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Article Credit: Vincent Bonsignore (OC Register)
The Rams have long admired the job Jeff Fisher has done in helping the team make the transition from St. Louis to Los Angeles during the past year. The coach’s role in that difficult situation is one of the justifications cited for potentially extending his contract beyond this season.
But we now have to wonder how skilled Fisher is with even that responsibility, considering how he naively and absurdly let some criticism by Rams icon Eric Dickerson get so far under his skin he actually had the audacity to call Dickerson and threaten to ban him from the sideline or team functions unless he toed the line.
Criticism that frankly, was warranted and within reason and completely fair considering the Rams’ record, their offensive performance over the first 10 weeks and the mediocre record Fisher has built over his 22-year head coaching career that leaves him with a .515 winning percentage and three losses away from the record by an NFL head coach.
But not to Fisher, who called Dickerson recently to express his misgivings before telling the former Rams great if he kept up the criticism, he'd no longer be welcome on the Rams sideline as long as Fisher was the head coach.
To which Dickerson told me Monday night: “I lit into him after he told me that. I told him: 'You can go back to Tennessee, you can go to Cleveland, you can go to USC or wherever else you might go. But I'm always going to be Eric Dickerson of the Los Angeles Rams. And I have the right to say what I say.’”
Dickerson said Fisher tried to walk things back at that point, telling him he would always be welcome on the sideline. But the damage was done.
Dickerson promised Fisher that as long as he was the Rams’ coach, he'd never see Dickerson on the Rams sideline.
Imagine that. Not even a full season into his first year back in L.A, and Fisher alienates one of the franchise’s greatest players.
Dickerson first brought up the phone conversation on his Monday radio show on AM 570. He initially declined to say who the call came from within the organization, saying only that it was from someone in “upper management.”
He said he was content to let it stay right there, but then Fisher was asked about it Monday at his weekly news conference and feigned complete ignorance. In fact, he pointed to a recent phone call with Dickerson he described as “really good” and said Dickerson was always welcome at practices and games.
A rightfully angry Dickerson could no longer hold his tongue after Fisher misled everyone, and revealed Monday night the call came from Fisher.
Fisher could not look any worse.
Or more naive.
He let criticism get under his skin. He picked a fight with franchise royalty that, frankly, towers above him, and then he essentially lied about the whole thing.
Three strikes you're out, partner.
Full disclosure: I co-host “The Eric Dickerson Show” on AM 570 from 12-2 p.m. every Monday, and there hasn't been one instance when I felt Dickerson was over the line or gratuitous with his criticism. We don't always agree, but I've respected everything he's said knowing it comes straight from the heart and the mind and mouth of a Hall of Fame running back who played 12 years in the NFL and understands the game on a level most of us don't.
If anything, what he says comes from a place of love and care for a franchise he roots for harder than any Rams fan I know. I can't stress how much love Dickerson has for his former team.
Further, having talked to upper management as the weeks unfolded and the losses piled up and the criticism mounted, I never once felt the harsh critiques voiced on the radio show – or any critical column I've written, for that matter – was digested by Rams higher-ups as anything more than fair and warranted.
On the contrary, the consistent message I've gotten from Rams upper management: “If you want good things said about you, win more football games. If not, expect criticism.”
As it should be.
Unless you're the head coach, apparently.