Sports

Jeff Fisher’s Complicated Legacy of Losing in the NFL

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Is Jeff Fisher overrated? Or are the challenges he has faced in his coaching career misunderstood?

Those two questions are critical to consider now that Fisher has officially been fired, per Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com and confirmed by the Rams. In what was his 22nd season as an NFL coach, Fisher tied Dan Reeves’ record for most career losses, with no Super Bowl titles for either man.

It’s worth noting that four of the top seven coaches in losses are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Tom Landry, Don Shula, George Halas and Chuck Noll).

At the same time, Fisher has twice been the coach of a team that has moved, something no other coach in NFL history has ever done. He has also worked for two owners—the late Bud Adams and now Stan Kroenke—who have track records of failing to win, no matter who they hired as coaches and no matter what sports they have tried.

So now that Fisher is officially gone, it’s fair to ask whether his legacy is more complicated than anybody cares to understand.

Or, to twist a phrase from retired quarterback Peyton Manning, there’s a lot of information represented by the dashes in Fisher’s career record—a lot of stuff that is hard to comprehend for anyone who hasn’t lived that world.

“I’m not sure if you can cut him a break, but it has to be factored into the analysis,” former longtime Raiders executive Amy Trask said of Fisher’s history of moving teams.

As for ownership, former Cleveland and Baltimore executive Phil Savage summed it up.

“It’s really hard if you don’t have great ownership,” Savage said. “Leadership starts at the top. You have to have ownership that’s ready to stomach the things that happen when you struggle. It’s the owner and all the king’s men. You can’t just jump ship.”

Yet Adams and Kroenke are exactly those men who have jumped ship when it came to moving their teams. Along the way, both have hired Fisher to help guide the players through the issues.

Does that make Fisher a uniquely talented coach who has navigated very difficult circumstances? Or do the bottom-line results, including only one Super Bowl appearance compared to Reeves’ four, make him overrated?