Thursday, November 6, 2008

Creating an environment conducive to winning

With his team at 8-0 midway through the season, Titans coach Jeff Fisher is getting a lot of attention.

But one article I read said the Titans were winning with "smoke and mirrors."

That really trivializes what Coach Fisher, his staff, and his team have been able to accomplish, not just this year, but over the last several seasons. It implies that what they've done isn't substantial or meaningful, that somehow Coach Fisher and his team aren't really deserving of their record.

According to this article, Coach Fisher has been successful by creating an "environment conducive to winning."

"They know they're permitted to have fun. I want them to look forward to coming to work, even after the toughest losses. A lot of coaches make it harder than it should be. Some are too hard on themselves, obsessing about controlling everything, not trusting their assistants, worrying about time. When you have trust, it gives you a better chance to be successful."

Said one Titans assistant:

"Jeff gets it on so many levels. He is fabulous to coach for. Nobody is tight here. There are no hidden agendas. Everybody enjoys being here. He treats you so well, you want to do well for him. He creates loyalty."

According to his players, Fisher, who "speaks with a soft, understated voice," avoids the highs and lows typically associated with coaching:

"Jeff is very even-keel," said [Titans center Kevin] Mawae, who has played for six NFL coaches. "There are no peaks and valleys. With Bill Parcells, one day he's up, one day he's down. You didn't want to catch him when he was in the valley. Herm Edwards was always high-strung. Tom Flores was always low-strung. Jeff is in the middle, and guys appreciate that."

According to the article in the Chicago Tribune:

Fisher believes distractions are the No. 1 reason teams fail. So he finds ways to minimize them.

"It amazes me how he sees any potential negative as an opportunity," [GM Mike] Reinfeldt says. "He conveys it that way to the team. He believes, so they believe."

Nothing illustrates Fisher's calm better than his 47-2 record when the Titans have a fourth-quarter lead on the road. The only coach in history with a better record in that situation is Vince Lombardi at 38-1-1.

"He is prepared, he's calm, he isn't a big risk-taker and he knows all the rules," Reinfeldt says.

But he breaks the rule that says coaches can't deviate from their blueprint. When it comes to finding ways to win, Fisher is as flexible as a gymnast.

Fisher does not depend on acquiring players who fit his schemes perfectly. He is more willing than most to tailor his schemes to his players' abilities. One of his cardinal rules: Never ask a player to do something he can't do well.

He also knows when and how to push his players' buttons, having what [one assistant] calls "an innate feel" for changing things up. Fisher frequently changes the team's meeting and practice schedule and the manner in which he addresses players.

"You want to keep them captivated," Fisher says.