A week after Ian Rapoport from the NFL Network reported Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher had signed a two-year contract extension, Fisher was terminated by the team. “Making a decision such as this—especially during the season—is one of the most difficult in sports, said Rams Owner/Chairman E. Stanley Kroenke. I have great respect for Jeff as a coach, person, father and friend.”
Fisher has just suffered his 165th career loss in a 42-14 blowout at home against the Atlanta Falcons. In doing so, he tied Dan Reeves for the most career losses by an NFL head coach. His overall record is 173-165-1 through 22 seasons.
The Rams are 5-11 and playing out the remaining two games of the season under interim coach John Fassel. The team was outscored 117-45 over weeks 12, 13, and 14.
Fisher’s termination comes after a very public and embarrassing dispute between the head coach and legendary Rams running back Eric Dickerson unfolded.
On his AM 570 radio show, Dickerson said Fisher wouldn’t allow him on the sideline because of his criticism of the team as part of his duties as an NFL commentator. Fisher first denied the claim. “I don’t know where that’s coming from with Eric,” Fisher said. “He’s always welcome. He’s welcome in the building. I’d love to have him come in. I’d love to have him come to practice.”
Team COO Kevin Demoff attempted to do further damage control through a series of tweets to reassure the public and Dickerson that there was indeed no riff between the parties.
The city of Inglewood has a lot riding on the success of the Rams, including the money that will roll in from taxes generated by the new state-of-the-art facility when it opens in 2019, and associated development needs to provide a surge of new revenues to boost the $9 million annual structural operating deficit.
The team is filling just 89.4 percent of their capacity this season, one of only two NFL teams under 90 percent according to ESPN. The other team is the San Diego Chargers, who might also move to Los Angeles after the 2016 season.
An average attendance of 83,687 is second in the NFL. However, anyone who has been to a Rams game at the Coliseum can point to a swath of empty seats and rows around the stadium where both attendance and expectations are low when considering the team has the second-largest stadium in the NFL.
Kroenke and the rest of the Rams organization has quite a bit of work to do in order to be the win-win the fans and the city of Inglewood have long expected. Who Fisher is replaced by will be a significant step in doing so.