Jeff Fisher, formerly the Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive coordinator, agreed to terms Tuesday on a three-year deal to revamp the Rams’ defense.
Fisher, 32, will bring Eagle secondary coach Tom Bettis and the Eagles’ intimidating defensive style with him to the Rams.
“I think in Jeff we’re getting one of the rising young stars in the NFL,” Coach John Robinson said Tuesday. “He’s young, but he’s at the same age when John Madden and Don Shula were when they got major jobs.
“I know Jeff and I believe he has a brilliant future in this league. I think I’m getting him at a great time. His best work is just about to happen.”
Fisher also wanted to bring along Eagle defensive line coach Dale Haupt, but Haupt apparently has decided to remain in Philadelphia. No other Eagle assistants are expected to follow Fisher. The Rams will interview San Diego Charger defensive line coach Gunther Cunningham later this week.
Fisher, who played defensive back for Robinson at USC, replaces Fritz Shurmur, who coached the Rams’ defense for nine years before Robinson fired him and five other assistants last week. Although he had the opportunity to remain with the Eagles after Buddy Ryan was fired as head coach, Fisher said he chose to leave for the chance to rebuild the Rams’ defense his own way.
“The decision was to come in and implement a system and be excited about it and bring a new look to a place where there are some people who can make the improvements,” Fisher said Tuesday from Mobile, Ala., where he is scouting talent at the Senior Bowl.
“They’ve given me a chance and I’m not going to let them down.”
Fisher leaves a defense featuring talented veterans such as Reggie White to join a defense that both Fisher and Robinson concede needs an infusion of talent.
“You’re aware of the players out there in Philadelphia, the people we have up front, the system is in,” Fisher said. “Of course, (leaving) that was a difficult decision for me.
“But in talking with Coach Robinson about the direction he’s heading in defensively, I thought it was great opportunity for me to start over. He’s committed to start over, implement a fresh scheme, an aggressive scheme, do whatever it takes to bring people to fit the scheme itself.”
Fisher said he has watched film of the Rams’ defense, and that his first priority, as always, is to get some consistent pressure on the quarterback. The Rams had only 30 sacks last season--only 12 of those coming from the defensive line.
“I feel like we’ve got to get some pressure up front and if that means (rushing) more than four, then we’ll go,” Fisher said. “I’m actually excited about the linebackers, I think the linebackers can rush the passer.”
Fisher, who said he was pleased with the Rams’ talent level at safety, also said that although the Rams have indicated they would be interested in the Plan B market, he didn’t expect to restock the defense with Plan B players.
But Fisher is also known to be interested in bringing in at least a few players familiar with his style--former Eagle middle linebacker Mike Reichenbach, currently a backup with the Dolphins, and current Eagle backup safety Terry Hoage. Both almost certainly will be available in Plan B.
“It took us a couple years in Philadelphia to get us to the point where we were competitive,” Fisher said. “And there are some better people here in Los Angeles than there were in Philadelphia when we came to Philly.
“There’s not a Reggie White here, we can’t go out and find a dominant defensive lineman, but I’m excited about the people. I think the players themselves will be surprised how productive they can be in a new scheme.”
Fisher was the only candidate Robinson interviewed.
“I just felt he was the guy I wanted--my first move,” Robinson said.
“I think he brings the kind of defense, plus he brings a newness and an excitement--a guy on the rise.”