St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher has been around the NFL a long time.
When Jeff Fisher got his first head coaching job, the Tennessee Titans were the Houston Oilers, the St. Louis Rams played in Los Angeles alongside the Raiders, Art Model’s Cleveland Browns were still in Cleveland while professional football fans in Baltimore rooted for the CFL’s Stallions.
- A lot has changed since late November 1994 when Bud Adams fired Jack Pardee and Kevin Gilbride and named Jeff Fisher as head coach of the Houston Oilers.
For the record, by that time the 1994 Steelers had already beaten the Houston Oilers twice. Once in a Monday night blowout where Cody Carlson completed 3 of 7 passes before getting knocked out of the game, and another where Rod Woodson and Gary Anderson did a redux of their forced-fumble, game overtime winning field goal from the 1989 Steelers Astrodome playoff win. So it wasn’t until wasn’t until the 1995 season that Jeff Fisher first faced the Pittsburgh Steelers.
For 16 years Jeff Fisher coached the Houston Oilers, Tennessee Oilers, and Tennessee Titans. Thatâs a long time to be an NFL coach, and one of the benefits of such a long coaching tenure is that it gives you a deep pool of data to draw conclusions from.
Jeff Fisher’s record in Houston and Tennessee was 141-115 for a winning percentage of .551, and included a heart breaking loss in Super Bowl XXXIV. He also coached against the Steeler 21 times, including the playoffs.
During those same 16 years the Pittsburgh Steelers amassed a 160-95-1 record for a winning percentage of .625. They also won Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII and appeared in Super Bowl XXX and Super Bowl XLV.
- Despite Pittsburgh’s superior performance over those sixteen years, the Steelers record vs Jeff Fisher is only 9-12.
In other words, the Steelers had a .625 winning percentage against the rest of the NFL, but only managed a measly .428 vs. Jeff Fisher. Interpreted literally, the Steelers were almost 20% worse against Jeff Fisher than the rest of the NFL.
Why is the Pittsburgh Steelers record vs Jeff Fisher so poor?
What’s going on here?
First, let’s give Jeff Fisher his due. He is a disciple of Buddy Ryan, than man whom Bud Adams brought in to run Buddy Ryan’s defense after Buddy Ryan left to coach the Arizona Cardinals. Ron Erhardt was the Steelers offensive coordinator then, and his troubles vs. Buddy Ryan’s defenses dated back to their battles in the NFC East during the 1980’s, when Buddy Ryan’s Eagles routinely gave Bill Parcell’s Giants fits.
While Chan Gailey, Kevin Gilbride, Mike Mularkey, and Ken Whisenhunt made modifications, Ron Erhardt served as the Steelers offensive base during that time.
- While that’s an important factor, Pittsburgh’s poor record vs. Jeff Fisher is probably better explained by a Tomlinism.
“Players play, coaches coach.” At the end of the day, the best scheme in the world won’t matter if the players on the field fail to execute it. And during the majority of his tenure in Houston and Tennessee, Jeff Fisher had one player who executed to near perfection: Steve McNair.
As Steel Curtain Rising noted on the day Steve McNair died, McNair’s record against the Steelers was 11-5.
- To put that into context, the Steelers record in seasons where McNair started against them was .594.
Without McNair, the Jeff Fisher hasn’t done quite so well against the Steelers. He does however, have another tendency going his way in this Sunday’s match up. The Pittsburgh Steelers are 1-11-1 vs. the Cleveland, Los Angeles and St. Louis Rams on the road.
- However, the Steelers lone road win against the Rams came during Mike Tomlin’s rookie season in 2007.
It says here that the Steelers match up vs. the Rams will come down to how well the Steelers offensive line can stand up against Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, and Chris Long to give Ben Roethlisberger time to throw and Le’Veon Bell room to run.
But Jeff Fisher is certainly one NFL coach who is no stranger to putting his players in position to succeed against the Pittsburgh Steelers.