The Firing Jeff Fisher Debate… Hire Slow and Fire Fast

Read the opposing argument from Optimist Prime.

Getting fired sucks. There is just no way around that. But, getting fired after 16 years on the job? That sting has to feel worse, like when you bang a knee playing football outside in 20-degree weather. That is the kind of sting that stays with a person for a while. That is what Jeff Fisher is likely still experience after he was fired by Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams.

Granted, the timing was terrible. But as the old, tried and true business axiom goes – hire slow and fire fast. Once a team realizes a coach is not the right coach for the team – regardless of the reasons – leadership should act quickly and fire the head coach. The Tennessee Titans acted prudently in their firing of Jeff Fisher, setting the team, and the entire organization, on a much better path for success. Even though it may be difficult to see that right now.

It is unfortunate that the seeming majority of upper echelon coaching candidates were off the market by the time Fisher was let go. But if Fisher wasn’t the right coach for the long term, his firing was unavoidable – no matter what other potential coaching candidates were available.

There are some organizations in sports where owners have far too much influence. In fact, they meddle. Fisher was willing to put up with Titans’ owner Bud Adams and his opinions about personnel. But Fisher erred early in his relationship with Adams by allowing the owner too wield much influence. That early mistake opened the door for the beginning of the end for Fisher, and drafting Vince Young sped up the inevitable.

Vince Young’s bad attitude and ability to receive and miraculously maintain an advocate in Bud Adams prevented Fisher achieving the success he enjoyed early in his head coaching career. But that situation was Fisher’s fault.

Fisher failed because he was unable to oust Young after Young churned through three of his offensive coordinators – including the very well respected Norm Chow. Regardless of how much affection Bud Adams has – or had – for Vince Young, Fisher should have not given into Adams. Adams is not a head football coach, and Fisher should have played the coaching card. It was clear to Fisher early on that Young was not the right quarterback for his style of team. Instead of just standing up for his beliefs and style, he relented to keep his job. It’s hard for a coward to lead a football team.

Without an advocate for a head coach, the team began to take on the persona of its supposed star player, Vince Young. Young’s flighty, unreliable approach to the game infected the rest of the players. The players – it was clear- were given far more power and influence than they should have received. Fisher failed to maintain his hold on authority for his team. They were desperate for a leader able to unite the team, and Fisher could not longer do that. When a leader fails to lead in a business, that leader must be replaced. And Fisher has now rightly been replaced.

Fisher was a good coach at one point. He led a team to within the nose of the football of defeating the vaunted Best Show on Turf in the 2000 Super Bowl. But over time Jeff Fisher allowed his influence and respect to be undermined. He failed to live by his core values, and it is very hard to lead when that is the case. He had to be replaced, though he was once considered one of the game’s best coaches – and probably will be again.

Bud Adams should have fired Jeff Fisher. But in doing so he must also take time and address other issues that are plaguing his organization. The Titans needs a leader who is able to unify the locker room. If the Titans expect to have a fighting chance when they return to the gridiron (whenever that will be), Bud Adams needs to reflect seriously on the management style of his next coach. Hire slow, and fire fast. The timing stinks, but Adams must now take his time and architect a winning organization from the ground up.

But, one thing is clear – Jeff Fisher was not the coach to lead the team anymore. Once that decision is made, it’s best to cut ties. Fisher’s firing was justified.

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