Fisher remains a constant in ever-changing world of coaching

NASHVILLE -- Something about Jeff Fisher makes him a fixture of endurance and perseverance.

As his team gathers for workouts, Fisher builds toward his 14th consecutive full season as an NFL head coach. Those seasons were preceded by six games in 1994 as interim head coach of the Houston Oilers, who became the Titans in 1997.

Jeff Fisher is known as a players coach, and here is what some of his athletes had to say about their leader:

Center Kevin Mawae: "Without sounding too cliché, he is a players' coach who is well respected among coaches in the NFL. He understands player issues, how to compete and is a great coach to play for. Being a dad of an 11-year-old, sometimes I think just going into it that my kid has to respect me because I am dad. No, you have to earn your kid's respect. Same with coaches and players. Jeff delivers on his word. It's the premise Jeff operates on. In my experience, he has been upfront, forthright. Everything he told me has played out like he said it would."

Tight end Alge Crumpler: "I'm glad to be around coach Fisher. He knows the ins and out of the NFL. He has great rapport with his players. He cuts to it. From my NFL experience in Atlanta, damn right, this is good."

Linebacker David Thornton: "Coach Fisher is a person you can talk to about personal things and not feel intimidated. He has trust of the players and the coaches. He talks to you like a man and he expects you to show the same respect to your teammates and coaches. It is a fine line between player and coach, but it has to be one that is more than just coming to work and doing your job. It has to be for you to have a special football team. He understands that and expects you to be professional at your job. Guys sense from the first day they walk in here that coach Fisher is going to handle you in a real way."

Cornerback Cortland Finnegan: "He is a down-to-earth coach. He listens to his players. He is a real personable guy. He's going to talk to you about anything. He tells it like it is. He prepares you for what you are going to see that day. He is a caring coach. You just can't get that anywhere."

Throughout this franchise's voluminous change, Fisher is a constant. Throughout the NFL's staggering coaching commotions, it is Fisher who is currently the longest tenured coach with the same team.

How has he done it?

Well, his owner, Bud Adams, is as old-school as old-school gets. And Adams gets it. Hire a coach you trust, let him work and stick with him. Adams has.

Fisher, 50, has won. Enough. His 120 career victories, two divisional titles, four playoff appearances and trip to Super Bowl XXXIV have solidified his status.

His teams play a fundamental, bruising brand of football with just enough flash and sizzle (see Music City Miracle) to keep you coming back for more. He knows a good football player -- he describes the core ingredients as speed and toughness -- when he sees one and has kept a slew of them on his roster.

He is a defensive tactician bred on USC football, where he played safety under John Robinson; bred on the NFL game, where he played for the Chicago Bears under Mike Ditka and spent the early part of his coaching career under tutors that included Buddy Ryan. In games, Fisher can adjust on the fly on either side of the ball with the best of coaches.

I believe this, however, to be the central key why Jeff Fisher lasts -- he builds amazing trust with his players and they sell out for him. His communication and influence with his players is second to none in the profession.

And his approach with players is uncommon. Courageous. Uplifting. Smart.

"Sometimes coaches are fearful of developing relationships with players," Fisher said. "They don't know how to match that with the model, the line that says there is a definitive one between coach and player. But I have had players like Eddie George, Frank Wycheck and Steve McNair who are lifelong friends. The most important thing you can have in a team is trust. The relationships. You take the rookies we have in here right now, they probably don't trust me. But I'll earn their trust.

"I don't believe that players make mistakes on purpose nor does the coaching staff. If you try to make players do things they cannot do, they won't trust you. But you have to get them to go way beyond their expectations in doing the things they can do. And, this game, it has to be fun. With the pressures, you have to have fun."

This approach -- in a football era of MySpace and Facebook and players who often come from challenging social strata -- keeps Fisher relevant.

He is proud that his three children all attended the same elementary, middle and high schools, a rarity for any parent in the coaching profession. He is moving forward with divorce after more than 20 years of marriage, but those around him every day at the Titans complex say there is not a hint of that evident in his work.

Fisher has changed staffs, changed quarterbacks, changed general managers and succeeded. Every camp, every season for Fisher is more exciting than the last one.

"I wake up every day wanting to win just like my owner does and understand that is why I am here," Fisher said. "Every year, every season for me is like the first one all over again. If you know the truth about yourself, you can get past things. We live in the same world on the field but a very different one off the field. Things are going to happen with players. I'm going to get those 3 a.m. calls. What I do is take a deep breath -- and wait. Wait to get all of the facts. Don't rush to act."

This approach has helped Fisher navigate his franchise through relocation, through stadium transitions and through initial doubt throughout Nashville's and Tennessee's political communities and neighborhoods to loyal acceptance of the Titans. Since 1999, when the Titans moved into their stadium nestled near the Cumberland River, the franchise has sold out every pre-season and regular-season game. His various and frequent charity work in the area has long been applauded.

Two seasons ago, the Titans began 0-5 but finished 8-8, narrowly missing the playoffs. Last season they were a 10-6 playoff team. This accomplished in a division -- the AFC South -- that includes bullies Indianapolis and Jacksonville and upcoming Houston. This season, Fisher's hopes are especially high.

Fisher believes in "trench" football and said his offensive line is one of the best he has employed. His defense is full of playmakers. The team added East Carolina running back Chris Johnson via the draft. Fisher expects Johnson to make plays downfield and complement a host of pound-it Titans backs. Alge Crumpler, in from the Atlanta Falcons, provides a trustworthy dimension at tight end. Fisher sees Vince Young as a developing quarterback who has already set a tone of winning while developing.

It is a good team, a competitive team, an exciting one, Fisher says.

He keeps them focused on the next practice, the next play, the next game. Steady. Measured.

Since 2000, Fisher has served on the league's competition committee and since 2001 he has co-chaired that committee.

His influence, his longevity with the Titans is not a surprise to those around him. He is a vibrant, competitive coach -- back for more.

"I am always looking to see what I can do better," Fisher said. "I think if you just allow coaching in this league to become a way of life you can become complacent and you will be a failure. We've been pretty good here at making comebacks."

Even with gorillas Indianapolis and Jacksonville representing the immediate hurdles to climb, it takes a coach with fire to conquer those gifted teams. Fisher has no problem answering the call.

"They're tough, they're good," Fisher said. "But they've got to play us, too."

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