By Don Banks, SI.com
In an unexpected development in what already has been a turbulent offseason in Tennessee, the Titans and Jeff Fisher, the NFL's longest-tenured head coach, are preparing to part ways, SI.com learned Thursday afternoon.
The Titans officially confirmed the news in a one-sentence press release Thursday evening. It remains uncertain if Fisher's departure will be termed a firing, a resignation or a mutual parting of ways. Fisher was said to be in the process of negotiating the terms of his departure with Titans owner Bud Adams.
According to a league source, only Adams, Fisher, Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt and team general counsel Steve Underwood were aware of the finer details of Fisher's imminent departure late Thursday afternoon.
Fisher has been on the job with the Houston/Tennessee organization since being named interim head coach late in the 1994 season, and he was expected to return for a 17th full season this year. But Fisher's future with the team beyond that was considered somewhat tenuous given that he was entering the final year of his contract, and Adams did not decide to retain him until Jan. 7, five days after Tennessee closed out a disappointing 6-10 season -- the Titans' worst since 2005.
In choosing to keep Fisher and release fifth-year starting quarterback Vince Young, Adams had seemingly settled the protracted standoff that had existed between Fisher and Young since late November, when the two had a very heated argument in the Titans' locker room following a home loss to Washington.
While it's not known what prompted the change regarding Fisher's status in Tennessee, league sources say Fisher was not happy to lose a pair of his longtime defensive coaches last week. Fisher fired defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil, one of his closest friends, and saw well-respected Titans defensive line coach Jim Washburn accept a similar position on Andy Reid's staff in Philadelphia. Given that Fisher had just one year of security to offer any potential coaching replacements, it was thought that his task of filling those roles would be difficult.
The Titans started promisingly in 2010, going 5-2 and fielding the league's second-highest scoring offense behind the Patriots through seven weeks of the regular season. But Tennessee lost eight of its final nine games, suffered through the Young-Fisher controversy, and endured the news that offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger was diagnosed with cancer.
The Titans missed the playoffs in each of Fisher's last two seasons, going 8-8 in 2009 after an 0-6 start. Tennessee is the only team in the NFL to have a losing streak of at least six games in both of the past two seasons. Tennessee's last playoff trip came in 2008, but the No. 1 seeded Titans wasted their 13-3 regular season when they lost at home to No. 6-seeded Baltimore in the AFC divisional round.
Fisher was the NFL's youngest head coach at 36 when he was promoted from Oilers defensive coordinator to interim head coach in mid-November 1994, replacing the fired Jack Pardee. He was named the franchise's full time head coach in early January 1995, and went 142-120 (.542) in his 16-plus regular seasons with the Oilers/Titans. But Fisher was just 5-6 in the playoffs, with one Super Bowl trip (1999), four division titles and six postseason berths over that span. Three of Fisher's five postseason wins came during Tennessee's 1999 Super Bowl run -- it lost that game to St. Louis, 23-16 -- and the Titans have not won a playoff game since winning at Baltimore in the first round of the 2003 postseason.
While speculation swirled around the Fisher and Young drama earlier this offseason, Fisher repeatedly said he hoped to finish his coaching career in Tennessee. Fisher, who will be 53 late next month, was under contract for $6.5 million in 2011, and had been in his job more than four full seasons longer than the NFL's next most-tenured head coach, Philadelphia's Andy Reid.
Oh man I can't even imagine how mad I'd be if I was Fisher. It's absolutely obvious that the owner waited until all the head coach jobs were filled before dropping the hammer on Fisher to keep him from coaching next year. So, who here thinks Kubiak would have survived in Houston if the owner down there had known Fisher was going to be available?