San Jose Mercury

Titans coach would be a big catch for 49ers
January 19, 2003

By Tim Kawakami
Mercury News

Six picks and assorted bric-a-brac and blurbs for Super Bowl week and beyond:

TENNESSEE COACH JEFF FISHER can fulfill his NFL destiny today and maybe get the 49ers' coach-searchers thinking creatively if his Titans find a way to upset the Raiders in the AFC championship game.

My, it must have been 14 years ago. Fisher was 30 and serving as Buddy Ryan's Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator, only a couple of years after ending his career as a cornerback on the great Chicago Bears defenses.

That's the first time Fisher's name was mentioned as a future top-line NFL head coach. And who was the major NFL oracle who did it? ``Well,'' Fisher said last week from his office, ``that was you, Tim.''

Actually, that wasn't the point I was trying to make with him, but Jeff, you get bonus points for displaying such a heartfelt and wonderful memory of my coverage of those late-1980s Eagles.

There was, however, a slightly more influential NFL figure watching Fisher early: Al Davis, who told many surprised associates during that period that Fisher was someone from whom much should be expected.

``I have a great amount of respect for him,'' Fisher said last week of Davis. ``I think he had respect for the defenses that we were associated with there in Chicago and Philly.''

And here Fisher is, with 79 regular-season victories, finishing his eighth season with the Titans-Oilers franchise, bringing the Titans to their second AFC title game in four seasons.

``The circumstances are very similar to the last one going into this championship game,'' Fisher said. ``In '99, Jacksonville had just come off a 62-7 victory over Miami at home, and we were seven-point underdogs.

``We just played. And we won that game. I believe this is a closer team than that one.''

Another thing: Fisher, a 49ers assistant in 1992-93, has one year left on his Tennessee contract. Although it's likely he will sign a long-term deal there, it wouldn't kill the 49ers to explore his availability, now would it?

I KNOW THE SUPER BOWL TEAMS will be decided today, but the best potential matchup is . . .

Raiders vs. Tampa Bay, the ultimate story line: Al Davis vs. Jon Gruden. At stake: The fate of the universe. Forget about the game, how about daily dueling news conferences?

THE HORRID PAST-DECISION STORY LINE would be Tennessee vs. Philadelphia: Let's relive the fateful day after the 1990 season when then-Eagles owner Norman Braman picked Rich Kotite over Fisher to be his coach.

Braman and Kotite have been out of football for years. Fisher, you may know, has not.

THE SUPER BOWL XV REDUX STORY LINE . . . Raiders vs. Philadelphia: Jim Plunkett, Rod Martin, Wilbert Montgomery, Ron Jaworski. Of all the participants in this game (the first -- and only! -- game I ever wagered on, when I was 15), guess who's still active? Former Eagles Coach Dick Vermeil, now with Kansas City.

THE NO-STORY LINE STORY LINE . . . Tampa Bay vs. Tennessee: Can you think of one? Help!

MARCUS ALLEN WILL BE VOTED into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but Ray Guy will not when the vote by the 39-member selection committee is announced Saturday in San Diego.

Allen, in his first year of eligibility, is a shoo-in and a relatively topical story, assuming that the Raiders are in the Super Bowl and Davis has to answer questions about banishing him to the bench for several seasons.

Meanwhile, Ken Stabler's name popped back onto the list of 15 finalists for the first since 1991, a gap during which I can recall zero touchdown passes. But why would he be dropped in the first place?

Let's guess that Stabler gets in, alongside Allen, Art Monk and James Lofton.

What about Guy, the greatest punter of all time? Guy, a finalist for the third time last year, didn't even make it to the finals this year.

Tell us what you think on the new 49ers Clubhouse message board.