ST. LOUIS — Jeff Fisher spent exactly one season out of the NFL. He will have a huge task in front of him as he gets back to work.
Fisher has accepted an offer to become coach of the St. Louis Rams, a person familiar with the decision said Friday on condition of anonymity because the hiring hadn’t been announced. Fisher chose the Rams over the Miami Dolphins after several days of deliberation, and after he talked with both teams last week.
Fisher was widely considered the top prize in this winter’s coaching-search sweepstakes. He led the Titans franchise for 17 years and helped Tennessee come within a yard of winning the 2000 Super Bowl. He stepped down a year ago as the league’s longest-tenured coach, saying he needed a break, and sat out the 2011 season.
St. Louis’ offer may have trumped Miami’s for several reasons. The Rams have former No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford at quarterback, the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft and a favorable salary-cap situation. In addition, chief operating officer is Kevin Demoff is the son of Fisher’s agent, Marvin Demoff.
The Rams might offer more power, too. The franchise is replacing both coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney.
“I’m pumped,” fullback Britt Miller told The Associated Press. “I figured that because he wanted a little more control that Miami was probably not the place for him. I’m really pumped.”
The Dolphins now will turn to other candidates. They’ve interviewed Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, Chicago Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub, and Todd Bowles, Miami’s interim coach for the final three games after Tony Sparano was fired.
St. Louis opted for an experienced hand after failing with Spagnuolo, a former defensive coordinator who was just 10-38 in three seasons. The Rams interviewed several assistant coaches, including Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski on Thursday in Denver.
St. Louis was considered a franchise on the rise after making a six-win improvement in 2010 and playing for the NFC West title in the finale, but were a total flop in 2011. The Rams haven’t had a winning season since 2003, and they had the NFL’s worst offense last season. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels recently left to return to the Patriots.
St. Louis was not competitive early against a tough slate of opponents and the lineup was decimated by injuries later in the year. Bradford got punished in a scheme that featured long-developing pass patterns, and he missed six games with a high left ankle sprain. Three offensive linemen landed on injured reserve.
The defense, Spagnuolo’s calling card, was ranked near the bottom against the run.
For all his longevity in Tennessee, Fisher had only six winning seasons with the Titans franchise, and a succession of 8-8 finishes prompted detractors to deride him as “Coach .500″ or “Coacho Ocho.” His most recent playoff victory came in January 2004, and his most recent winning record was in 2008 when the Titans squandered the No. 1 seed in the AFC by losing in the divisional round.
But Fisher led his team to at least 12 wins four times, and his career record is 142-120 (.542). He coached more games for one franchise than all but six coaches, all Hall of Famers.
AP Sports Writer Steven Wine in Miami contributed to this report.