(Oct. 24)--It was just a playful shot. No big deal. Kind of spices up the week, right? But, coach, it's not as though you're invulnerable to a little shot yourself.
"I didn't think he misunderstood my comments at all," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said of his sarcastic reference to Jack Del Rio's "chopping wood" slogan. Fisher was just being playful. Fisher was just putting an edge on this week's "ax." Del Rio said he wasn't offended.
And Tom Coughlin didn't misunderstand Fisher, either, when following the 1999 AFC title game Fisher claimed Alltel Stadium to be one of the Titans' homefields. Coughlin never shot back. Imagine that kind of discipline.
With all due respect to being playful -- after all, this is a game -- do you think Del Rio would like to upset the Titans this Sunday, then spice up his postgame press conference with a little shot at Fisher? Of course, he would.
Fisher is an outstanding coach. What I admire most about him is his resiliency. He held his team together in the face of a 2001 collapse and a subsequent 1-4 start last season that had people believing the Titans were history. Now, following the Titans' rally to the AFC title game last season and their 5-2 start this year, the Titans have become the most trumpeted team in the AFC.
Very few coaches have produced that kind of turnaround, and to be able to do so is a skill. You don't routinely find that kind of inner strength among the ranks of the hot-shot coordinators. There are lots of guys who can draw plays, but there are only a few coaches who can lead men in times of despair. Fisher is one of those men.
There was a time in 1998 when I honestly believed Fisher wouldn't make it to the 1999 season. The Jaguars played the Titans early in the '98 season, at Vanderbilt, during the Titans' new-homefield-a-year campaign. The Jaguars won that game easily -- too easily -- and I considered it be one of the worst coaching jobs I had ever seen. I figured Fisher was a goner at season's end, especially since the Titans were moving into their new stadium and would probably be in the mood to cut ties with a bulky couple of years in Tennessee.
Here's where Bud Adams and the Titans get a lot of credit. They stuck with Fisher at a time in the game when most teams would've fired him and most fans would've cheered the decision. But Adams and GM Floyd Reese didn't buckle. They stayed strong and committed at a time when weak and wavering are the norms, and the Titans franchise has flourished ever since.
They are the most successful team in the AFC over the last five seasons, and they have reason to be proud. But before they have to have their hand surgically removed from their back -- it may already be too late -- Fisher, his team and his fans should consider their own vulnerability. Del Rio has his "ax." Fisher does, too.
In spite of all their success, the Titans have won no Super Bowls. And that's where Fisher has to watch himself. He's not immune to the biggest shot of all: The guy can't win the big one.
Just being playful, right?
Here's "10 things" the Jaguars have to do to beat the Titans.
- Stop McNair--All you have to do is look at the Titans' offensive stats. This is a one-man team.
- Yell, "Screen!"--The Titans have been beating the Jaguars for years with screen passes to Eddie George and Frank Wycheck. Isn't it about time to figure that out?
- Don't blitz--Yeah, everybody loves the blitz, but that would be playing right into Steve McNair's hands. The Jaguars may have a problem in their secondary with Jason Craft out and Rashean Mathis making his first-ever start at cornerback. The Jaguars will need to give Mathis lots of help; not hang him out to dry by blitzing the "house."
- Don't spy--That stuff doesn't work, anyhow. The Jaguars can't afford to take someone out of coverage for the purpose of shadowing a quarterback whose rushing stats are down. Why play with 10 guys?
- Run it, run it, run it--That's how you "Stop McNair;" by not letting him have the ball. The Titans are third in the league against the run. Find out if that's fact or fiction.
- Protect Leftwich--Fisher believes football is first and foremost a pass-rush game; especially when the opponent has a rookie quarterback. The Jaguars offensive line will be at the test.
- Throw it deep--The Titans secondary is without their best player, Samari Rolle, and they're 31st in the league against the pass. Go ahead, take some shots down the field.
- Bond with the fans--The people in the seats are the diehards. They are the true fans; the real 12th man. It's time for the Jaguars and their true fans to unite.
- Just do it--If this is the "Take Back Our House" season, then this is the definitive "Take Back Our House" game. Do it now or take the signs down.
- Give 'em the ax--Just to be playful, the Jaguars ought to have a little "chopping wood" gesture ready for those moments when they might celebrate a touchdown, sack, etc.