As Jeff Fisher was going through the courting process before being introduced as the Rams head coach on Tuesday, one of the things he wanted to do was meet with young quarterback
Upon his visit to St. Louis and the Russell Training center little more than a week ago, Fisher spent about half of his time with Bradford as the two got to know each other.
Meeting Bradford and knowing he has a franchise signal caller in place became an extremely valuable part of Fisher’s decision making process.
The visit confirmed what Fisher already believed: that he had perhaps the biggest piece to help win games in the league already in place.
“This year was difficult (for him),” Fisher said. “I think you have to look back at his success and his production in his first year. Difficult for a lot of reasons, the lockout and lack of time together in the offense, but I think he has the chance to be a top quarterback in the National Football League very, very soon.”
Bradford said he didn’t try to make some sort of wild sales pitch to Fisher. Rather, he wanted to get to know the man who would likely be his next coach and see what it would be like to work with him.
“I really just tried to be myself,” Bradford said. “I wasn’t going to be anything but who I am. It was just a time for us to meet and get to know each other. If that helped along the process and helped get him here then I am very happy about it.”
Bradford’s excitement about Fisher’s hiring was pretty much universally shared by many of the Rams’ cornerstone players.
Jackson, who has a chance to break the 10,000 rushing yard mark next season, was noticeably fired up about the chance to play for a coach who made his reputation by leading physical teams with a tendency to pound away in the running game.
“I'm very excited,” Jackson said. “I think what Jeff brings is that he's been a head coach and he has been successful in this league. The other coaches that I've had after Mike Martz were all successful at the time and trendy and hot, but Jeff brings stability, he brings credibility. He's played in the league. He was 1-yard away from winning the Super Bowl.”
Much like Jackson, Rams middle linebacker
“I’m excited about it,” Laurinaitis said. “Coach Fisher is a proven head coach, a coach that has the respect of a lot of people league wide. Players I have talked to that have played under him and know him really enjoy playing for him. So I am excited to get started and excited for us to hire a defensive coordinator and learn the playbook and get going on football stuff.”
Laurinaitis said he always enjoyed watching the powerful Titans teams led by running back Eddie George under Fisher because they were not afraid to get involved in a heavyweight fight.
Fisher’s experience as a player – first at USC and then with the Bears in the NFL – also makes him an appealing coach to players because he knows what they go through.
“When you look at those teams, they were always disciplined, they were always tough, they always seemed to be aggressive just good football teams,” Laurinaitis said. “I think he knows how to be a head coach. He understands the game. Somebody that has played the game who understands the bumps and bruises and everything that goes with it. That gives him instant credibility with the players because he’s been through those things.”
Even as rumors flew that Fisher was considering taking the Miami job over the Rams’, Laurinaitis said his faith in owner Stan Kroenke’s ability to close the deal and make the right decision for the franchise never wavered.
“I have always had all the trust in the world in Mr. Kroenke and the direction he wanted to go with this thing,” Laurinaitis said. “In hiring coach Fisher, and getting him here, it means our organization is going in a certain direction. He expects a consistent winner. I think that’s what you have to expect in the NFL. I am excited to be a part of this organization and hopefully be a part of it for a long time.”
GM NEXT?: With Fisher in place presumable for a “good while” as Kroenke said Tuesday, the next big piece to the Rams’ front office puzzle is finding a general manager, a task that figures to resume quickly.
Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff interviewed Atlanta’s Les Snead, Tennessee’s Lake Dawson and Philadelphia’s Ryan Grigson before the Fisher decision was rendered late last week. Grigson has since taken the general manager’s job in Indianapolis.
Dawson has close ties to Fisher from their three plus years together with the Titans and Fisher will have input into the hiring of the general manager.
“When we started this process two weeks ago, we had two openings,” Demoff said. “Now we have one opening, and we have a tremendous leader in Jeff Fisher. As we discussed with all the coaching candidates, if we hired a head coach first, we’d sit down with those candidates, identify the qualities we were all looking for in a general manager and start that process together. This is the most important relationship in the building, that between a head coach and a general manager. We’ll make sure we get it right, and we’ll make sure we get it right for our building, for our players, our coaches and our fans.”
TEAM WORK: Much has been speculated about how the power will be parceled out in the Rams’ front office upon the hiring of the general manager and how much of that power Fisher sought in the interview process.
On Tuesday, Fisher made it clear that any of those discussions were essentially null and void because the idea of one person yielding the hammer isn’t the shared vision of him, Demoff and Kroenke.
“I’m not going to go into who’s got final say,” Fisher said. “Our philosophy and mine has been for years, that you have to make decisions together and if you can’t arrive on a decision then move on to the next one.”