This morning ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg weighed in on this subject:
“I’m told former Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher is a potential target for Vanderbilt. Fisher remains popular in Nashville, and new Vanderbilt athletic director Malcolm Turner wouldn’t hesitate to make a nontraditional hire.”
Well it’s not quite silly season yet, but the Nashville Scene’s reasons behind liking this idea are certainly logical ones.
At some point, Vanderbilt has to come to terms with who they are and where they fall in the hierarchy of the Southeastern Conference. Now, the ‘Dores can simply resign to the fact that they’ll constantly take flyers on youngish assistants without head-coaching experience or mid-major transplants, but that means resigning to the fact that either the coach won’t be able to compete or he will be able to but will inevitably be hired away in three or four years.
Or, Malcolm Turner can hire a grizzled old hand like Fisher who still has the fire for coaching. North Carolina hired Mack Brown (a good Tennessee boy whose brother Watson once trod the sidelines at West End and is the losingest coach in college football history — synergy!), Frank Solich has been at Ohio more than twice as long as he was at Nebraska. Herm Edwards is down at Arizona State, and Les Miles is loving life at Kansas (as much as one can love life at Kansas). David Cutcliffe is at Duke. Et cetera and so on.
These are exactly the programs Vanderbilt should emulate. Middling Power Five programs, particularly those with exacting academic standards (like the aforementioned Duke and UNC) should be the comparables for Vanderbilt, and if nothing else, hiring Fisher will get people talking about Vandy football instead of groaning about it and wondering when baseball season starts.
This isn’t a bad line of thinking. If Vanderbilt hires the young up-and-comer, the odds are it will end like either James Franklin (successful, then gets hired away after three years) or Derek Mason (we assume, at least, this ends with him getting fired.) Whereas if you hire a Cutcliffe, odds are he’s not going to be tempted by a bigger job, or that said bigger job would hire him.
Except that hiring the old hand who’s not going to leave for another job isn’t guaranteed to work, and anyway, even if the siren song of a blue blood won’t get them, the siren song of spending time with the grandkids will, and probably sooner than you think. After all, Jeff Fisher is younger than you might have assumed at 61, but 61 is still nobody’s idea of young. What exactly is the difference between hiring another James Franklin who takes a bigger job after a few years, and hiring a Jeff Fisher who just decides he’d rather just sit in his recliner after a few years? That one of them hurts the school’s sense of self-worth?
What’s more, this isn’t guaranteed to work. Remember: Jeff Fisher got fired from his last job because instead of modernizing the offense, he decided to try to fit Jared Goff into the same old stodgy NFL offense of the 1990s. And Fisher has held exactly zero college coaching positions, ever. This sounds more like Lovie Smith than it does any of the names above (and of course, the article makes a hell of an assumption about how Herm Edwards’ Arizona State tenure, Les Miles’ Kansas tenure, and Mack Brown’s second UNC tenure will go.)
The best point the Scene makes specific to Jeff Fisher is that he spends a ton of time in the Midstate... which, okay, that’s nice. It also doesn’t explain why Vanderbilt would want to hire him.
A head coaching candidate might not succeed because a head coaching candidate might not succeed. This is true whether you’re hiring a head coach who’s still in his 30s or one in his 60s. But the real basic reality to this is that you can’t hire a coach based on whether he’ll stay past his fifth year — because first he has to make it to his fifth year. That’s the same stupid argument that people make about Jerry Stackhouse: “but he’s just going to jump to the NBA or UNC if he wins here!”
Right — because UNC or an NBA team is going to be interested in a guy who had a mediocre run at Vanderbilt. So hiring a coach that nobody else is interested in hiring away from you is the answer?