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The Titans, in a surprising move, announced Jeff Fisher would not be retained as head coach on Thursday.
Fisher was the NFL's longest-tenured head coach at the time of his departure, having completed his 16th full season with Tennessee. The news of the head-coaching change comes 20 days after owner Bud Adams said Fisher was going to be back for the 2011 season, the final one under his contract.
"We will be forever appreciative of Jeff Fisher's leadership and accomplishments through his time with our franchise," the Titans said in a team-issued statement Thursday. "We reached some of our greatest heights and experienced some unforgettable moments during his tenure.
"After the season was complete, we had numerous discussions on the direction of the team and were pleased that we were moving forward with Jeff at the helm. Since that time, it became evident that consensus was increasingly hard to find and reality wasn't matching the vision we discussed. It is unfortunate that this decision is coming at this juncture, but we believe that we have reached the point where change is in the best interest of both parties.
"We will start the head coaching search tomorrow. We expect to talk to a broad and diverse group of candidates. We are confident the coaching pool still has a number of quality candidates that can lead our football team."
In his own statement released by the team, Fisher thanked Adams, the organization and fans.
"We all did our very best and I think I can look back with fond memories and be very proud of what we accomplished," he said. "I want to wish the organization, the current players and the fans nothing but the best in the future."
Including playoffs, Fisher, 51, led the Titans to 147 victories, the most in franchise history. However, the Titans have missed the playoffs the last two seasons, and the 2010 campaign, after a promising start, turned disastrous. QB Vince Young and Fisher clashed, with Young walking out on the team after a loss to Washington. After a 5-2 start, the Titans went 1-8 the rest of the way.
On Jan. 5, Adams announced the team would be moving on without Young. Now, he is also looking for a new head coach.
The PFW spin
Fisher's departure could signal the start of a major rebuilding phase for the Titans. Were Fisher to have returned, he would have been coaching for his job; the Titans were very much in playoffs-or-bust mode.
The timing of Fisher's departure is less than ideal for the Titans. They begin their coaching search after seven other clubs have either hired (or promoted) new head coaches. The search begins after Senior Bowl practices, a key part of the evaluation process, have wrapped up. If the Titans release or trade Young, as Adams has declared, the club lacks a clear-cut starting quarterback for 2011. The team also has a host of concerns on defense, with the team finishing near the bottom of the league in yards allowed the last two seasons.
Whomever Adams hires will inherit a roster with two key building blocks in RB Chris Johnson and WR Kenny Britt. If the Titans can draft, sign or trade for the right quarterback, they can be competitive in the AFC South.
Nonetheless, the Titans are in a challenging position. Their offseason changes will be major and potentially franchise-altering.
Finding a new head coach and quarterback clearly fall into those categories.