Press Conference Transcript

K.S. BUD ADAMS JR., JEFF FISHER, STEVE UNDERWOOD AND MIKE REINFELDT PRESS CONFERENCE

K.S. BUD ADAMS JR.

(opening statements)

This is K.S. Bud Adams, Jr. and I'm talking to you from my office down in Houston, Texas.  I want to say this is a very, very tough day for this franchise.  Jeff meant a great deal to this team and I appreciate all that he has done for us, such as keeping the team together as we moved to Tennessee when we moved from Houston over to Tennessee and also leading us to our only Super Bowl game in 1999.  He also coached some of the best teams in our history and many individual achievements of our players. He helped us create some great moments for our fans.  We had fans that first year when we won the championship and went into the Super Bowl, it couldn't have been a better thing for the fans.  Unfortunately I must say though, organizations and coaches almost always reach a point when it is time to change and this is where we are.  This isn't personal, it is just time for change and I believe both the team and Jeff will benefit in the long-run from this move.  I am still confident about our future. I think we have some good young players. I believe in Steve Underwood and Mike Reinfeldt to find our next head coach and I want every one of you to know I continue to have high hopes about our team.  I'm not giving up.  We are going to get in that Bowl game again.  I'll turn it over to you and thank you very much for listening to me.

HEAD COACH JEFF FISHER

(opening statements)

I have to go back to a Friday afternoon in November, November 11th to be specific in 1994, prior to going up to play the Cincinnati Bengals I was summoned by Steve Underwood to Mr. Adams' office and was informed at that time of their intention for me to take the football team over on an interim basis.  It went into the wee hours of the night and I meet Steve out at a gas station and on Saturday morning signed an interim head coaching contract.  It is just hard for me to stand here and imagine that 17 years later it has come to this.  At that point I could have never really imagined doing this as long as I have done this.  I owe nothing but gratitude and thanks to Steve and Mike (Reinfeldt) in recent years and of course to Mr. Adams for this incredible journey.  I have been blessed to be associated with one of the best franchises in the National Football League for this long, but as they say all good things come to an end.  I have a great deal of personal peace right now with this resolution.  I have a great deal of confidence in this organization that they will move forward as Mr. Adams had said.  This is one of the top organizations and efficiently run organizations in the National Football League and they will be successful.  My regret is that I won't have a hand in that process back to success.  I have no regrets.  I have nothing but very, very fond memories through the move, through the name and the naming rights, the stadium, the success we had in 1999 and all the way through with the players and coaches I have been associated with, all of you that I have worked with on a daily basis throughout the year, it has been a tremendous experience.  I am forever indebted to this organization.  With that, I will open it up to a few questions.

(on what got it to this point)

I think you come to a point or I did professionally and the organization did that it was time to move on.  I'm not going to go into specifics.  I have been coaching for 25 years and I need some time, I need a break.  I think timing wise this is a perfect opportunity to do this so the organization can move forward with their plan and I will move forward with whatever happens in the future.

(on why it is important not to give specifics about his departure)

There were some differences, but beyond that I think it is the situation that we got into.  We had two difficult years, I'm moving into the last year of a contract and I just felt that this is what is best for everybody.  I know the organization is going to benefit from it.

(on if he signed assistant coaches to extensions during the season that the administration wasn't aware of)

There was nothing that really took place along those lines.  I did my best; what I have done every year from start to finish, to move forward to the end of the season and planning for the upcoming season.  I'm not going to go into the specifics.  They have been worked out, they have been dealt with.  Again it is just time to move on.

(on if he intended for his son Brandon to be a part of the staff)

There was some discussion about that.  That was certainly not the issue.

(on how far along he had gotten with his search for new coaches and whether there was frustration)

I was given from Mr. Adams and Steve freedom to hire new coaches with extended contracts.  I think what is important here is that we have moved on.  I want to wish everybody in this organization the best.  The coaches that remain are terrific coaches.  This is a fantastic place to work and it has been an honor and a privilege to stand up here in front of you for so many years.

(on how the decision was made to let go of Chuck Cecil)

I'm not going to go into any more specifics.  I don't think those specifics are necessary.  We are moving on.

(on whether he will do any TV work)

I haven't thought about my future past this afternoon.  I have time.  I will have time.  I'm going to rest and we will just see where it goes.

(on if Mike Munchak is his replacement and how he would fare)

I'm not one to deal in hypotheticals, however you should have all the confidence in the world in Mike (Reinfeldt) and Steve and the decisions they make moving forward because that allowed me to be successful here with the confidence they had in me and vice versa.

(on how sad it is to leave people he has worked with for 17 years)

Obviously, there are a lot of emotions associated with this, the relationships, not the routine, but the fact that I was able to do this for so long, that is very, very difficult.  This is a great city.  It is a great fanbase.  No one else in the league can say they still have 20,000 people on the season ticket waiting list.  It has been a tremendous experience for me.  I think I have become a part of this community and I want to remain a part of this community, it is a great place to live.  It has been a great opportunity.

(on the financial reports of his settlement)

I'm not going into those specifics.

(on if he asked for an extension)

I'm not going to go into it.

(on his availability to coach this coming year under the terms of the settlement)

I'm not going to go into those specifics either, but I would say as I mentioned earlier, that I have been coaching for 25 years and I think I'm tired.  I think I need to rest.  Those that coach 10 years that take a year off are three times better coaches in year 11.  I'm going to take time.

(on how difficult it was that he was facing a possible work stoppage and uncertainty at the quarterback position)

There have never been issues as long as I have been here that we have not been able to work through collectively.  I don't anticipate those being problems and they are not a factor 

(closing statements)

In closing I want to thank Steve and Mike and Mr. Adams once again and Robbie (Bohren), the coaches and everyone in this organization, including all of you for just a tremendous experience over the last 17 years.

(on what he would hope football historians would say about his tenure with the Titans)

You will have to speak with the historians.

EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT STEVE UNDERWOOD

(opening statements)

You know I have had the privilege in my almost 35 years of association with our franchise of working with lots and lots of great people.  There isn't anyone any greater and no one with who I have enjoyed a longer more fruitful relationships and no one who I respect more than the gentleman who was just here.  Coach Fisher has just made inestimable contributions to our franchise and he is going to be missed by all of us.  I think there does come a time when almost every sort of professional relationship does have to end one way or another and we are at that point, but nothing is ever going to diminish what he has meant to both the Houston Oilers and the Tennessee Titans and to our fans and supporters and PSL holders.  On behalf of Mr. Adams and on behalf of our organization I want Jeff to know how deeply we appreciate all the contributions that he has made.

GM MIKE REINFELDT

(opening statements)

In my four years as the general manager, I can't imagine working with a better head coach.  Jeff's expertise, his optimism, his flexibility, he is everything you look for in a head coach and the last four years it been a pleasure to work with him.

(on why he is no longer the head coach)

I think in pro football, pro sports, there are certain points in time where change is necessitated.  That is kind of what happened here.  We are at a point where Jeff has been here a long time, he has coached 16 or 17 years, and I think it is time for a fresh start from both sides.

EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT STEVE UNDERWOOD

(on if he gave contract extensions to assistant coaches that may have not come to light until later)

As Jeff indicated is his remarks, we are not here to talk about the specifics.

(on the topic in general)

In general, we had differences that we were not able to resolve.  That is the only time in our experience with Jeff that that has happened.  When you are not able to work through differences, you work out an arrangement where you part company and that is what we did.

(on at what point he realized it was not going to work out with Coach Fisher)

The differences that have arisen have come up really just in the last few weeks and I think probably a week ago, something like that, it became obvious to both Jeff and to Mike and I and to Mr. Adams that we were not going to be able to successfully work through these.  May I say, we don't judge our relationships and we don't judge people by the tiny failure at the end.  You judge people and you judge relationships by their entire tenure, in this case 17 years.  So the positives with our association with Jeff so greatly outweigh the differences that we had at the end of our relationship.  I think that is what is really important here.

(on if Jeff forced issues that the organization was not comfortable with)

Obviously, as I mentioned we had differences.  I think it doesn't add anything to the discussion, it doesn't do anyone any service to go into detail or depth about what the differences were.  How they arose, how they were not able to be resolved, that doesn't add anything to what has gone on here.  We are starting off anew.  We are going to head off in a different direction.  I think that is good for us and I think that is good for Jeff and I think that is good for our fans.

(on if he thinks the fans deserve to know why the organization is choosing not to retain Coach Fisher)

My answer to that is if we believe that it was in the interest of our fans to know those details, we would talk about them.  We have made a change.  Jeff is leaving.  We are going to start immediately looking for a new head coach and I don't think it serves our interest, our fans interest, Jeff's interest, Mr. Adams' interest to go into details …

(on if he thinks it is not of the interest of PSL holders)

I think I just answered that question.

GM MIKE REINFELDT

(on how many assistant coaches are under contract and if the new head coach will be expected to keep them)

I think we have 13 coaches still under contract, and the Titans will honor those contracts.  When we hire the new coach, he'll get great discretion as to who he retains and what format he retains those people.

(on the power structure going forward and if Reinfeldt will have control of the assistant coaching staff)

You know, we haven't had any discussions on that.  Our focus right now is going forward to start the search for the head coach, to find the right person, to retain our assistants, and go from there.

(on what he's looking for in a head coach)

I think we're open.  I think head coaching experience is a good thing.  There's some interesting guys that you have to look at.  At the same time, Jeff was a defensive coordinator, became a head coach – a very successful head coach.  We do a pretty good job of – whether it's players or personnel people or coaches – we retain lists and kind of have a ready list of guys that we think are candidates.  Over the next couple days, Steve and I will be going through that list.  We'll be conferring with Mr. Adams, and we'll be kind of taking this long list and narrowing it into a short list.

EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT STEVE UNDERWOOD

(on whether or not he got an explanation from Fisher on why Chuck Cecil was fired)

We didn't really go into those kinds of details with Jeff.  I think that the differences that we had became obvious at some point to both our organization and to Jeff, that we were not going to be able to successfully resolve them.  As I have indicated, we're not going to go into those kinds of details.  It's just so unnecessary.

GM MIKE REINFELDT

(on if he could tell that Fisher needed a break)

Listening to Jeff, he made it sound … I think it's an amazing thing because I used to hear that if a person coached 10 years in the NFL, that was a great feat.  Jeff was in his 17th year.  That's unbelievable.  It's a hard job.  It takes a toll on you, and he did a great job at it.

EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT STEVE UNDERWOOD

(on if Fisher ever expressed during the season that he was getting tired or burned out)

No, as you know, George, Mike and I went to visit with Mr. Adams a couple of times in the last month, and at that time I think Jeff was still wanting to go forward.  We went to Mr. Adams and suggested that it was a good idea that we go forward with Jeff, and Mr. Adams ultimately agreed that that was the best choice at that time for our franchise.

(on a timetable for hiring a new head coach)

We're going to take however long it takes.  Speed is not the primary consideration.  Quality – just as it was in selecting our general manager four years ago – is the single most important consideration.  So my answer is: however long that process takes.

(on whether or not Underwood's current plan is to retire in the summer)

My current plan, yes, is to retire at the end of my contract this summer.  As you know, my family and I have another home in Texas.  I have a wife and children there.  I've been looking forward, sort of, to retiring.  However, Mr. Adams and I have a very long-term relationship, and I have worked for him as long as any other executive has.  He knows, full-well, that if he wants or needs my help that I'll be available to him.

GM MIKE REINFELDT

(on what this decision means for Vince Young)

I think our Vince Young decision is the same.  We're going to go in a different direction, and at some point we'll either try to trade or release Vince.

(on how many head-coaching candidates exist in-house)

You know, we really haven't started the process—we're not that in depth.  I think there's two or three people that probably you would look at and think would be worthy of that.  At this point in time, I'm not going to identify any of those though.

EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT STEVE UNDERWOOD

(on why fans should trust them to make a good decision in hiring a head coach)

I think the question that you're asking illustrates sometimes the frenzy that goes on in connection with modern professional sports.  Sitting at this table is 70 years of experience in our league.  I think we are in a somewhat better position to judge whether or not the process has been chaotic.  As we have all mentioned in our remarks, Mr. Adams made a decision almost a month ago.  Subsequent to that decision, we ran into some difficulties that we weren't able to resolve.  I don't think see any—

(on if they were "secret" difficulties)

If it makes you happy to call them secret, I'm OK with that.  Why don't you let me finish my answer.  Are you OK with me finishing my answer? … So as part of running into those difficulties and having to reverse course, there's no chaos involved in that in particular.  All that's happened is that decision that we made a month ago, together, ran into problems several weeks later that we were not able to resolve.  As a result of our being unable to resolve them, Jeff has decided, and we have agreed, that he step away.  I don't see chaos in that.  My definition of chaos must be different than those fans who have that observation.  We're going to go through a very deliberate process in selecting someone else to lead our football team.  I think that our fans have reason to have confidence in us.  You know, we were looking upstairs at our coaching staff and our executive staff before we came down here.  We have almost 200 years of NFL experience on our coaching staff as players and coaches.  Mike and I together have about 35 years apiece in the process.  We want to do it in a way that reflects the tradition of both our Houston and Tennessee franchises and comes up with the right person for our organization going forward.  What I hope is that our fans have confidence in us to arrive at the decision like that and come up with something that will lead us into the next generation of our franchise.

(on whether or not Fisher will make his full salary and if he will be able to take a new job)

We have decided jointly that we're not going to discuss what happened with his current-year contract.  I will say this, the figures that I have seen mentioned nationally are completely wrong—none of that happened.  But we did make an agreement that Jeff's comfortable with and we're comfortable with, and that's what matters.

GM MIKE REINFELDT

(on how strong of a candidate for head coach is offensive line coach Mike Munchak)

Well I think he's a person, given his playing career and his coaching career, he's certainly a person that you'd have to consider.  Again, we're kind of in the early stages of this, so it would be kind of premature to answer that question at this point in time.

(on how much Reinfeldt's history will play into the decision)

I think it's part of it.  It's people you've known, people you've worked with, you'd consider them.  I think it's also people internally.  There's lots of parameters.  It's a long list of potential candidates, and it's still a good list.

(on given the lockout potential if they're looking for an interim coach and long-term coach)

We're looking for the next full-time, long-term coach of the Tennessee Titans.  That's what we're looking for.

EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT STEVE UNDERWOOD

(on whether his retirement would mean Mr. Adams' grandson would ascend in the organization)

Those decisions are made exclusively by Mr. Adams.

GM MIKE REINFELDT

(on how Underwood retiring would affect him)

Steve and I have a great relationship. We've worked together for four years, and I've known Steve since my playing days with the Oilers.  When the day comes when he leaves, if he does leave, that will be a sad day for me.  So I'm not accepting the fact that he's leaving at this point in time.  We'll deal with those issues as they arise.

(on when Reinfeldt's contract expires)

I'm not really going to go into specifics on that.

(on how the team will attract new players)

Well, I think change is part of the NFL in today's world.  I think lots of teams – seven or eight teams every year – change coaches.  It's part of the NFL, unfortunately or fortunately, however you want to look at it.  The players are looking for an opportunity; they're looking for a chance to play.  I think that's the key to the whole thing.  It's their opportunity.

(on if they would like to have a new head coach by the NFL Scouting Combine)

Again, I think it's more important to get the right person.  We'll start on it right away.  We'll be interviewing maybe over the weekend, next weekend for sure.  If I look back, four years ago, I think I was hired Feb. 12 or Feb. 11, some point there.  We were actually in the pre-combine meetings when I was hired, and everybody was nervous and it was so late.  But the reality is we ended up taking Michael Griffin as our first draft pick, so we did OK in the draft and we'll be OK here.

EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT STEVE UNDERWOOD

(on if the franchise is in disarray)

I don't think that's the case at all.  Unless I get fired before then, I'm going to be here through the summer.  We have a very steady, very experienced hand as our general manager.  We have one of the most tenured staffs in the NFL.  I'm very proud of the job that our people have done.  We already have 14 coaches that are under contract.  Mike and I have already started the search for a new head coach.  We have a great personnel staff that Mike has assembled in his department.  So, I'm not … You know, I look at this as an opportunity.  Change characterizes our business.  A lot of franchises change head coaches; a lot of franchises change key people.  They go right on, sometimes more successfully after change than before change.  So I view it as an opportunity for us to try to improve.  Certainly we understand that losing someone of Jeff's tenure, that's a difficult endeavor to get past.  But we have a very deep pool of experience here, and I am not the least bit concerned.  Comments that we are in disarray, or as one of the former questions characterized it as chaos, are really silly.  Our organization is going to emerge from this as strong or stronger than ever.  I feel great about the future and great about the direction of this franchise.

GM MIKE REINFELDT

(on what the assistant coaches will do from now until a head coach is hired)

They will do all the things they normally do at this point in time – finishing up their year-end evaluations.  Most of them went to the Senior Bowl earlier this week, so they'll just continue getting ready for the Combine, as they normally would.

EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT STEVE UNDERWOOD

(on if it's fair to say the next head coach will not have as much power over personnel as Fisher)

I don't accept the premise of your question.  Our personnel process here during Jeff's tenure is a collaborative process.  It has always been a collaborative process.  Jeff was never in full control of personnel decisions here.  I'm not sure how that got started, but it was never true.  He and Mike worked together every single day, preseason, during the season, working on personnel decisions, and I'm expecting that that is a process that will continue going forward, which is a joint, collaborative effort between our general manager and head coach.

(on what he considers chaos based on the age of the team's owner and the lack of a head coach or quarterback)

It's a long list.  You know, I think the fact that we don't have a quarterback means that Mike's work and our new head coach's work is a little tougher because we need to get a veteran quarterback and draft a quarterback.  Our owner is 88 now and is the most experienced tenured owner in the National Football League.  You got to hear his own voice, make his own remarks at the beginning of the press conference.  He is perfectly capable of holding his own.  I've worked with Mr. Adams every day for the last 35 years.  We consult with him every day about decisions here.  If necessary, we go to Houston and see him.  There's no shortfall there.  I think all that you've done and done a good job with is outline the challenges that we have to work with going forward.  Challenges do not translate into chaos.  All that means is that we have our work cut out for us.  There's nothing wrong with that.

GM MIKE REINFELDT

(on if there was any notion before that this decision would come)

I think it surprised us a little bit.  I think there was a pretty good consensus right after the season when Mr. Adams met with Jeff.  I think we thought we were in a pretty good place.  But again, the NFL is such a changing landscape.  New challenges arise, new problems arise, and things do change over time.

(on if the head coach will be hired before a new defensive coordinator)

I would think the head coach comes first.  I think it's very important to give him input in his staff.  He needs to choose those people he's comfortable with, the systems they run, what types of defense, what types of things they want to do with the team.  I think it's important to let the head coach make those decisions.

(on if the team will look for an offensive or defensive-minded head coach)

I don't think there's any magic with offensive or defensive-minded.  I think both models have been successful.  I think it's more about finding the right person, the right guy, rather than offensive or defensive-minded.

EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT STEVE UNDERWOOD

(on whether there are 13 or 14 assistant coaches under contract)

We have a couple guys … Jason Novak, who works for us, is not currently under contract, but Mike and I had a really good meeting with our coaching staff this morning.  We told Jason that he's certainly welcome to stay around if he wants to, and I think that he will.  So there's a miscount just because something isn't signed yet.

GM MIKE REINFELDT

(on whether anyone else is not under contract)

They're all under contract.

(on what he would like to say directly to the fans)

You know, it's kind of a tough day.  I think Coach Fisher, Jeff, was such a big icon here.  He was the face of the franchise for such a long time.  At the same time, I think change is part of the NFL, and you look at other places where change has happened, change can be a wonderful thing.  It can be an opportunity, and then we can use that change to get us where we need to be.

EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT STEVE UNDERWOOD

(on whether Fisher is allowed to coach)

That's up to Jeff.  My understanding of his answer was that he wasn't interested in coaching for a while.

(on whether Fisher is contractually able to coach this season)

Oh sure, you bet.

GM MIKE REINFELDT

(on who first brought up the idea of a separation)

I think it was almost a joint thing.  I think both sides came to that realization just with the issues we were dealing with.  I think it was almost a mutual … The idea came to both sides at the same time.

(on whether Fisher was seeking a contract extension)

Again, I think at some point to look back and look for specifics, I'm not sure what that does for us.

EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT STEVE UNDERWOOD

(on Mr. Adams' policy to not allow children of supervisors to work full-time for the team)

That's up to Mr. Adams.  We have had sort of, as you mentioned, longstanding policies against children of employees in supervisory positions working here as full-time employees.  But, you know, Mr. Adams is an owner, and owners can make exceptions to rules if they want to.  That's the difference between owners and everyone else.  We do have such a policy.  I'm not going to comment on Jeff and his children.  That's kind of out of bounds, as far as I'm concerned.

(on whether or not Mr. Adams' grandson is an employee)

He is the grandson of the owner.  I maybe didn't make that clear.  He can make exceptions to rules if he wants to.  That's what owners do.

GM MIKE REINFELDT

(on finding a quarterback through the draft or finding a veteran quarterback)

I think it's both.  I think we'll look for a veteran quarterback, and I think we'll also look hard at the people coming out in the draft.  I think we'll get someone with some experience and also someone that we can develop.  I think we'll do both sides.

(on how much tougher the collective bargaining issues make finding a quarterback)

It makes it tougher, but it's a challenge we'll have to deal with.

(on if they plan to release Vince Young on Feb. 7)

We don't have a date determined at this point in time.

(on potentially going with a coach that philosophically fits with the personnel already in place)

That's part of any discussion.  You'll interview a person; he'll have a pretty good idea of your personnel, what he thinks he can do with those people, how they fit what he does.  That's part of the interview process, quite honestly, is trying to ascertain what his chances are of being your successful head coach.

(on whether the offseason is more of a factor this year than other years)

It expedites things a little bit, it certainly does.

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