Mike McCarthy sold himself in job interviews as a “new” coach, even though he has a long history as a coach. His year off was spent re-examining everything he had done as a coach in the past, and looking at everything in today’s NFL in an effort to evolve as a coach. He was selling a coach who was re-inventing himself, one who was keeping the good parts of his past and discarding things that were outdated.
It appears as he is selling the same message to the rest of his coaching staff.
Ari Tremkin of 105.3 The Fan shared with us an interview he recorded with special teams coach John Fassel. (Check Ari out here).
The mothership also released video of the interview (embedded below):
Like McCarthy, Fassel has a long history as a coach in the NFL, and of course, it goes further back than that as his father, Jim Fassel, was also an NFL coach. The younger Fassel has lived a coach’s life for a long time. He’s also been a very successful special teams coordinator so it’s not like he’s some scrub who has a lot to learn.
But just like McCarthy, he talks about reinventing things in his interview.
“Right now I’ve been looking at the personnel that was here, and who is returning, and who is a free agent that we may want to have come back. Right now it’s a lot of personnel study from our current team. I’ve only been here a week but we’re stating to dive in. It’s a little reinvention of myself, whether it’s schematics, or progression of technique install, so it’s a chance when I come to a new team to say “what have I done in the past that I liked, what have I done in the past I can do better,” and it’s a chance with a new team to kind of reinvent myself. To think about all the things I’ve done and how I can do them better.”
Maybe this is something that Fassel does regularly when he changes jobs, but he sounds a lot like Mike McCarthy when talking about his own year of learning and evolving. It wouldn’t be surprising if McCarthy has asked all of his experienced coaches to take a look at their own methods, and try to get a sense of what they can change to get better.
Fassel also went on to talk about the components of a successful special teams unit.
“A big thing is chemistry, a lot of the success on special teams has a lot to do with the intangibles. Personnel is a huge part of it, and player development is a huge part of it, but when you can get a group of running backs, linebackers, tight ends, receivers, defensive backs, to become cohesive and make it seem like those guys are very valuable to a football team, then I think that’s the biggest component to being successful. Build chemistry, build pride, and getting them to feel important when a lot of times they are backups on offense and defense, but they’re a starter on special teams and that’s my message to them, that they’re important to this football team. They say it’s a third (offense), a third (defense), and a third (special teams), and that’s what it is. Coach McCarthy, when I talked to him, has that mindset that this is going to be an important part of our football team, and that’s all I needed to hear.”
One other thing Fassel discussed is his penchant for running fakes and being aggressive on special teams. He said that much of that has to do with the players he’s had, like Shane Lechler in Oakland who was a college quarterback early on in his career, and Johnny Hekker in St. Louis who was a high-school quarterback. He notes that he spent time talking with them about how they can attack a punt return team like an offenses would. The final element is a head coach who will listen and as long as it is sound, give it a shot in the game.
Chris Jones has been a punter that you can certainly do some fakes with, but his problem is how poorly he kicked last year. It will be interesting to see if Fassel wants to bring Jones back, or go with someone new. Whatever he does, it looks like special teams could be a pretty aggressive unit.