Most NFL observers have thought for a while now Jeff Fisher, closing in on his fifth consecutive losing season with the 4-7 Rams, was due to be fired, not praised, by his bosses.
Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff doesn't see it that way.
"He's a terrific leader of men, Demoff told NFL.com's Steve Wyche. "Players, coaches and staff — he has their complete respect in the way he runs the franchise. It's easy to talk about the record, but you have to take a snapshot of everything this year and give him the credit he is due."
The Rams should credit Fisher for overseeing their move from St. Louis to Los Angeles this offseason. It's a less-than-ideal set of circumstances for an NFL club, to be sure, and Fisher has now done it twice after moving the Titans (then-Oilers) from Houston to Nashville in 1997. But they should also take a snapshot of Fisher's overall coaching tenure with the organization. Or, better yet, how about evaluating his entire NFL coaching resume?
In 22 years of head coaching, Fisher is 173-163-1, but just 31-43-1 with the Rams. His six winning seasons have resulted in five combined playoff victories and one conference title.
Nonetheless, while Demoff stopped short of confirming Fisher, whose contract expires at the end of the season, will be back in 2017, he basically inferred as much.
"Everybody will want to judge Jeff through the prism of just the record, but that's totally unfair when you look at the set of circumstances he was handed this year," Demoff said. "It was different than any team in the NFL.
"We moved halfway across the country, then had OTAs in Oxnard. Training camp was in Irvine, now we're in Thousand Oaks. We moved coaches and players and families. To provide leadership and consistency, he's done a model job."
But in providing his typically solid, albeit undisciplined, defenses with at least adequate complimentary offenses, he's failed. Repeatedly.
Fisher has boasted offenses ranked in the top 10 in yards and/or points merely three times in 22 seasons. Good luck, Stan Kroenke, getting the desired return on your two biggest player investments — 2015 Rookie of the Year Todd Gurley and 2016 top pick Jared Goff. Gurley is mired in the worst kind of sophomore slump, while Goff two weeks ago was handed the keys to the 31st-ranked offense, directed by Rob Boras, whom we've been hearing is under-qualified to be entrusted with Goff's growth.
In that regard, we reported last week if Fisher survives yet another "7-9 bullsh*t" season (likely worse) he infamously vowed this summer to avoid on "Hard Knocks," he'll do so by replacing Boras with a more proven QB developer. But should Fisher's past track record in identifying offensive gurus inspire confidence for Kroenke? That answer should be a resounding "no."
"When we look at it, this is a long-term process, not short-term," Demoff said. "We could have gone out and signed a bunch of free agents and loaded up this year and do all that, but we wanted to build this the right way. That's Stan Kroenke's vision and that's what we're committed to."
Fisher has been building the Rams for five seasons, a long enough sample size to know it isn't being done the right way.