Suddenly the Seattle Seahawks’ Thursday night showdown with the Los Angeles Rams is a lot more interesting than just green uniforms or even Seattle’s opportunity to clinch the NFC West. For the first time since Seattle drafted Russell Wilson, Jeff Fisher will not be on the sidelines for the Rams.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported the story Monday morning with a post on Twitter.
Jeff Fisher has been fired as coach for the Los Angeles Rams, per sources. More to come.— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) December 12, 2016
Shortly afterward the Rams confirmed the decision with a public statement by owner Stan Kroenke: “Our performance has not lived up to my or our fans' expectations.”
The timing of the announcement is somewhat bizarre considering Los Angeles was eliminated from the playoffs Sunday, so there’s no room for the coaching change to improve the Rams’ outlook for the rest of the way, although the 42-14 home loss to the Atlanta Falcons surely played a role in the move. L.A. has lost eight of its past nine games after starting the season 3-1, including a win in the home opener over the Seahawks. Perhaps the aim, currently sitting at 4-9, was to initiate a turnaround to reach 7-9, the Rams’ promised land.
UPDATE: Special teams coordinator John Fassel, the son of former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel who has implemented some interesting tricks to thwart the Seahawks since joining the team with Fisher in 2012, has been named interim coach.
The official announcement about the interim hire from the organization emphasized how, under Fassel, “[Johnny] Hekker became the first punter in the NFL to record a punt of 75 yards or more in back-to-back weeks since 1984.” Reminder: the Football Outsiders four-letter code for this team, LARM (to distinguish in historical stats from L.A. Raiders), translates in French to a crying-face emoticon.
in french LA rams aka LARM translates as ~the tears~ https://t.co/U1NhPeIZRv— Beat Valley (@beat_valley) November 7, 2016
Further exacerbating the transition for Fassel and the team is that the new leadership has only three days to prepare before a Thursday Night Football game against Seattle on Thursday. Midseason coaching changes are often implemented before a bye week, to give the most possible time to adjust—although they sometimes come this late in the year, the choice to fire Fisher before a Thursday game is extremely unusual.
Fisher entered 2016 on the last year of his contract, but was recently reported to have signed a new deal. So the firing comes just weeks after that announcement became officially public, which is further strange, but Kroenke was rumored to have granted the extension before the season so this action is not as contradictory as the late extension news would make it seem.
No news yet how this change affects the status of Los Angeles general manager Les Snead, who was implicated in part of a gossipy beef with Fisher during the past week but who has also been reported to be on the hot seat. Among other front office bloopers, Snead’s unbalanced trade for the top pick in 2016, and subsequent selection of Jared Goff (who went 24-41 with two interceptions Sunday, and didn’t break the lineup until week 11), leaves the Rams without a first round pick in next year’s draft.
Adding to the weirdness, Los Angeles COO Kevin Demoff, who is the son of Fisher’s agent Marvin Demoff, will make a statement to the press at 3 pm Pacific time, presumably to introduce Fassel and outline the upcoming search for a permanent hire.
Fisher went 173-165-1 in 22 years as head coach of the Houston Oilers, Tennesee Titans, St. Louis Rams and Los Angeles Rams (those are actually just two teams)—but was only 31-45-1 with the Rams over five years. His ouster saves him (unless he gets another job) from setting the outright record as the losingest NFL head coach of all time. Sunday’s loss tied him with former Denver Broncos, Giants and Falcons coach Dan Reeves. Fisher coached in Super Bowl XXXIV with the Titans, and technically won a title as a player on the 1985 Chicago Bears although he was on injured reserve the whole season.
Fisher was 5-4 against Seattle as coach of the Rams, including winning four of the past five. Including his time with the Oilers/Titans, however, Fisher was just 6-9 in his career against the Seahawks. No doubt he is most disappointed not to get the opportunity to reach 7-9.