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Jeff Fisher is leaving the Rams no choice but to fire him

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After a week of criticism, the Rams’ head coach decided to take the team’s internal squabbles public.

The 2014 ESPYS - Arrivals Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Dec. 12 update: The Rams fired Jeff Fisher on Monday, one day after the Rams lost to the Falcons, falling to 4-9 on the season.

It’s well established that Jeff Fisher owes his 22-year NFL career and slog through mediocrity to his elite excuse making, but that’s only one part of the self-preservation process. Fisher knows when to shift the blame onto others too.

Speaking to the media after practice on Tuesday, the Rams head coach made comments relating to general manager Les Snead that raised eyebrows, especially after Fisher spent a week between embarrassing losses defending his performance and fighting publicly with Eric Dickerson.

It started with Fisher responding to a question about Snead’s contract extension, which was also reported Sunday. He claimed not to know Snead had signed a deal, too.

“I’m so busy here, I was honestly unaware that he was extended,” Fisher said. “I’m just being honest with you. We’re just working here.”

He went on to add that he and Snead communicate “really well” and were “on the same page."

Apparently not as well as he thinks since he claims not to have known about Snead’s contract extension. It’s a strange claim to make when you go back and think about how news of the contract extensions came out in the first place.

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network broke the story on the morning of Sunday, Dec. 4, and it included news of deals for both Fisher and Snead. The deals had been drawn up and signed earlier in the season. The team never announced them. They still haven’t made any kind of official announcement.

Someone had to have leaked the news of the deal, but nobody is taking credit for it. Fisher confirmed that he had an extension after Sunday’s loss to the Patriots, but he denied that he had anything to do with leaking the news.

Of the parties involved, Fisher would’ve benefitted most from leaking the news as a way to push back against the criticism he faced that week and Dickerson’s public assertion that he the Rams needed to fire their coach.

Whether he leaked news of the contract extension or not, it’s clear that Fisher has circled the wagons to defend himself and make a last ditch effort to save his job or even what little is left of his reputation as a head coach.

It spilled over into the public domain when Fisher took a shot with a comment directed at the general manager during that same Tuesday presser.

“I look at this as being my responsibility, the win-loss record,” he said. “We need to do a better job from a personnel standpoint. We’ve had some unfortunate things take place with some high picks, with Stedman Bailey and Tre Mason and those kind of things that you don’t anticipate. But we’re moving forward.”

The Rams, as usual, posted the video of Fisher’s press conference on their web site, but the comments about Snead’s extension and the personnel issues have been edited out.

Fisher took the Rams’ job back in 2012 for two reasons: Sam Bradford and control over the personnel side of things.

He explained his reasoning in one of several glowing profiles that Mike Silver wrote back in 2012.

"At the end of the day I wanted the ability to have final say, with a general manager I could build something with," Fisher said. "And ultimately, a lot of it came down to Stan [Kroenke] and Sam [Bradford]."

Snead, who worked for Thomas Dimitroff in Atlanta prior to this, was hired a month after Fisher. The two have been tightly connected every since. What’s not clear is exactly how much say Fisher has over the personnel department.

As Albert Breer of the MMQB points out, the decision to let cornerback Janoris Jenkins leave in free agency wasn’t their call. Jenkins, who could be excellent one play and get blown up on the next, has had an outstanding and consistent season with the Giants.

In Silver’s piece, Fisher gets credit for using Bradford as the leverage to trade away the team’s second overall pick that year in a blockbuster deal with Washington. With a haul like that, most teams would’ve stocked up on talent and competing for deep run into the playoffs. Not the Rams.

Most of the players they drafted with those additional picks are gone, including Jenkins, the most successful of those players. And the Fisher’s already locked up his fifth straight non-winning season with the Rams.

The Rams are a mess on the field and on the administrative side as well. Breer describes a team characterized as a “junior high” atmosphere. However, Fisher’s the only one who’s opted to take the spat to the media.

Snead didn’t have anything to say about Fisher’s comments on Tuesday night while filling in for the coach on his weekly radio program. But he did make one interesting comment, about the NFL’s worst offense:

“Any time you’re where we’re at 32nd, you get frustrated,” Snead said, according to the OC Register. “Frustration is a good word, but the biggest thing is trying to come back, not only during the game but when you go back and watch film and try to figure out what you need to do to improve.”

A struggling Rams offense isn’t a new thing under Fisher. The offense has gotten worse every year under Fisher.

Some of that has to do with the poor personnel decisions. They’re on their third attempt at a franchise quarterback, Jared Goff. As Chase Stuart points out, they’ve used more draft capital than any other team on running backs. The offensive line and wide receiver position hasn’t been any better, including high-profile misses like Tavon Austin, the eighth pick in 2013, and left tackle Greg Robinson, a flat out bust the team used the second overall pick on in 2014.

Another source in Breer’s report was more direct in pushing back on Fisher’s comments.

“It pissed me off because I knew it was meant as a shot,” said one Rams source. “You see it under that umbrella—‘We need to do a better job in personnel.’ OK, but you want everyone to think that you have full control. You can’t have it both ways, and it can’t always be the talent.”

The Rams haven’t been a total failure under Fisher. Kroenke hired him, in part, because of his experience moving a team, the owner’s main goal with the franchise for a long time.

With the promise of a luxury stadium complex in Los Angeles, Kroenke got the NFL’s blessing and moved this year. We’ve heard Fisher use that move as an excuse more than a few times this season.

Los Angeles isn’t as forgiving of a media market as St. Louis was. Fans at the Coliseum, the Rams’ temporary home, have already booed the team and will have a few more chances to do so with three home games left. The local media hasn’t been so quick to accept Fisher’s excuses. Finally, the franchise’s most recognizable alumni has hammered the coach and even gone so far as to point out the cozy relationship he has with the organization, that Fisher’s agent is the father of the team’s COO, who reports directly to the owner.

With criticism mounting, Fisher chose to take the interoffice squabbling public this week. He even did it with that signature Fisher flair, telling the audience that he’s not making excuses right before he offers up an excuse. In true Fisher style, he’s found another excuse for his own faults and limitations as a head coach and personnel man.

There’s more than enough blame to go around for the Rams’ failure on the field, personnel decisions and coaching. The question now is how does a team move forward, a team that needs to sell a lot of tickets and luxury seats in a new stadium, with a head coach intent on taking the organization’s ugly inner workings public?

Contract extensions or not, it looks increasingly like the Rams will do some housecleaning once the season ends.

Jeff Fisher's historically mediocre career