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Fassel in the lead?

Jan 22, 2008, 10:16 PM EST

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According to multiple reports, former Giants coach Jim Fassel has emerged as “a leading candidate” for the Redskins’ head coaching job. In fact, as I type this, Adam Schefter of the NFL Network is saying that the Redskins are “zeroing in” on Fassel as “the leading candidate” for the job.

This development has the message board community and talk show callers and other vocal Redskins fans in an uproar. Actually, that’s an understatement; they’re in a state of meltdown comparable to that after any Dallas loss. The objections to Fassel are many, but here is a summary of the main ones:

  • The hiring of Fassel would mean that any modicum of continuity would be out the window. Since Fassel is an offensive guy, Al Saunders would be out and Jason Campbell would be learning his seventh offensive system in eight years. And since it’s doubtful that Gregg Williams would want to stick around after being passed over for the job, there would be a new defensive guru as well (Schefter reported that the Skins are interested in Rex Ryan, ex of the Ravens, for that job).
  • Fassel was fired as the Ravens’ offensive coordinator by his best friend, Brian Billick, during the 2006 season. Billick didn’t just take the play calling away from his buddy, he canned him in the middle of October.
  • It’s been four years since anyone has expressed any serious interest in hiring Fassel as a head coach. That interest four years ago came from Dan Snyder, who reportedly was on the verge of having Fassel replace Steve Spurrier before he gave Joe Gibbs one more call just for the heck of it. Since then there have been over two dozen NFL head coach openings and the words “Jim Fassel is a leading candidate” has been used in conjunction with none of them.
  • In his final year in New York, the inmates were running the asylum. Fassel lost the locker room at some point and he was unable to find it.

These certainly are valid concerns and, in sum, the negatives may prove to be fatal to a potential Jim Fassel coaching stint. However, it’s not all bad news when it comes to Fassel. Here are some pro’s to go with the con’s:

  • In 1997, his first year as head coach of the Giants, he took a team that the year before had gone 6-10 under Dan Reeves to the playoffs. As NFC East champs with a 10-5-1. With Danny Kannell and Dave Brown at quarterback. Let that sink in for a minute and tell me that the guy isn’t capable of a pretty good coaching job.
  • In November of 2000 with his team’s season hanging in the balance, he “guaranteed” that his team would make the playoffs. None of this “well, if we compete real hard and fight out there we might be able to get in” stuff. Nope he said they would make it. His players reacted very well to what was both a challenge and a statement of confidence. Not only did they make the playoffs the won the division, earning a first-round bye and home field throughout the playoffs. That is something that the Redskins have not accomplished in 16 years. And they got to the Super Bowl, something that the Redskins also haven’t done since 1991.
  • He had a very good record, 54-41-1, until a 4-12 collapse in 2003, his final season in New York. Injuries played a pretty big role in that last ugly season—he had to start Jesse Palmer at QB for three games. Still, the season is on his record so it’s a respectable 58-53-1.
  • This is a bit more abstract, but both of the coaches who took their teams to the Super Bowl this year were run out of previous NFL jobs in the same manner as was Fassel. Browns fans were offering to pack the moving van to get Bill Belichick gone and there were parties all over Jacksonville when Tom Coughlin left. That doesn’t mean that Fassel will get the Skins to the Super Bowl, but it does mean that other coaches in similar circumstances have done so.

If anyone has any more pros or cons, please feel free to chime in with them.

What’s my opinion? I’m not bothering to form one until things begin to firm up here (which means that I could be forming an opinion tomorrow morning, at the rate things are going). I will say that I’m not 100% aboard the continuity bandwagon. I have all the respect in the world for Joe Gibbs, but he’s not leaving a juggernaut behind. It’s a team that in four years had to put on odds-defying winning streaks to pull out two six seeds. Maybe they need a shake up to push them over to top so that words like “home field throughout” don’t seem to have been spoken in a foreign language.

I also think that what the players want is of little relevance. Whenever the boss leaves, the workers in the office want his top aide to take over. It’s only natural to want to know what you’re getting into, to want to minimize the change. But if someone from the outside gets brought in, people don’t quit their jobs or anything like that. They go along, adjust to the new way of doing things and get on with their lives.

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