COACHES

John Fassel
Special Teams Coordinator

Biography

The Rams have developed a reputation for delivering the unexpected in the kicking game, and special teams coordinator John Fassel is at the helm of the trickery that has helped the Rams become one of the NFL’s best when it comes to special teams.

The 2016 season was another record-breaking year for Fassel’s special teams unit. P Johnny Hekker earned his third trip to the Pro Bowl after setting an NFL record for punts downed inside the 20 (51). Hekker also established a new NFL record for single-season net punting average (46.0), breaking the previous record that Hekker himself set in 2013. Hekker also moved into second place in Rams history, with 434 career punts. K Greg Zuerlein moved into eighth-place in Rams history in points scored, passing WR Torry Holt. LS Jake McQuaide became the first punter in franchise history to earn a Pro Bowl berth.

Since joining Fassel’s return unit in 2013, KR Benny Cunningham has a 27.1-yard kickoff return yardage average (95-2,575), which is the franchise record in the category.

In addition to his special teams duties, Fassel served as Interim Head Coach for the final three games of the 2016 season.

Fassel’s special teams unit returned in 2015 to deliver another compelling season. P Johnny Hekker produced one of the best punting seasons in NFL history, to earn his second Pro Bowl honor. The fourth-year pro led the NFL in punts (96), gross average (47.9), net average (43.7) and punts downed inside the 20-yard line (41). He’s the first player to lead the league in all three categories since the NFL began tracking punts inside the 20 in 1976.

Hekker also completed a 20-yard pass to S Cody Davis on a fake punt play against the Packers. Under Fassel’s guidance, Hekker has completed seven passes for 103 yards off trick plays since 2012.

The Rams return game was ignited by Cunningham and WR Tavon Austin. Cunningham finished fourth in the NFL in kickoff return average, highlighted by a 102 yard return in Week 15. Austin led a punt return team that saw opponents net 38.8 yards per punt, the 10th lowest in the NFL this season.

In Fassel’s 2014 campaign, his units finished among the league’s best in several categories. As a team, St. Louis was fifth in net punt average (41.8) and second in punt return average (13.0). The team’s net punting average was the third highest ever by a Rams special teams unit.

Individually, WR Tavon Austin finished fifth in punt return average (11.2) and was an alternate to the Pro Bowl, while RB Benny Cunningham led the NFC and was fifth in the NFL in kick return average (27.5).

In the Rams’ win over the then defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks, Fassel’s men scored on a trick punt return and executed a fake punt in the final minutes to help St. Louis narrowly escape with a victory.

On the punt return, Austin pretended to track a punt down the left sideline while the Rams return team raced towards Austin in attempt to set up a return. In actuality, Seattle had punted the ball to the St. Louis right. WR Stedman Bailey fielded the punt over his shoulder, turned and raced 90 yards for a touchdown. The play was the longest punt return in the NFL last season and is tied for the third longest in Rams history.

The fake punt came with 2:55 remaining in the game and was daringly called from the Rams own 18-yard line. On fourth-and-3, Cunningham slipped out of the backfield and caught a P Johnny Hekker pass for an 18-yard gain that allowed the Rams to run out the clock and preserve a 28-26 win.

Hekker also completed a pass on a fake punt in Week 12 that helped keep a potential go-ahead drive alive in the fourth quarter of a game at San Diego, and the Rams scored two points on a fake PAT when Hekker, the holder on kicks, rolled out and hit TE Cory Harkey in the end zone.

The 2013 campaign was also a good one for Fassel’s crew. He oversaw a punt team that, led by Hekker, set a new single-season NFL record for net punting average (44.2). Hekker was named First-Team All-Pro and made his first trip to the Pro Bowl at the conclusion of the season.

Despite having one of the NFL’s youngest units for a second season in a row, St. Louis enjoyed success in every area of the kicking game. Rams opponents averaged just 2.6 yards per punt return, which was the lowest in the NFL. In addition, K Greg Zuerlein was 26-of- 28 on field goals. In Fassel’s first two seasons, the Rams did not allow a special teams touchdown.

In 2012, a total of 18 rookies or first year players contributed to the Rams special teams, including Zuerlein, Hekker and leading tackler S Rodney McLeod. Despite their youth, the Rams were one of just two teams in the NFL that did not allow a return touchdown nor a blocked kick. Zuerlein connected on his first 15 field goal attempts of his career and set a new team record with eight field goals from 50 yards or more. Hekker’s 45.8 gross average and 39.9 net average were both the fourth highest single- season totals in team history.

Fassel joined the Rams after spending the past three years in the same capacity with the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders saw much success under Fassel’s leadership, garnering some of the league’s top special teams accomplishments. His units led the NFL in special teams takeaways, turnover differential and points scored in 2009 and 2010. Fassel also oversaw the advancement of returner Jacoby Ford, leading to a breakout rookie season with three kickoff returns for touchdowns in 2010 and one in 2011.

Under Fassel’s tutelage, P Shane Lechler earned a Pro Bowl spot in three consecutive years. In 2009, he led the NFL with a Raider record 51.1-yard average per attempt. His net average of 43.9 yards per punt also set an all-time NFL record and surpassed his own record set in 2008. In addition, K Sebastian Janikowski achieved a career single- season high 89.7 field goal percentage, missing only three attempts (47, 57 and 66 yards) in 2011. Janikowski also converted on the third-longest field goal in NFL history, a Raiders team record 61-yarder at Cleveland in December 2009, and tied an NFL record with a 63-yarder in 2011. Under Fassel’s direction, LS Jon Condo earned two Pro Bowl berths as a “need” player.

In 2008, Fassel helped tutor one of the top units in the NFL as the Raiders ranked ninth in the league in kickoff returns (receiving team) with an average start of 28.8 and 10th in the league in kickoff coverage (kicking team) with a 26.4 average start for opponents. As for the punt return unit, he helped guide the Raiders to the second-best punt return average in the NFL at 13 yards per return. In addition, Fassel’s unit contributed five touchdowns on returns and included Lechler, who led the NFL with a 41.2 net punting average and earned a Pro Bowl berth.

From 2005-07, Fassel was Baltimore’s assistant special teams coach. He helped the Ravens to top-10 finishes in punt and kickoff return average in 2006 and 2007 and his units returned five kicks for touchdowns in two seasons. From 2003-04, he was the head coach and assistant athletic director at New Mexico Highlands University. Fassel also served six months as the school’s interim athletic director and taught undergraduate and graduate courses.

He earned a master’s degree in athletic administration at Idaho State University, where he was a graduate assistant and sports science instructor from 2000-01. In 1999 and 2001, Fassel coached wide receivers and recruited for Bucknell. In Spring 2000, Fassel was the strength and conditioning and wide receivers coach for the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe.

Fassel played wide receiver at Weber State, graduating in 1999 with a degree in Exercise Science. He was signed as a rookie free agent wide receiver with the Indianapolis Colts.

Fassel is the son of former NFL coach Jim Fassel, a longtime NFL coach who guided the New York Giants to the Super Bowl during the 2000 season. John is a triathlete who has finished three Ironman distance triathlons. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have two daughters: Lila and Avery.

The Rams have developed a reputation for delivering the unexpected in the kicking game, and special teams coordinator John Fassel is at the helm of the trickery that has helped the Rams become one of the NFL’s best when it comes to special teams.

The 2016 season was another record-breaking year for Fassel’s special teams unit. P Johnny Hekker earned his third trip to the Pro Bowl after setting an NFL record for punts downed inside the 20 (51). Hekker also established a new NFL record for single-season net punting average (46.0), breaking the previous record that Hekker himself set in 2013. Hekker also moved into second place in Rams history, with 434 career punts. K Greg Zuerlein moved into eighth-place in Rams history in points scored, passing WR Torry Holt. LS Jake McQuaide became the first punter in franchise history to earn a Pro Bowl berth.

Since joining Fassel’s return unit in 2013, KR Benny Cunningham has a 27.1-yard kickoff return yardage average (95-2,575), which is the franchise record in the category.

In addition to his special teams duties, Fassel served as Interim Head Coach for the final three games of the 2016 season.

Fassel’s special teams unit returned in 2015 to deliver another compelling season. P Johnny Hekker produced one of the best punting seasons in NFL history, to earn his second Pro Bowl honor. The fourth-year pro led the NFL in punts (96), gross average (47.9), net average (43.7) and punts downed inside the 20-yard line (41). He’s the first player to lead the league in all three categories since the NFL began tracking punts inside the 20 in 1976.

Hekker also completed a 20-yard pass to S Cody Davis on a fake punt play against the Packers. Under Fassel’s guidance, Hekker has completed seven passes for 103 yards off trick plays since 2012.

The Rams return game was ignited by Cunningham and WR Tavon Austin. Cunningham finished fourth in the NFL in kickoff return average, highlighted by a 102 yard return in Week 15. Austin led a punt return team that saw opponents net 38.8 yards per punt, the 10th lowest in the NFL this season.

In Fassel’s 2014 campaign, his units finished among the league’s best in several categories. As a team, St. Louis was fifth in net punt average (41.8) and second in punt return average (13.0). The team’s net punting average was the third highest ever by a Rams special teams unit.

Individually, WR Tavon Austin finished fifth in punt return average (11.2) and was an alternate to the Pro Bowl, while RB Benny Cunningham led the NFC and was fifth in the NFL in kick return average (27.5).

In the Rams’ win over the then defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks, Fassel’s men scored on a trick punt return and executed a fake punt in the final minutes to help St. Louis narrowly escape with a victory.

On the punt return, Austin pretended to track a punt down the left sideline while the Rams return team raced towards Austin in attempt to set up a return. In actuality, Seattle had punted the ball to the St. Louis right. WR Stedman Bailey fielded the punt over his shoulder, turned and raced 90 yards for a touchdown. The play was the longest punt return in the NFL last season and is tied for the third longest in Rams history.

The fake punt came with 2:55 remaining in the game and was daringly called from the Rams own 18-yard line. On fourth-and-3, Cunningham slipped out of the backfield and caught a P Johnny Hekker pass for an 18-yard gain that allowed the Rams to run out the clock and preserve a 28-26 win.

Hekker also completed a pass on a fake punt in Week 12 that helped keep a potential go-ahead drive alive in the fourth quarter of a game at San Diego, and the Rams scored two points on a fake PAT when Hekker, the holder on kicks, rolled out and hit TE Cory Harkey in the end zone.

The 2013 campaign was also a good one for Fassel’s crew. He oversaw a punt team that, led by Hekker, set a new single-season NFL record for net punting average (44.2). Hekker was named First-Team All-Pro and made his first trip to the Pro Bowl at the conclusion of the season.

Despite having one of the NFL’s youngest units for a second season in a row, St. Louis enjoyed success in every area of the kicking game. Rams opponents averaged just 2.6 yards per punt return, which was the lowest in the NFL. In addition, K Greg Zuerlein was 26-of- 28 on field goals. In Fassel’s first two seasons, the Rams did not allow a special teams touchdown.

In 2012, a total of 18 rookies or first year players contributed to the Rams special teams, including Zuerlein, Hekker and leading tackler S Rodney McLeod. Despite their youth, the Rams were one of just two teams in the NFL that did not allow a return touchdown nor a blocked kick. Zuerlein connected on his first 15 field goal attempts of his career and set a new team record with eight field goals from 50 yards or more. Hekker’s 45.8 gross average and 39.9 net average were both the fourth highest single- season totals in team history.

Fassel joined the Rams after spending the past three years in the same capacity with the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders saw much success under Fassel’s leadership, garnering some of the league’s top special teams accomplishments. His units led the NFL in special teams takeaways, turnover differential and points scored in 2009 and 2010. Fassel also oversaw the advancement of returner Jacoby Ford, leading to a breakout rookie season with three kickoff returns for touchdowns in 2010 and one in 2011.

Under Fassel’s tutelage, P Shane Lechler earned a Pro Bowl spot in three consecutive years. In 2009, he led the NFL with a Raider record 51.1-yard average per attempt. His net average of 43.9 yards per punt also set an all-time NFL record and surpassed his own record set in 2008. In addition, K Sebastian Janikowski achieved a career single- season high 89.7 field goal percentage, missing only three attempts (47, 57 and 66 yards) in 2011. Janikowski also converted on the third-longest field goal in NFL history, a Raiders team record 61-yarder at Cleveland in December 2009, and tied an NFL record with a 63-yarder in 2011. Under Fassel’s direction, LS Jon Condo earned two Pro Bowl berths as a “need” player.

In 2008, Fassel helped tutor one of the top units in the NFL as the Raiders ranked ninth in the league in kickoff returns (receiving team) with an average start of 28.8 and 10th in the league in kickoff coverage (kicking team) with a 26.4 average start for opponents. As for the punt return unit, he helped guide the Raiders to the second-best punt return average in the NFL at 13 yards per return. In addition, Fassel’s unit contributed five touchdowns on returns and included Lechler, who led the NFL with a 41.2 net punting average and earned a Pro Bowl berth.

From 2005-07, Fassel was Baltimore’s assistant special teams coach. He helped the Ravens to top-10 finishes in punt and kickoff return average in 2006 and 2007 and his units returned five kicks for touchdowns in two seasons. From 2003-04, he was the head coach and assistant athletic director at New Mexico Highlands University. Fassel also served six months as the school’s interim athletic director and taught undergraduate and graduate courses.

He earned a master’s degree in athletic administration at Idaho State University, where he was a graduate assistant and sports science instructor from 2000-01. In 1999 and 2001, Fassel coached wide receivers and recruited for Bucknell. In Spring 2000, Fassel was the strength and conditioning and wide receivers coach for the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe.

Fassel played wide receiver at Weber State, graduating in 1999 with a degree in Exercise Science. He was signed as a rookie free agent wide receiver with the Indianapolis Colts.

Fassel is the son of former NFL coach Jim Fassel, a longtime NFL coach who guided the New York Giants to the Super Bowl during the 2000 season. John is a triathlete who has finished three Ironman distance triathlons. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have two daughters: Lila and Avery.

 

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