Jeff Fisher, Kennedy Pola, USC, and the Stages of Grieving


Over the past week or so, USC has been mired by a brewing controversy between Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher and USC coach Lane Kiffin stemming from the questionable hiring procedures employed by Kiffin to draw Kennedy Pola from the Titans to the Trojans.

It’s clear that Fisher and his assistant coach developed some sort of bond during their time together (which seems odd, considering the impermanence of these coaching positions), so he decided to not take things sitting down, and started a fire by calling Kiffin out.

To be honest, it’s understandable. Think about it this way: you lost someone you love, and before you could get over it, you needed to spend some time grieving and getting over the loss.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross gives us the following model to systematically break down the process of grieving:

(1) Denial — The mourner, well, denies the loss.

(2) Anger — The mourner lashes out at others, expecting that it will ease the pain.

(3) Bargaining — The mourner tries to negotiate for something in return for the loss.

(4) Depression — The mourner takes time to himself to think about the loss and come to grips with it.

(5) Acceptance — The mourner gets over it.

If you look closely, Fisher’s actions over the course of the week actually fit quite well into Kübler-Ross’s model. Let’s take a look to see how it worked.


Fisher might not have come out in public to expect his obvious disbelief at Pola’s unannounced departure, but you can be same sure he said something along the lines of “I don’t believe this s**t” after he got the call from Kiffin about Pola’s leaving. I’d be shocked, too.


Fisher was quick in moving from Stage 1 to Stage 2 of the grieving process. In response to Kiffin’s allegedly underhanded tactics, Fisher called the USC coach out via the media, basically calling him a slimeball and saying he had no class. But the joke’s on you, Fisher, because we all already knew that.


Fisher wasn’t content to let sleeping dogs lie, so now he’s suing USC over the assertion that Kiffin coaxed Pola to breach his contract. Not only is this suit frivolous, it’s also completely baseless. Pola is a grown man who can think for himself. Any delusion that Kiffin brainwashed him like a pedophile with candy is just that — a delusion. Then again, people in mourning have been known to do ridiculous things before.


Much like denial, this stage of grieving isn’t exactly evident to the public. But I’m sure Fisher has had plenty of sleepless nights and bouts of tears over his plump friend. The only thing keeping him from breaking down in front of the cameras? Knowing that he doesn’t have to put up with Albert Haynesworth’s shenanigans anymore.


Even though the bargaining stage is ongoing for Fisher, he has already made his way onto the final acceptance stage. The other day he proclaimed that the Titans are now better off without Pola. One might suggest that if he really felt that way he wouldn’t have put up such a big stink over his leaving. Aside from the obvious fact that no one likes to be outdone by Kiffin to any degree, he’s just trying to make himself look mature and dignified over the loss. That’s what acceptance is all about. We all know he’s still recovering on the inside, though.