Los Angeles Rams Coach Jeff Fisher, in the final year of a contract that pays him $7 million annually, is reportedly set to get a three-year contract extension, according to ESPN’s John Clayton.
Fisher’s original five-year, $35 million wasn’t a surprise. He had a 142-120 record with the Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers, made the playoffs six times, and brought the Titans to the Super Bowl after the 1999 season. But the news of an extension comes as a bit of a shock because it’s been a very different story with the Rams.
Fisher’s team is coming off a 28-0 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1 and he has yet to post a winning record in over four seasons at the helm of the Rams, going 27–37–1 overall with his best finish a 7-8-1 record in 2012.
Since 2012, there have been six teams who have lost more games than Fisher and the Rams, and five have made at least one coaching change in that span, the lone exception being the Jacksonville Jaguars. Three teams — the Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans — have fired two coaches.
Eight teams with better records than Fisher’s performance with the Rams have also made changes, and two of those, the San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings, were at least over .500.
But maybe this is is a sign that some NFL teams or owners aren’t basing their decisions strictly off wins and losses. For example, the Rams ranked No. 16 in Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average metric last season, which measures a team’s efficiency by comparing success on every single play to a league average based on situation and opponent. That’s soon after ranking dead last in DVOA in the year prior to Fisher’s arrival (2011), and they have hovered around league average ever since.
A $7 million payday for a coach that is average is a bit much — the league average is closer to $4.8 million — but there are some reasons to believe Fisher might be worth the money.
The Rams’ seven wins in 2015 came despite playing the third toughest schedule based on average DVOA of opponents. And, since 2012, the team has faced one of the top three most-difficult schedules in the NFL three times, with the fourth, 2014, ranking No. 9. That’s to be expected sharing a division with the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals, both of whom are among the six favorites to win Super Bowl LI.
Fisher should get a lot of credit for improving the Rams defense. The team’s defensive DVOA ranking has never ranked below No. 11 under Fisher’s watch and last year’s unit ended the season at No. 7. That same defense allowed only 1.57 points per drive, the eighth lowest output in the league.
Consider too that Fisher really has never benefited from having a franchise quarterback — or at least a healthy one. And considering the results despite that deficiency at the game’s most important position, the overall performance of the Rams isn’t too bad.
To be sure though, the offense remains an issue and is getting progressively worse since Fisher took over despite him lifting them from the basement. For example, in 2011, the team’s offensive DVOA rank was No. 32. a year later it was No. 21 but has since slid to No. 29 in just three short years. Perhaps newly drafted quarterback Jared Goff can help turn this around — if he ever sees the field. So far journeyman Case Keenum is starting for the team under center.
Fisher’s win-loss record is not a selling point, but after adjusting it for the opponents he has to face and taking into account what he has done with the defense, perhaps an extension makes a little more sense.