Facing off against Fisher should have meaning

Friday, November 1, 2013, Vol. 37, No. 44

This date – Nov. 3, 2013 - has been circled on the Tennessee Titans calendar for awhile.

Same thing for Jeff Fisher, Cortland Finnegan, Jared Cook and the rest of the St. Louis Rams.

This Sunday will be what could be an interesting little family reunion as the Titans travel to St. Louis to face Fisher, who guided the franchise on its odyssey from Houston to the stopover in Memphis and finally to Nashville.

Fisher spent 17 years roaming the sideline for the Oilers/Titans franchise and the club enjoyed some of its greatest success while he was head coach, reaching its only Super Bowl to date in 1999.

There was a stretch of four playoffs in five years and even after the Fisher regime collapsed after the 2010 season, he remains the winningest coach in franchise history due to his longevity with the club.

Fisher resurfaced last year as the Rams head coach, taking a good part of his old Titans staff with him, including assistant coaches Dave McGinnis and Chuck Cecil. A number of former Titans players also wound up reuniting with Fisher as well – most notably the feisty Finnegan and tight end Jared Cook, who ended his disenchanted run with the Titans on the first day of free agency, signing a $35 million deal with St. Louis.

There are other elements in play as well.

Set against the backdrop was the death last week of the franchise’s founder Bud Adams, who died at the age of 90 and no doubt would have liked to have seen his current edition of the Titans be able to best the man who coached his franchise for so long.

Additionally, there have been whispers of Fisher and Mike Munchak not exactly seeing eye-to-eye at times, especially since Munchak succeeded Fisher in Tennessee.

Then, there is the X factor of Gregg Williams, who was supposed to have been on Fisher’s staff, but was suspended last year for his role in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. Fisher and Williams had been best friends in coaching for many years, but it was made clear that Williams was not wanted back in St. Louis, and Fisher also dismissed Williams’ son Blake from his coaching staff after the 2012 season.

Some Titans players played off Sunday’s matchup as just another game. Wide receiver Nate Washington was saying that on Monday.

“It won’t be strange. I’ve played against coaches that I’ve played for before. They might know you a little better than anybody else, but it’s not strange,” Washington said. “He took a lot of his guys with him, but at the end of the day, it’s a job, and we’ve got to get it done on Sunday. It’s our profession. You’re going to play against guys you know all the time, so we’ve just got to go out there and get the job done.”

Added tackle David Stewart, “It’ll be a little strange seeing him over there I guess, but it’s just another ballgame.”

That all sounds nice. But I’m not buying it in any way shape or form. Both sides can’t wait to one-up each other. There is simply too much familiarity among the players and coaches for that not to be the case on Sunday.

When it was phrased a different way, such as getting to go against former teammates like Finnegan and Cook, Titans players did up the ante a little bit.

“I think it’ll be a fun game, and I’m sure there’ll be a little talking going on,” said Stewart, who could find himself matched up at times against ex-Titans defensive end William Hayes.

On going against Finnegan, whose repertoire still includes getting under the skin of opposing receivers, Kenny Britt said he couldn’t wait.

“It’ll definitely be a great competition because I always won in practice. To see it in a game would be great, actually,” Britt said.

Even Titans safety Michael Griffin said he will take time to watch Finnegan on Sunday, just to see who the cornerback tries to agitate.

“That’s the thing I’m gonna be geared up watching. Normally on defense, you come and sit down and you go over your plays and what not, but it’s going to be interesting to see Cort out there and see what his antics are going to be,” Griffin said. “I know he normally goes into a game looking for a player to get under his skin. With the little scuffles and things he had here in practice, I’m wondering who he’s gonna go after.”

As for battling Cook, there were times in practice over the past couple of years that Griffin would challenge the tight end with trash talk. Now, on Sunday it will be for real.

“He’s on the other team now. It’s one thing where we always joke when we’d be out on the field, that if I play against you, I’m gonna do this and this. Now, the situation actually presents itself,” Griffin said.

Just another game? I think not.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com and is a blogger for National Football Post.