Jeff Fisher is Robert E. Lee, the self-assured warrior-strategist who would follow his men onto the battlefield but had the smarts to keep an under-talented army continually competitive in the face of heavy injuries and casualties. Like Lee, Fisher expertly manages a group of tough-nosed rowdies that have a knack for upsets. Fisher's Titans defeated the Eagles at Philadelphia, the Giants at the Meadowlands, and the Steelers at home (which was an upset at the time).
If Fisher is Lee, then Bill Cowher is the brash Ulysses S. Grant. The cocky, energetic, bullish Grant earned the respect and following of his fellow men and fellow countryman to later become the youngest President ever at his time and Cowher was in his time the youngest NFL head coach ever. Grant's legend is one of a drunkard (although many historians depict that aspect of him as merely a guy who partied a little too heartily when he had the opportunity) who had moments of amazing lucidity, while Cowher's legend so far is at times considered to be that of a very lucid coach who has had the moments of a drunkard's bad judgment. Although Chuck Noll was certainly not a General George McClellan (who, quite unlike Noll, was a person who continually failed to realize the deep shit he was into), there are some parallels as far as Cowher resuscitating a stagnant attack and making use of the many talents hidden amongst his men.
Both men have a mutual respect that comes directly from their shared philosophies, quite similar to the mutual respect that fellow West Point graduates Lee and Grant shared. Both men have been unable or unwilling to change the philosophy throughout their careers. As with many decisive battles, this week's victory may hinge on which leader will adapt to the flow of the battle, or the game in this case – let's not get too carried away with the analogy. Well, let's get carried away, it's playoffs, afterall.
Cowher, in all his bravado, has, in the past, attempted to force his philosophy through most games regardless of the flow, like trying to pound a square peg into a round hole. This past week's game was perhaps the first in quite a while that Cowher had the courage to put the game into the hands of his quarterback to let the outcome be determined, opting instead to just remind his quarterback of the time on the clock and the need to judge accordingly.
Fisher has been forced to alter his game plan at time due to injuries to Eddie George. Steve McNair set personal records passing the ball last year based on that very injury. Yet, the team still feeds off Fisher's run-first smash-mouth philosophy.
Which General will adapt better on Saturday? Will Cowher continue where he left off last week and lay the game in Maddox' hands or will he force Jerome Bettis and Amos Zereoue? Will Jeff Fisher try to run on the Steelers or will he let Air McNair finally take control of the offense?
At the end of the Civil War, Lee's men were tired, battered, and starved. They continued fighting, but Lee saw that the war would never be won. Grant no more beat Lee than Lee willingly surrendered to save his men's dignity.
Based on the emotions of last week, Cowher's Steelers are more likely to surrender based on being tired and battered, but remember, Cowher is to Grant as Fisher is to Lee. If history repeats itself, the same may happen this week in Nashville.
--The Steel Apple