NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Jeff Fisher pulled out every well-spun Monday-after-a-loss answer in his book this afternoon. Predictably, the steady coach of the 5-9 Titans didn’t flinch.
In a week or so, he’ll meet with Bud Adams. Fisher, the longest continually tenured coach in the NFL will learn, or force, his future. (Gary Kubiak will be having a similar meeting; Jack Del Rio might be.)
Fisher said there won’t be a minute before kickoff in Indianapolis Sunday where he considers the possibility that it could be the last time wearing the headset for the Titans.
This season he’s endured a few things out of his control: His offensive coordinator is battling cancer, his team endured quarterback injuries and drama and a smallish defensive line has worn down.
But separate from the Vince Young controversy and broad thinking that Fisher and Young both won't be back, the coach has not made a convincing case for himself going forward as his team’s lost seven of its last eight games.
Maybe it qualifies as having the backs or his players and staff, but he’s not conceded this version of his Titans was ill-constructed, lacks the talent to match expectations, has no one from within to lead or has failed to make sufficient adjustments.
Monday he weaved several excuses into his conversation about Sunday’s 34-14 loss in Kansas City: The weather, penalties called that shouldn’t have been, penalties not called that should have been (he wanted offensive pass interference on Dexter McCluster on Dwayne Bowe’s 75-yard catch-and-run TD) and an unlucky bounce on a strip and a fumble the Titans didn’t recover.
What he did say: Michael Griffin took a bad angle and should have made a play on Bowe; a route mistake was responsible for a Kerry Collins' interception; third and long killed the offense, and then he rattled off the list of them -- third-and-11, third-and-14, third-and-15, third-and-19 and two third-and-20s.
He said the Titans had a good week of practice last week, a line he uses just about every week. So he was asked if a team that had a good practice week before a 20-point loss has had any bad practice weeks this season. He said he thought they've prepared well all year.
I pressed about Justin Gage, the veteran receiver who simply has to give up playing time in favor of Damian Williams or Marc Mariani. Fisher offered the sort of basic, second-nature defense of a veteran he almost always does.
If the Titans pull an upset in Indy Sunday, they'd open the door for the Jaguars' to win the division instead of the Colts. But even with a surprise win at the end, Fisher’s summation of the season is unlikely to change much.
“This year was a disappointment,” he said. “We had high hopes coming off the turnaround last year. We thought the draft went well, we had a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm about our draft class as far as them contributing.
“We got off to a good start. Then in Week 8 things fell apart and we’ve been trying week after week after week to put it back into place and it hasn’t gone that way for us.”