working on next year. I think he'll be very, very excited to meet Mike and to sit down and start working with Mike.
(Fisher on if Young needed a different personality at offensive coordinator)
It's not necessarily a personality issue. It was more of an overall philosophical change in moving forward. Craig (Johnson) is going to remain on as the quarterbacks coach. Mike has worked very closely with Craig the whole time he was here. So this is, again, without going into specifics, this is an opportunity as I see it to improve our offense.
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE HEIMERDINGER, JAN. 18, 2008**
(Heimerdinger on working with a young quarterback in Young, who is still improving and learning)
I think we can go forward from what Norm and the offensive staff has done with him so far. With young guys, you've got to be patient. I am well-known for my patience, so we should be okay (laughs). With a young guy, if he works at it and you give the guy progressions and stay consistent in what you're asking him to do week-by-week, the only thing he can do is get better.
(Heimerdinger on how soon he will be in Nashville to start evaluating the offense)
I'll get back in there next week and sit down and start watching some film, and go over it with Jeff and the offensive staff. I've worked with everybody on the offensive staff before, except for the wide receivers coach (Fred Graves). I haven't worked with Fred, but I know he's very good at what he does, so those guys know what the personnel is. I'm just going to sit down and watch, and see what they've done scheme-wise and see what we need to look at.
(Heimerdinger on perceptions about his patience)
Perception is overblown. I think how you teach and what you demand out of players – you treat every player is different. There were some guys when I was there before that I could raise my voice to, and there were some guys that you couldn't. You teach different. I'm a lot older now, and I know a whole bunch more.
(Heimerdinger on working with third-year QB Young after having worked with a young Jay Cutler)
I think working with young guys, they're all different. But it does help. You're going to start with the same basic stuff anyway. But you learn to be a little more patient with young guys, because you know there are going to be some growing pains. Every week with a young guy, you know that there's going to be something they haven't seen yet. Vince, this will be his third year. There are a lot of things that he has seen. It's much different than working with him the first year through. There will be some things that will come back to him now that he's been around the league. He'll make the whole circuit, and he should be in pretty good shape for what [opponents] have shown him and what he's looking at. So there should be a lot of recall. But you've just got to be patient with them because you know there's going to be a growing pain somewhere in there.
(Heimerdinger on balancing his offense with the one already in place)
It's just like Jeff said. It's the same thing I did when I came there before, because they didn't want to change things for Steve. It was easier for me to learn their terminology than it was for a bunch of guys who had just gone to the Super Bowl to learn my terminology. That's an easy adjustment. We'll just see what we can tweak.
(Heimerdinger on his preference for offensive personnel)
The personnel stuff will be with the guys upstairs and whatever we decide as a whole group. Everybody in that building that does all that evaluation of personnel, I'm for it, whatever we need to do. If we need better players on offense, (they will do) whatever we need to do to go get better players on offense to make us go farther in the playoffs.
(Heimerdinger on his offensive mentality in his second stint with the Titans)
I don't think it changes any. I think you find what players do good and put them in position to make plays. The first time I went through there, we found out that Derrick Mason was pretty good in the slot and found ways to get him the ball in the slot. I don't think the philosophy changes any, you've just got to put those guys in position to make plays.
(Heimerdinger on if he sees one current Titans player who he thinks has the potential to have a break-out year)
I'm hoping it's Vince. Whatever we do will be as a whole group. I don't know if there's somebody there – I've got to get in there and evaluate it consistently. I really don't have an answer for that one.
(Heimerdinger on if he would like Young to make dual reads and adjustments on the run similar to McNair)
We've got to see what Vince handles. I need to get around him and sit down with him, and just see where he's at before we make any giant things.
(Heimerdinger on what is sacrificed in protection when the quarterback takes shots downfield)
I don't know if you can talk to any offensive lineman in the league that wouldn't rather keep everybody in so you can protect. But I've probably learned some more things since I've been gone about protections and ways to still get it downfield and protect it. We'll just, again, look at what we've been doing. I'm not sure there's anybody better than (offensive line coach) Mike Munchak at protecting the quarterback and knowing schemes to protect the quarterback. So that's in pretty good hands.
(Heimerdinger on if coming to Tennessee was an easy decision for him)
Being with the Broncos – Coach Shanahan and (president and CEO) Pat Bowlen run a great franchise. So that made it tough. But as far as a chance to run the whole offense and call plays again, and go work for Jeff and those guys on offense, again Fred (Graves) is the only one I don't know. I've worked with (tight ends coach John) Zernhelt in college for seven years, so I've known John a long time. That made it a pretty easy transition. But the main thing was the chance to go back and call all the plays. Mike and I shared it (in Denver). This is a chance to run the whole thing and call all the plays, so that made it a whole lot easier.