Practice Report 12/12: Fassel Takes Over as Interim Head Coach

Posted Dec 12, 2016

Rams interim HC John Fassel hasn't gotten much sleep in the last 24 hours, but he's embracing the challenge of Thursday Night Football.

After a rough loss to the Falcons on Sunday, the Rams’ Week 15 was already set up to be a whirlwind with the club heading to Seattle for Thursday Night Football.

Monday’s announcement that Los Angeles had relieved Jeff Fisher of his head coaching duties and named special teams coordinator John Fassel the club’s interim head coach may have made those gusts pick up speed.

“It’s been a long night, it’s been a long day,” Fassel said after Monday’s short practice. “I talked to Coach Fisher and basically asked what he thought, asked for his blessing, [saying], ‘Coach me up, coach ‘Fish’ on what the next couple of hours are going to be like.’ He told me everything that I needed to know. But, I know there’s a lot more that is going to be in to it than I’m prepared for. I’ll do my best to be great.”

In discussing the reason for the coaching change, Rams C.O.O./EVP of Football Operations Kevin Demoff said Monday that though there’s no proverbial “good time” to change coaches, the organization feels Fassel is the right person to lead the team for the last three weeks of the 2016 season.

“We’ve played Seattle before — they’re a divisional opponent, and we know them,” Demoff said. “They’re not installing a whole new gameplan, so really this gives coach Fassel a chance to walk in, make his impression on the team in a short time, get them through two quick short walk throughs, and try to get their energy back ahead of a primetime game against Seattle.”

Demoff said Fassel’s familiarity with players from all different position groups, along with causing some of the least disruption when it comes to game planning, were factors in Fassel being named interim head coach.

“Everybody on the offensive and defensive side is going to go gameplan this week the same way they would. They all have the same responsibilities on gameday that they had,” Demoff said.

“I think when you look at the entire history of special teams coordinators and why they’re becoming more popular as head coaching choices or head coaching candidates is they have experience standing in front of everybody in the room,” Demoff added. “It’s not just standing in front of a position group, or the offense or the defense, but they have a chance to go talk to everyone on the roster, player 1 through 53. I think Coach Fassel carries tremendous respect from our players, and carries tremendous respect from our coaches.”

Fassel said he was not expecting the Rams to offer him the interim head coach position, but is grateful for the opportunity. And while he has not had head coaching experience in the NFL, he feels he’s up for the task. Part of that is because of the experiences he’s witnessed with his father, Jim, who was the head coach of the New York Giants from 1997-2003. But he’s also had plenty of experience in the league on his own, working for the Ravens, Raiders, and Rams since 2005.

“Special teams, every time that ball gets punted or kicked, you’re there by yourself and you’re saying, ‘Let’s go boys, go get it,’ and you’re always kind of on the front lines,” Fassel said. “Whether I’m ready for it or not, I’m going to kick ass, and do what I have to do to help the team.”

One of the ways Fassel will try to positively affect the team is by harnessing its emotions to use in a positive way. Fassel said emotions can be good, particularly from a special teams standpoint.

“And I think, in this situation, every player on the team has the utmost respect for Coach Fisher and it has to be a little bit of a rallying cry,” Fassel said. “Obviously we’re not going to go to the playoffs, so what are we playing for — we’re playing because we love ball and we’re playing because we love Coach Fisher. To me, the emotions are a great thing. As long as we have that, we’ll find a way to use them to our advantage.”

To that end, the players gave Fassel positive reviews for his first practice as the interim head coach.

“There was a lot of positive energy,” offensive lineman Jamon Brown said.

“Obviously, we know ‘Bones,’” Brown continued, referring to Fassel by his nickname. “So everybody’s trying to get behind him and support him in this transition and moving forward.”

“I think Fassel’s going to do a great job,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “He’s great, he’s very well liked. A lot of guys get along with him, and I think he’ll do a good job. He knows what he’s doing and we’re excited for him.”

Goff said part of the confidence in Fassel stems from how the team knows he will be able to handle the different personalities in the locker room in a difficult time.

“I think, more than anything, [it’s] his attitude and his approach to everything. He’s going to be really helpful,” Goff said. “He understands what we’re going through right now is not easy and he understands that we do need some support and we do need him to be there for us during this time.”

But there is a game on Thursday night against the division-leading Seahawks to prepare for — and it’s coming up soon.

“There’s so much that I got to learn. It’s already a couple hours —I got a lot of studying to do,” Fassel said. “Hopefully, all of the emotions create some positive energy, so we can go out on Thursday night and perform. We got the cool old school Rams helmets"

At that point, Fassel looked down at his watch.

“I think kickoff is actually, in exactly 72 hours,” Fassel said. “It’s going to happen fast, and I’ll be ready.”


With a particularly quick turnaround after Sunday’s game, the Rams had six players sit out Monday’s practice.

Safety Maurice Alexander (concussion), running back Benny Cunningham (neck), cornerback E.J. Gaines (thigh), tight end Cory Harkey (triceps), defensive end Matt Longacre (heel), and wide receiver Brian Quick (shoulder) all did not participate in Monday’s session.

However, defensive end Robert Quinn (concussion) was able to participate fully in Monday’s session. Quinn has missed the past two games while in the concussion protocol.