|Don McPeak/US Presswire|
|Jeff Fisher went 147-126 in 16-plus seasons as coach of the Titans before parting ways in 2010.|
Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden were the headline candidates fueling the coaching market rumor mill throughout the fall.
But Jeff Fisher is the one holding all the cards when it counts.
The former Titans coach is this offseason's power broker while Cowher and Gruden watch from the sideline. Miami already has interviewed Fisher, who was spotted at the Buccaneers team hotel over the weekend. Had Bill Polian survived in Indianapolis, and Jim Caldwell had not, it's a near certainty that Fisher would have been near the top of that list as well. San Diego had also been as likely a landing spot as any until Dean Spanos decided to keep Norv Turner.
But here is all you need to know about Fisher's likely destination: Atop his list of priorities is the presence of a franchise quarterback. Despite the Rams' listless 2011 season, I'm told that's just how he sees Sam Bradford, who Fisher interviewed and liked quite a bit at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine.
That's why, connecting the dots, St. Louis is at the top of Fisher's list. The fact that Fisher is represented by Marvin Demoff, who son Kevin is the Rams' COO, only makes it more likely that he'll land in Missouri.
There is, though, one other factor at play here. That's the shakeup in Chicago.
Fisher played safety for the Bears (1981-85) and has maintained a relationship with ownership. As a bonus, he happens to like quarterback Jay Cutler quite a bit. Cutler and former Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, who passed away last September, worked together in Denver in 2006-07 and were very close. The Titans were split over Matt Leinart and Vince Young in 2006, with Bud Adams pulling rank and directing the decision to take Young. The Titans passed on Cutler, who went to college in their backyard at Vanderbilt.
Fisher is aware of the player Cutler has become since then.
The Bears insist Lovie Smith will remain the coach in Chicago for 2012, and he deserves a mulligan for 2011, having lost Cutler and Matt Forte for the stretch run. If a younger executive type such as Eric DeCosta or Les Snead enters the fold the coaching situation likely won't change. But if the Bears swing for the fences for a bigger name like Bill Polian, it's difficult to rule anything out. Polian and Fisher are close, having competed in the AFC South for a number of years.
The bottom line is that Fisher will keep an eye on Halas Hall. As one source with knowledge of his thinking said, "That's the one he's always wanted."
The more likely result remains that Smith will stay put and Fisher lands in St. Louis. But until something happens with Fisher, the coaching carousel is likely to sit at a standstill.
Once he makes his move, pieces elsewhere will start to fall into place.
Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer