Saturday, July 26, 2008

Somebody give this man a job already

The last few times the Oakland Raiders head coach position has opened up, Jim Fassel's name is mentioned. Since his unceremonious departure from the Baltimore Ravens in 2006 after serving for two years as Offensive Coordinator, he has become part of the Raiders backdrop, developing or enhancing a rapport with Al Davis, no doubt talking football.

If we look at the timetable of events, it is clear Jim Fassel came close a few times to becoming the Oakland Raiders head coach. The sticking point perhaps is reaching an accord over decision-making authority. I think we'd all like to know what those boundaries are. I'd like to think Fassel, being the type of coach he is, would need that framework in place before taking on the sort of responsibility that comes with a high demand to win the majority of your schedule.

Coach Fassel is not a salty yes man. Being salty in this sense means you project an old school type of approach to the game yet you know your real tasks are organization and the outward appeal to both media and fans. Everyone wants absolute autonomy but in any professional football job you are going to have to make compromises. How well you do that will dictate your success.

Since he is one of the family now, it's obvious Coach Fassel meets with Al's approval as far as depth of knowledge and abilities, otherwise he would not be engaging him in formal interviews for the head coach position. It's not just to meet NFL requirements to interview a certain number of candidates. There has to be value involved or why bother.

Just recently at Raiders training camp he was asked by Jerry McDonald, Raiders beat writer for the Contra Costa Times, about the possibilities of him coaching the Raiders. He said,"No, please don’t even bring that up. Quite honestly, sometimes you stay away because you don’t want that type of speculation. I really came here because Lane invited me to come. It was very nice of him. I appreciate that. My son’s here" [as a quality control staffer]. "I know all the people here.” Fassel said he has also talked to Al Davis and didn’t deny the two have discussed a coaching position over the past few years. “We’ve had our conversations. I’ll just leave it at that.”

Since Tom Flores' departure, Al tends to like salty, veteran type guys like Art Shell, Norv Turner (even if Norv is a nice guy, he chose to be a salty coach to get the job), Mike White (who rebelled), Joe Bugel (who flopped), Jon Gruden (who was not veteran at the time of his hire but is very much a salty guy) and of course the ill-fated Bill Callahan.

Jim Fassel has the option of being salty but he isn't. He's an innovator and his own man. He's been through the gauntlet as head coach of the NY Giants. He understands the pressures of the NFL as well as anybody in the profession. He did not enjoy success most recently as Offensive Coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens so he's not on the most solid of footing. It's been a few bumpy years for Coach Fassel but the truth is he does know offensive game planning.

Most recently when asked by Jerry MacDonald if he wanted to get back into coaching, Fassel said, “I hope so, at some point in time. It almost happened last year (in Washington). We’ll see.”

Fassel was thought to be hired by Dan Synder to coach the Redskins but was inexplicably bumped at the 11th hour for Jim Zorn. Coach Fassel can't seem to catch a break.

Ol' Jim is seen as somewhat of a retread candidate for head coaching jobs at this point. It may be an unfair stigma. Jim Fassel is a viable candidate for a role on an NFL team. A head coaching assignment would not be surprising but he could fill a number of roles in an offensive capacity. He's not washed up. Everyone hits rough patches so it's really not a big deal to bounce back. This is a guy who made it to the Super Bowl with the Giants in 2000. There's no shame in losing to that monster Ravens defense of the day. He knows how to win so he's worth another shot when an opportunity is out there.

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