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Jeff Fisher ready for challenge of rebuilding the St. Louis Rams
ST. LOUIS (AP) ' Jeff Fisher says he is ready for the challenge in St. Louis.
Fisher was formally introduced as the new coach of the Rams on Tuesday. He also interviewed for the head coaching job at Miami, but went with the rebuilding job in St. Louis.
"My decision was very, very simple," he said. "It was based on a shared collective vision in restoring this franchise to a place of significance. It was that vision that made my decision very, very easy."
Owner Stan Kroenke said the team and Fisher had just signed a contract that will keep Fisher in place "for a good while."
"I think the more we talked the more comfortable we got," Kroenke said. "Jeff was absolutely what we were looking for. I told him that early on. He's a great coach, a great leader."
Added chief operating officer Kevin Demoff: "The time was now for a bold statement for the organization."
Fisher inherits a franchise with a recent history of futility. The Rams have totaled just 15 victories the last five seasons under Scott Linehan, interim coach Jim Haslett and Steve Spagnuolo.
The 53-year-old Fisher sat out the 2011 season after 17 years in Tennessee. His long stint with the Titans included a Super Bowl matchup against the Rams in 2000 in which Tennessee fell 1 yard shy of forcing overtime in a 23-16 loss. The Titans won three division titles and made six playoff appearances under Fisher, who stepped down a year ago as the league's longest-tenured coach, saying he needed a break.
Yet after the Rams fired Spagnuolo, Fisher's name immediately jumped to the top of the search list.
The Rams had an advantage in the bidding against the Dolphins since the new coach's agent is Marvin Demoff, Kevin's father. Former coach Dick Vermeil was a consultant in the process, with Kroenke playing an active role.
Fisher was interviewed twice, once in Denver where Kroenke owns the Nuggets and Avalanche, and again in St. Louis where he toured facilities and met with quarterback Sam Bradford. Kroenke clearly wanted an experienced hand; Spagnuolo and Linehan both came to St. Louis untested beyond coordinator duties. Spagnuolo, fired along with general manager Billy Devaney, was just 10-38 in three seasons.
St. Louis was considered a franchise on the rise after making a six-win improvement in 2010 and playing for the NFC West title in the finale, but was a total flop in 2011, playing a brutal schedule and decimated by injuries. The Rams haven't had a winning season since 2003, and they had the NFL's worst offense last season.
For all his longevity in Tennessee, Fisher had only six winning seasons, and a succession of 8-8 finishes brought out the critics. His most recent playoff victory came in January 2004, and his most recent winning record was in 2008 when the Titans squandered the No. 1 seed in the AFC by losing in the divisional round.
But Fisher led his team to at least 12 wins four times, and his career record is 142-120 (.542). He coached more games for one franchise than all but six coaches, all Hall of Famers.
The Rams have the second pick in the April draft after a 2-14 season that tied for the league's worst. It'll be the fourth time in five seasons with either the first or second pick. Fisher also inherits a handful of franchise types including Bradford, running back Steven Jackson, defensive end Chris Long and linebacker James Laurinaitis.
Bradford was the top overall pick in 2010 and was the NFL offensive rookie of the year, although last year he missed six games with a high left ankle sprain and threw only six touchdown passes. Bradford got punished more in Josh McDaniels' offense, which featured long-developing pass plays that stressed a line that ended the year with three players on injured reserve. McDaniels is also gone.
Jackson shows no signs of slowing down with a franchise-record seven consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Long developed into one of the NFL's top pass rush threats and Laurinaitis has led the team in tackles all three of his seasons.