To all Jeff Fisher fans seeking to scapegoat Vince Young in order to save your coach (as well as to people wondering what's wrong with Chris Johnson this year): remember Earnest Byner? You know, the veteran NFL RB who became one of the better RB coaches in the NFL? The guy who was behind the dominant running game that got the Titans to the playoffs in 2008 (really, folks, it is past time to admit that Kerry Collins was just along for the ride) and whose position coaching Chris Johnson credited for his 2,000 yard season this year? Note: experts have stated that Johnson looks tentative this year and is also too quick to try to bounce plays outside when running the football. Gee, isn't that something that a position coach should help his young RB with? Having a proven RB coach that your RB respects - instead of a guy who has been stuck at QB coach for 10 years and was moved to RB coach at the last minute along with the meaningless "assistant head coach" title while the quality control assistant leapfrogged you on the coaching ladder and got a chance to call plays this season - that your star RB respects and listens to when he says "don't try to break a big play on every down, but hit the hole hard to draw the defense in and THEN bounce it outside when you can" ... boy that would have helped.
So why isn't a respected, successful veteran position coach who himself was a longtime NFL RB around to help Johnson through the turbulence in Nashville this season? Oh, I don't know ... COULD IT BE BECAUSE JEFF FISHER FIRED HIM? Yeah, yep, that's right. And why fire a guy who has molded your high risk small college 1st round draft pick into a 2 time NFL Pro Bowler? Because Kennedy Pola was SO MUCH BETTER. Wow. Well, let's look at how many yards Maurice Jones-Drew had last year when Pola was his QB coach: 1391. And look at how many yards he has THIS YEAR with Byner as his QB coach: 1278. Barely 100 more yards IN THREE FEWER GAMES. At this rate, Jones-Drew will have 1600 yards and will finish #2 in the NFL in rushing. (Chris Johnson will finish at about #6. Maybe.)
But surely if Kennedy Pola is SO MUCH BETTER than Earnest Byner, the USC Trojans that hired him away would have had a dominated rushing attack, right? Errr ... wrong. Despite all those 4 and 5 star recruits (and playing against inviting defenses), USC's running attack was only marginally improved from 2009, and was actually worse than it was in 2008. Pola didn't turn Allen Bradford, Marc Tyler, or any of the other underachieving USC RBs into superstars.
And why should we be surprised? There was never a bit of evidence that Pola was a better RB coach than Earnest Byner. The only "qualification" that Pola had was the same one that led Jeff Fisher to hire Norm Chow (disaster), draft LenDale White (disaster), sign Mike Williams (disaster), draft Damian Williams over Jordan Shipley (disaster), and spend the last 5 years pouting because Bud Adams took Vince Young (33-17 as a starter with a playoff appearance under his belt) over Matt Leinart (disaster): their association with Jeff Fisher's alma mater, USC.
And proof that the Nashville media is bought and paid for is that NO ONE, not Kuharsky, not Climer, not Wyatt, not Biddle, not Boclair, not Glennon etc. has even bothered to ask the question! No one has bothered to ask Chris Johnson, Jeff Fisher or raise it in a blog, column or article, whether Jeff Fisher's firing Earnest Byner has anything to do with Chris Johnson's decline in production this season. Allegations that Vince Young missed meetings and practiced poorly during the week of the Pittsburgh game? That was fodder for stories, columns and blogs for weeks. Allegations that Vince Young was taking his time coming back from the knee injury in Jacksonville, and stories about how he went to open a restaurant in Houston rather than rehab in Nashville (when he wasn't even required to rehab in Nashville, and other players take similar trips during bye weeks during the season all the time)? Ditto. But asking Jeff Fisher: "Hey, don't you think that firing Earnest Byner PLAYED A HUGE ROLE IN WRECKING OUR SEASON?" That question hasn't been asked ONCE.
Amazing that Kuharsky at ESPN claimed that "if Bud Adams chooses Jeff Fisher over Vince Young, then say goodbye not only to Jeff Fisher, but his longtime assistants like Mike Munchak." That's a fair point. Maybe. But did Kuharsky bother to mention that it is because of Jeff Fisher's terrible job performance that one of the best, most critical coaches on his staff isn't around anymore? Again, Fisher's whole system is built on running the ball, and Fisher fired his RB coach, who makes his RBs more effective! Why is NO ONE talking about this? (Then again, why is NO ONE talking about the fact that Jeff Fisher signed Kerry Collins to a $15 million deal 2 years ago, declaring him the QB of the present? That's why Vince Young's being hurt is no excuse for Fisher, because had it been up to Fisher, Collins would have been the QB to begin with. But that is another story for another day.)
One of the reasons why Fisher and Byner weren't that close ... because Byner was too willing to speak his mind about players and strategy. (Meaning that Byner was willing to speak up and say "Hey, this LenDale White guy is never going to put in the work to be an NFL player ... and we used a 2nd round pick on CHRIS HENRY thinking that he'd be a better player in the NFL than he was FOR A LOSING ARIZONA TEAM .... what were you thinking?) So ... do you think that JUST MAYBE if Byner were still around, he would have stated "Look Jeff ... this LeGarrette Blount kid is 10 times the player that Javon Ringer will ever be. Besides, we're going to get into situations where we need a big back for a change of pace and on short yardage, and Ringer isn't that guy ... he is basically the same body type as Johnson, except nowhere near as fast or explosive. But Fisher found his "yes-man" with his meaningless "assistant head coach" title to go around claiming "Blount won't help us this year anyway ... Ringer's a better player, so let's see if we can keep him on the practice squad." And why? Oh gee ... could it be because that Fisher didn't want Blount to lock down the 2nd RB spot this year? Why not? Wow, because Fisher wants Stafon Johnson, yet another USC product, to have another shot at the backup RB job when he gets off IR next season. So won't next year's backup RB job be a hoot. It will be between a pair of 200 lb. RBs that don't have a whole lot of natural ability. Who do you think will win? (Answer: it doesn't matter.)
This is what needs to happen this offseason.
1. Jeff Fisher gets fired.
2. Whoever the new coach is brings Earnest Byner back from Jacksonville, even if it takes an assistant head coach title or grooming Byner to be an offensive coordinator (which, again, Fisher seemed strangely unwilling to do for Byner or for Craig Johnson ... as for why you'd have to ask him about that).
Oh yeah, and if Bud Adams has somehow forgotten that firing Earnest Byner was a major reason why this season fell apart (because the Nashville mafia that has helped protect Fisher for so long certainly wants Adams to forget!), someone needs to go remind him.