The Rams stunned the football world on Monday afternoon, firing long-time head coach Jeff Fisher just a few months after handing him a two-year contract extension. Just last week, Fisher confirmed he signed that deal before the start of the 2016 season.
Special teams coordinator John Fassel, the son of former Giants head coach Jim Fassel, has been named the team's interim head coach.
"This was solely based on performance," said Kevin Demoff, Rams executive vice president of football operations, during a news conference Monday. "Today was the best chance to move forward and finish the season with some direction and hope. It's unfortunate for him today because this is an organizational failure ... this is just not about the head coach and coaching staff. We have to improve across the board."
Demoff went on to say that the Rams losing eight of its last nine games ultimately "tipped" the decision to get rid of Fisher. In addition, when asked if general manager Les Snead could be in jeopardy, Demoff said "it would be a mistake to say anybody in the building would be back next year."
The 58-year-old Fisher has been in charge of the club since 2012 and in that time compiled a 31-45-1 record with zero playoff appearances. He burned through a No. 1 overall pick at quarterback which he inherited (Sam Bradford) and selected Jared Goff with the top selection in this year's draft.
In a lot of ways, Fisher left the team no choice. The Rams had to decide between staying the course, which has not allowed them to sniff the postseason in this decade, or offer a lifeline to the team's budding young stars on offense and defense. No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff, last year's Rookie of the Year Todd Gurley, wide receivers Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt and defensive tackle Aaron Donald would make up an enticing foundation for any head coach on the market. They're likely gambling on the hope that someone can turn the franchise around before the 2019 opening of their new stadium in Los Angeles.
Fisher recently said that the team had to "do a better job from a personnel standpoint," but ultimately took responsibility for the club's win-loss record. The Rams now join the Titans and Buccaneers, who also fired their head coaches a season after selecting a quarterback No. 1 or No. 2 overall in the draft.
"Making a decision such as this -- especially during the season -- is one of the most difficult in sports," said Rams owner and chairman Stan Kroenke said in a statement released by the team. "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."
But it wasn't just the record. These Fisher teams were drubbed. Save for a four-point loss to the Miami Dolphins, the team's last three games were a 49-21 loss to the Saints, a 26-10 loss to the Patriots in which the offense barely approached midfield and a 42-14 blowout at the hands of the Falcons this past weekend in Los Angeles. The team is last in the league in points and total yards on offense. Their defense, which is 10th best in total yards and ninth best against the pass, was the only redeeming quality to a team that should have started to contend in their division by now.
Fisher was one loss away from passing Dan Reeves as the coach with the most in NFL history. He has seven straight seasons without a winning record, which tops the next closest streak in football (owned by Rex Ryan) by two full years.
In half of his 20 complete NFL seasons as head coach, Fisher has been either exactly .500 or within a game of .500, according to NFL Media Research.
Fisher came to define the how it works status quo among NFL head coaches. The prevailing wisdom is that patience always leads to success, with some of the league's most stable franchises weathering the storm for years before the inevitable Super Bowl payoff. Fisher has only reached that plateau once, back in 1999 as the head coach of the Tennessee Titans.
It will be interesting to see if he ever gets another chance to lead a team. His age is by no means a deterrent and the last time he was on the market he had options, choosing St. Louis over the Miami Dolphins. According to NFL Network's Michael Silver, the Dolphins took him on a helicopter ride back in 2012 as part of what Silver called an "ostentatious recruiting effort." That season, he went 7-8-1 as the head coach of the Rams.
The news was greeted with a celebratory tone from at least one franchise legend, running back Eric Dickerson, who said that he would not attend another home game while Fisher was head coach.
"It was something that had to happen," Dickerson said on Fox Sports Radio. "When you have the players giving up on you, you have to make a change."
Dickerson said that "of course" he would attend games now.