Jeff Fisher Peyton Manning jersey stunt an act of desperation

Being 0-6 and losing 59-0 Sunday means that for proud Titans coach Jeff Fisher, Peyton Manning's jersey was one way to 'feel like a winner.'

Sanford Myers/The Tennessean/AP
Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher surprises former Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy by wearing a Colts Peyton Manning jersey at a fundraiser for a Christian teen center Tuesday, in Nashville, Tenn.

For Jeff Fisher, Peyton Manning's jersey has come to signify the desperation now pressing down on one of pro football's finest coaches.

Tuesday night in Nashville, Fisher donned an Indianapolis Colts Peyton Manning jersey to introduce former Colts head coach Tony Dungy at an event. The Colts and Titans could not yet be called archrivals, yet as division rivals – and typically the best two teams in the AFC South – few games are as anticipated in Nashville and Indianapolis as Colts-Titans matchups.

Which made Fisher's appearance onstage – in Nashville – wearing a Colts jersey something on the order of President Obama showing up at a Democratic Party fundraiser with an "I love Glenn Beck" lapel pin.

True, Dungy is one of the gentlemen of pro football – Fisher's gesture could not have been made to a more respected colleague.

But Dungy no longer works for the Colts, he's an analyst for NBC. Did Fisher consider getting an NBC Sports windbreaker? That probably would not have warranted its own YouTube video.

Then again, perhaps Fisher merely felt he had to live up to the odd sartorial traditions of past coaches of the Tennessee Titans franchise. The tobacco-chewing, profanity-spewing Bum Phillips looked as if he had accidentally wandered in from the tailgate and no one had the heart to tell him to leave. (See for yourself here.) Jerry Glanville was known to leave a ticket at will-call for Elvis Presley and dress only in black.

But, of course, for Fisher, the Colts jersey was more than just an homage to Dungy, as Fisher himself said. He said he wore the jersey because he "wanted to feel like a winner."

The comment was surely made in jest. But for a man of Fisher's undoubted competitive fire, it was also a dig at his – and his franchise's – own futility this year, and the apparent helplessness he feels to reverse it.

The Colts are 5-0. The Titans are 0-6. Peyton Manning has thrown for more than 300 yards in each of his five games. Two Titans quarterbacks combined to complete two of 14 passes for minus seven yards in a 59-0 loss to the New England Patriots Sunday.

Fisher is the man who led his Titans to within one yard of taking the then-fabled St. Louis Rams into overtime in Super Bowl XXXIV. The man who led to the Titans to an NFL-best 13-3 record just last year.

Saying he was "disappointed and embarrassed" by Sunday's loss – the worst for any NFL team since 1976 – he added that "career-wise, I have never been through anything like this before."

On a Nashville stage Tuesday night, perhaps it showed.


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