Former Bears defensive back Jeff Fisher is entering his 21st season as an NFL head coach, a second career he credits mainly to Buddy Ryan's influence.
Ryan, the Bears defensive coordinator from 1978-85, passed away June 28 at the age of 85.
Former Bears safety Jeff Fisher officially began his coaching career on Buddy Ryan's staff with the Eagles in 1986.
"I wouldn't be here if it weren't for him," Fisher told ChicagoBears.com in February during the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. "He's the one who gave me an opportunity to coach."
Selected by the Bears in the seventh round of the 1981 draft out of USC, Fisher appeared in 49 games over four seasons. Spending the magical 1985 campaign on injured reserve, Fisher served as a pseudo assistant under Ryan as the Bears posted a 15-1 record, recorded back-to-back playoff shutouts and hammered the Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX.
Ryan left the Bears to become Philadelphia Eagles head coach in 1986—and took Fisher with him, hiring the former safety as defensive backs coach.
"I actually turned him down at first," Fisher said. "I called him back 20 minutes later and said, 'Did you give my job away?' He said no and I said, 'I'll be there.'"
Fisher initially balked at the opportunity because he wanted to play one more season with the Bears and he had just started his own software business in Chicago.
"I just felt like I couldn't leave both of those things just to go coach not knowing if I wanted to coach," Fisher said. "I called him and he said something along the lines of, 'You're not going to play again, are you?' I said, 'Well, I was thinking about it.' And he said, 'You can't play anymore. You need to come coach.' So I said, 'All right, I'll be there.'"
Fisher was promoted to Eagles defensive coordinator in 1988, a role he held for three seasons. He later worked as defensive coordinator with the Los Angeles Rams in 1991, defensive backs coach with the San Francisco 49ers in 1992-93 and defensive coordinator and interim head coach with the Houston Oilers in 1994.
Fisher spent the next 16 seasons as head coach of the Oilers/Tennessee Titans and is now entering his fifth year in the same role with the Rams, who returned to Los Angeles this year after playing the previous 21 seasons in St. Louis.