|Titans coach Jeff Fisher sits down with Steve Mariucci to talk about the direction of his team and the state of Vince Young's future.|
The Titans' 2010 season has featured tension between Fisher and starting quarterback Vince Young and an on-field fight involving feisty cornerback Cortland Finnegan. Throw in the addition of outspoken wide receiver Randy Moss, and it has made for one drama-filled campaign.
Yet Fisher claims the tumultuous times haven't caused him to think about his future in Tennessee, which some believe is in doubt.
"No. We get caught up in what we're doing," Fisher told Steve Mariucci in an exclusive interview for "Thursday Night Kickoff" on NFL Network. "The only thing I think about is the next game."
Fisher's longevity -- he has coached the franchise since 1994, when it was the Houston Oilers -- makes him stand out in today's NFL landscape. But a five-game skid that dropped the Titans to 5-7 entering Thursday night's game against the Indianapolis Colts and the fallout from a locker-room confrontation with Young, since placed on season-ending injured reserve, has increased speculation about Fisher's future in Music City.
Just two active coaches -- Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots (158) and Mike Shanahan of the Washington Redskins (151) -- have more victories than Fisher's 146. At season's end, Fisher will have coached the seventh-most games with one franchise in NFL history, but would he consider leaving the Titans after that?
Not a chance.
"I'm under contract for next year, yeah, absolutely (I'd like to stay)," Fisher said. "You start off 5-2, you lose a few games in a row, and now all of a sudden the ball starts rolling and people start speculating and everybody starts talking. I don't pay attention to that. I never have.
"The last four or five weeks haven't been easy. ... We lose a game you're supposed to win, and then you've got an issue with your starting quarterback. Before that, you acquire on waivers a Hall of Fame receiver. That gets a lot of attention, and it was one thing on top of another."
If there is a tipping point, it could be the rocky Fisher-Young relationship, which came to a head after a Week 11 loss to the Washington Redskins, when the quarterback injured his throwing hand. A frustrated Young threw his shoulder pads into the stands on his way to the locker room, where he and Fisher had a heated argument. It all concluded with Fisher saying Young no longer would be his starter -- injury or not. Young, who later apologized to the coach via text message, subsequently went on injured reserve.
"I haven't seen him since he left the locker room (after the Week 11 loss), so I don't know (where he is)," Fisher said. "He's treated no differently than any other injured-reserve player. ... He had surgery on his thumb (to repair a torn flexor tendon), and he doesn't require any treatment right now."
Will there be some dialogue between the two?
"There'll be a discussion, I'm sure, at some point," Fisher said.
"There's no excuse for what he did ...," the coach added. "I think to a man, most everybody in that locker room would have disagreed with his actions. So from that standpoint, he's probably better off not being here."
Fisher said he hasn't brought up Young's future with Titans owner Bud Adams, only the quarterback's injury and the decision to place him on IR. Any future discussions will happen after the season, although Adams told Fisher and Young shortly after the incident that they must work together and he doesn't want to release the quarterback.
Would Fisher have done anything different with Young?
"This is not just Vince, it's most players in general: I think it's understanding what it takes to be a pro, and the time commitment ...," Fisher said. "And that it's a privilege to play in the National Football League, and the positions on this field, be them offense, defense or special teams, are not easy, and it takes work. And there are also going to be ups and downs associated with that, and you have to be able to keep those in perspective."
The next week, the Titans made national headlines when their Pro Bowl cornerback, Cortland Finnegan, and Houston Texans receiver Andre Johnson were ejected after an in-game confrontation ended with Johnson throwing a series of punches at Finnegan. Fisher said he addressed the Johnson rivalry with Finnegan because the two will meet again next week.
"Same discussion I had with him before the first matchup," Fisher said. "Don't do anything to hurt the football team, period, and he didn't, with the exception of maybe a quick (jab) that went to the face.
"You look at it; he didn't throw a punch, OK? So I disagree with the ejection. I disagree with how everything was handled. If you look at it from this perspective, it was one of the greatest examples of self-control and self-restraint and poise that you'll ever see, because he didn't swing back."
Fisher also discussed Moss' arrival to his third team this season during the Titans' Week 9 bye. Moss started the season with the New England Patriots, who traded him to the Minnesota Vikings after a Week 4 game. The Vikings released Moss after just four games, and the Titans claimed him off waivers.
"We had a good, lengthy conversation," Fisher said of the moment that Moss arrived in Tennessee. "Oftentimes what happens is the perception of what takes place elsewhere isn't necessarily the reality.
"He's really, really been a positive influence on this football team. ... You take a veteran receiver like that, who takes the young receivers in the weight room and takes them through his workout routine three days a week and stays after practice extra with the young receivers. That's what he's done for this football team, and it's been really good to have him around."
For all of the attention on the field, one off-the-field situation has touched Fisher far deeper.
The franchise has coped with well-respected offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger's cancer diagnosis. He continues to work on the Titans' game plan and call plays.
"Mike getting sick is not an easy thing to deal with," Fisher said. "You see him come back after chemo and trying to continue putting the plan together -- he loves this team, he loves this organization, and he loves this game.
"I'll never, ever forget this commitment that he's made. It's been very, very inspiring."