I was a teenage boy in 1968 as I sat in the stands at Pitt Stadium with my father and watched Bill Austin direct the Steelers through another miserable season. It was one of those cold, gray, late-season days and the Steelers were losing, which was nothing new.
Austin was in his third year as Steelers coach. He had been a celebrated member of Vince Lombardi's staff in Green Bay and was considered to be one of the best offensive line coaches in the game. His head-coaching skills, however, were not as acute.
In the second half of this game, at the typical crossroads point that losing teams seem to always face as time is winding down, there was a pregnant pause as Austin considered what to do on fourth and one. He started to send out the punt team, which caused the stadium to explode with boos, and that caused Austin to change his mind. He called back the punt team and instructed his offense to go for it, which caused an eruption of cheers. For the record, the Steelers made the first down and there were more cheers, but that's not what was important.
What was important was that at the precise moment Austin allowed the fans to alter his decision, his days as coach of the Steelers were over. That's what I remember thinking as the crowd booed and Austin acquiesced to its demands. I remember it so well. I remember feeling sorry for him.
The head coach must be the ultimate authority. His status as leader of the team must be sacrosanct and unchallenged. That's the way it's always been and that's the way it must always be because the moment his power is usurped, it is gone forever.
Jeff Fisher has always been the face of the Titans franchise. He has led the Titans to the Super Bowl and consistently to the postseason. He has guided the team through a salary-cap purge and reconstruction. During his time as coach, the franchise has grown deep roots in Nashville and the stadium has been sold out. Simply put, under Fisher, the Titans have become a model franchise.
It would be a mistake to allow one player to threaten all of that.
Here are 10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the Titans.
- Stop the run—Fisher is gonna take the Titans back to their roots. Count on it.
- Run the ball—It's the other half of stop the run.
- Don't turn it over—The Titans of old have always fed off takeaways.
- Win the battle of field position—Fisher remains ultra-conservative in his own end of the field.
- Watch for gadgets—Coming out of a bye week, the Titans are certain to have something in store for the Jaguars.
- Break their spirit—The Titans will have plenty of it coming into the game, but 0-6 teams can be persuaded to quit.
- Make him be a passer—That's the strategy the Jaguars have always used successfully against Young. Don't rush him, let him pass.
- Protect the quarterback—The Titans will be armed with sexy blitzes.
- Be aggressive in the red zone—Throw to score.
- Sneak a look at the scoreboard—Being in the playoff race is uplifting.