Patriots

Patriots

Jeff Fisher in August: “I’m not going f****** 7-9. Or 8-8. 0r 9-7, OK. Or 10-6 for that matter. This team’s too talented. I’m not … going … to settle for that. K? I know what I’m doing.” 

Jeff Fisher in November? Embroiled in a pissing contest with Rams Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson because Dickerson didn’t pump the tires of Forever .500 Fisher.

With a cross-country trip to visit the Patriots looming this Sunday, Fisher finds himself stomping out a stupid brushfire because he chose to wag his finger at Dickerson as to the way the quid-pro-quo game is supposed to be played.

“As I told him in the conversation, you can’t have it both ways, you can’t be critical and then come back and ask for this, and ask for that,” Fisher said. “That’s just common sense. And we got it resolved. Again, based on that last conversation I had with him and the text, it was resolved. Anything about New England?” 

Given Dickerson’s continued agitating since his conversation with Fisher, it clearly isn’t all resolved.

And this may be why the Rams -- despite the breadth of talent they have in all three phases -- are going to have to go on a tear to avoid going 7-9. Or 8-8. Or 9-7, OK?

 

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Fisher is the king of quid pro quo. It’s how he’s survived so long. He hasn’t coached a playoff game since 2008. He hasn’t won a playoff game since 2003. Since taking over the Rams in 2012, his win totals are seven, seven, six and seven.

But he is the anti-Belichick in terms of cozying up to the league office and doing its bidding in ways great and small.

Consider this past offseason. The league office wanted to make sure that, with three teams eyeballing a move to Los Angeles, Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s team got most-favored nation status. The backroom dealing is all detailed in this ESPN story. And no coach could be counted upon to advance the league’s interests more than Fisher.

He joined the NFL’s Competition Committee in 2000 and was co-chairman of the group from 2001 through 2010. Even when he out of coaching in 2011, he was retained as a Competition Committee advisor. He rejoined the group in 2012 and stepped down this year with the Rams move to LA looming.

Not coincidentally, the Rams then made sure get themselves to the top of the draft where they could inject some drama into the proceedings by starting a “Who will they take?” debate between not-so-glamorous candidates Jared Goff and Carson Wentz.

First, it was leaked that the Rams would take Wentz. Then, as PFT’s Mike Florio wrote at the time “The Rams have leaked to (MMQB’s Peter) King that they don’t know ‘with certainty’ who they’ll pick. And they’ll apparently adhere to that approach until they are on the clock two weeks from tonight, in order to ensure that the top of the draft will preserve some amount of intrigue. …

“The greater value flows to the NFL, which wants to ensure that the draft will draw maximum interest and ratings and revenue. Which is precisely why the Rams have leaked to King the notion that it’s not a done deal that they’ll take Wentz.”

Good publicity? Great publicity.

Fisher and the Rams were also co-conspirators in making sure Missouri’s Michael Sam was drafted in 2014. Even though Sam was a standout at Missouri, he was viewed as an NFL tweener and not highly regarded as a prospect. But, as the first openly gay player in the draft, the NFL knew it would face backlash if Sam went undrafted. Fisher took the plunge for them in the seventh round and NFL Media was -- coincidentally -- embedded that day to give a behind-the-scenes recounting of how it all went down.

 

It was subsequently reported that Fisher agreed to select Sam if the NFL would keep his team off of the HBO show Hard Knocks that season. Fisher bristled at the very notion he’d engage in an episode of back-scratching. Sam? He said he was “Not surprised at all.” 

I wrote about this in some detail back in April.

The upshot of all this as it relates to New England is that Fisher -- as a longtime NFL apple polisher -- has adhered to and promoted the league’s party line as it relates to the Patriots.

For more than a decade, he’s been part of the Competition Committee cabal that’s tried to bring the Patriots to heel for everything from the way they handle receivers, to the way they take advantage of formation rules.

During the so-called SpyGate was controversy in 2007, Fisher frequently fanned himself with his hymnal over the fact the Patriots recorded the hand signals of opposing team’s defensive coaches.

"The rules are very, very clear,” Fisher said on one occasion. There is no need to be more specific or clarify any rules whatsoever.”

Meanwhile, Fisher’s defenses are frequently considered among the dirtiest in the league. Given that rep, Fisher’s hiring of BountyGate villain Gregg Williams to coordinate his defense was a bold move, to say the least.

Last year, when the Rams laid a dirty hit on Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater, it wasn’t hard to connect that to Williams’ “kill the f****** head” directives with the Saints. 

Former Patriot Rodney Harrison pointed that out and noted how little respect he had for Fisher. Fisher responded in kind.

So Sunday, the Patriots will see Fisher and his Rams. The last two games against Fisher’s teams, the Patriots won 59-0 and 45-7.

Fisher may tell his team at some point this week that he “is not losing f****** 59-0 on Sunday…” We’ll see if they respond better now than they did in August.