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Fisher Is Named New Oiler Coach : Pro football: Jack Pardee is fired as Houston, 1-9, cleans house.

November 15, 1994|BILL PLASCHKE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Known for possessing the fire of Buddy Ryan and coolness of John Robinson, Jeff Fisher will spend his first months as an NFL head coach needing yet another borrowed attribute.

The patience of a saint.

Fisher, former Ram assistant coach and USC defensive back, was named head coach of the Houston Oilers on Monday, a day after an Oiler loss to the Cincinnati Bengals gave Houston pro football's worst record, 1-9.

Fired was Jack Pardee, the kindly coach who led the Oilers to 11 consecutive victories and a franchise-best 12-4 record last season.

Fired also was Kevin Gilbride, the outspoken offensive coordinator who masterminded the run-and-shoot offense when he wasn't engaging in verbal battles and fistfights with Ryan, the team's defensive coordinator last season.

"I think I predicated he would be selling insurance in two years," Ryan said of Gilbride. "He's a year ahead of schedule."

After dismantling his team because of the salary cap--a dozen starters from last year's playoff squad are playing elsewhere this season--Oiler owner Bud Adams decided that the rebuilding job should go to Fisher, the team's defensive coordinator.

"We came to the conclusion that now was maybe the time to make the move," Adams said after giving Fisher a three-year contract that has an escape clause for both parties after this season.

Said a disconsolate Pardee, a one-time cancer patient who led the Oilers to the playoffs in each of his four full seasons there, "How do you cut $12 million off the budget and get better at the same time? In reality, that's what happened this year."

Fisher, 36, becomes the league's second-youngest head coach. Dave Shula of the Bengals is 35.

After starring at Taft High in Woodland Hills, Fisher became part of a legendary defensive backfield at USC with future pro stars Ronnie Lott, Dennis Smith, and Joey Browner.

Fisher played with the Chicago Bears and later learned about coaching defenses while working for Ryan with the Bears and Philadelphia Eagles. He learned about people while playing and coaching for Robinson, most recently as the Rams' defensive coordinator in 1991.

Fisher knows Ryan's trademark 4-6 defense better than anyone but Ryan. His Oiler defense, over which he will maintain control, is eighth-best in the league.

Also like Ryan, Fisher dislikes the run-and-shoot offense, an Oiler trademark that will probably disappear soon. "I assure you from the kickoff to the last play . . . this team will play like they are fighting for home-field advantage in the playoffs," Fisher said at a news conference. "This season is starting over. The 1995 season starts this afternoon."

Fisher's fiery on-field demeanor is in direct contrast to a caring manner that has helped him gain players' trust. But it is that feisty attitude that makes the news.

"I would never have thought we would have fallen so fast and so far," Fisher said. "It goes to show you how volatile the National Football League is."

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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