After signing a 2-year extension in the offseason, it seemed like Jeff Fisher’s baffling job security would continue in the face of four straight losing seasons. But that all changed this week, when Fisher was fired after securing his fifth losing season with the Rams.
The fact that Fisher was axed is no surprise, given that Los Angeles lost eight out of their last nine games after a promising 3-1 start. The final straw was a 42-14 loss to Atlanta, where L.A. looked totally noncompetitive. It also didn’t help that running back Todd Gurley characterized the Rams’ scoring efforts as a middle school offense.
Los Angeles’ offense could be described as middle-schoolish in any of Fisher’s five seasons, given that they never finished in the top 20 in points scored or yards gained.
The Rams’ inability to move the ball helped contribute to Fisher’s 31-45-1 record with the team. He hasn’t made the playoffs since 2008, and the last time that he won a postseason game was in 2003 with the Tennessee Titans. In 22 seasons as a head coach, he has just six winning seasons.
Beyond performance issues, Fisher also had some high-profile incidents this season. One included arguing with Rams legend Eric Dickerson over the phone. He also refused to give Jared Goff a chance at QB until later in the season.
L.A. Move Was Rough On Fisher’s Job Security
This year marked the Rams’ first season since moving from St. Louis to Los Angeles. And as NFL.com’s Jenny Battista points out, success is difficult to come by when a franchise changes cities. Fisher has experience in this area, managing the Tennessee Titans’ move from Houston.
Experience meant little, though, as the Los Angeles Coliseum drew fewer and fewer fans. Those who were in attendance were booing the Rams’ sad performance against the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday.
But the team’s play over the last nine games indicates that this was more than just mere relocation pains and a new fan base. Even after Fisher’s 7-9 rant on HBO’s Hard Knocks, the team failed to find any semblance of success. The coach was quick to blame management for not bringing in the players he needed to win.
But this team was more talented than in any of Fisher’s other seasons. This is especially the case on the defensive end, where Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn, Alec Ogletree, and Marc Barron form a strong core.
Based on the fact that L.A. fans were becoming disillusioned with the losses, Kroenke had to make a move to keep the fan base interested. Changing from Case Keenum to Jared Goff at QB didn’t prove to be a difference-maker because Goff is too raw. So Kroenke’s latest move re-energize the franchise involves getting rid of Fisher.
Owner Stan Kroenke’s Statement on Fisher’s Firing
Here’s a look at what team owner Stan Kroenke had to say on the matter:
“Making a decision such as this – especially during the season – is one of the most difficult in sports. I have great respect for Jeff as a coach, person, father and friend.
“He has worked tirelessly despite some challenging circumstances. He played an integral role in helping this team make history in returning the NFL to Los Angeles, and we always will be grateful for his commitment and dedication to our organization.
“However, this is the right time to make a change as our performance has not lived up to my or our fans’ expectations. We all are focused on improving as an organization and building a team that makes Los Angeles proud. Our mission is to celebrate a Super Bowl title with our fans in Los Angeles. Today is the first step to bringing us closer to that goal.”
What’s Next for the Rams?
Fisher’s firing comes at a strange time, given that L.A. plays Seattle on Thursday night. According to our GTBets line, the Rams are already +15.5 for tomorrow’s game. And you might even be getting value with this 2-plus touchdown spread, considering that the Rams are changing coaches on a short week.
Fassel’s quick ascension resulted in him leading an hour-long walkthrough without much chance to react. He didn’t even have time to tell his father John the good news.
”A lot has happened in a little amount of time,” said Fassel. ”It will be an interesting couple days. It happened fast. Football, you got to be able to adapt and react and this is one of those situations you can’t ever really prepare for.”
”The last 24 hours I’ve been learning on the fly. It’s been an incredible experience. I would love to know everything Coach Fisher knows. Just there are so many things and I’ll never learn all of it, but it’s interesting to be on that side of it.”
Many Rams players were disappointed to see Fisher fired, given that he was respected and well-liked by the team. But they also know the importance of changing gears and getting ready for the NFC West leaders on Thursday.
”Can’t help but feel some type of responsibility, but Seattle’s not going to care how we feel. Our last three opponents aren’t going to care how we feel,” said safety T.J. McDonald. ”We just know we got to go out and keep playing, keep fighting and get better every week.”
Despite the odds against them tomorrow night, L.A. has actually played well against Seattle, winning three straight games. They’re 1-0 this season against the Seahawks, notching a 9-3 victory in September.
”Usually it’s a knockdown drag-out all the way to the last play and we see that same type of game coming,” said Ogletree.
A win over Seattle would be the perfect way to start Fassel’s stint as head coach. But again, the Rams’ +15.5 line doesn’t make their chances look very promising.