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Jim Fassel sheds coaching advice for his son, John


Jim Fassel admits he's having a hard time focusing on the road. Less than 48 hours before his son, John, coaches his first game in charge of the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday night in Seattle against the Seahawks, Fassel picks up a call before someone far more important beeps in.

"Oh man! He's calling me right now! I gotta go!"

Fassel, the former New York Giants head coach, is a side passenger in what has been a wild ride for his 42-year-old son, the Rams special team coordinator now interim head coach, over the last 24 hours. As soon as it was announced Monday that Jeff Fisher had been fired as Rams head coach, Jim started getting calls from other reporters wondering if his son would get elevated to the main job .

"It crossed my mind," Jim told me Tuesday. "I heard there's a rumor he's going to be the interim head coach and I thought 'Oh, OK.' That's probably a good fit at this time."

Jim Fassel finally heard from his son in person at 10 p.m. PT on Monday night, long after the Rams' first practice and press conference without Fisher. They had a short talk and then at 12:15 a.m. John Fassel texted his dad again to let him know he was OK. John's wife, Elizabeth, then texted Jim's wife at 1 a.m. to let them both know that she had just spoken with her husband.

First thing Tuesday morning, John Fassel texted Jim again and said, "Text me when you're up, Dad." He did, but didn't hear back.

"I don't think he's sleeping at all," Jim Fassel said.

Then came the call Tuesday with some of the details -- Jim assuring John he'd be at the game in Seattle, mostly. It lasted roughly five minutes, which is as much as Jim will be able to hear from his son over the coming weeks.

"But I told him one thing, I said, 'John you better get some sleep, buddy,'" Jim said. "I don't think you've had any sleep."

The life of an interim head coach is one of the most turbulent, thankless jobs in professional sports. But thanks to a father, who was the head coach of the Giants for six seasons (1997 to 2003) and managed to reach a Super Bowl in 2000 against the Ravens, John Fassel has a good knowledge base from which to draw. In a quick conversation with on Tuesday, Jim Fassel relayed some of his best pieces of advice for his son.

Always put football second -- right after family

Jim Fassel is proud of John in part because he keeps himself in great physical shape. He can sustain plenty of all-nighters, which will serve him well over the final three weeks of the regular season as the Rams' interim head coach.

Fassel said that ability helped John become one of the most respected special teams coordinators in football.

"John is a unique individual," he said. "What you see is what you get, and he's such a loyal guy. He spends a lot of time on special teams, and that's been their shining star over the last five years. I know when I talk to other coaches they say, 'He's scary because we don't know what the hell he's coming up with.' A fake punt or anything like that.

"He works out, stays in shape and there's only two things in his life -- football and family."

Don't scream and holler

John Fassel has gained a reputation as a motivator in part because of his relentlessly positive attitude. While the simple explanation for him getting elevated to head coach, per Rams COO Kevin Demoff, was that the offense and defense could maintain their harmony on game day, Jim Fassel credited his son's demeanor as a big reason why.

"I know the organization really likes him and the players really like him -- he makes it fun," Fassel said. "I've had more than one player come up to me on the sideline and say, 'He makes this fun. He really, really motivates us.' "

He remembered long talks that he would have with John about the value of yelling vs. the value of positive reinforcement.

"There's a time and a place to yell at them, but I always told him -- that's when the coaching stops and the motivation begins. You're not going to get anything out of them that way."

The players don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care

"That's it," Jim Fassel told me. "The players don't know how much you know until they know how much you care. If they know you care about them, you have a great learning curve then. I think he's always followed that."

That part is hard to teach. As Fassel said, it takes a genuine person to earn that kind of reputation. He was proud of the way his son managed to work his way up from a graduate assistant job at Bucknell University back in 1999 to here -- Rams interm head coach. Along the way John Fassel had stops at Idaho State, Amsterdam and the New Mexico Highlands -- not exactly NFL-grade nepotism.

"He's not trying to climb the ladder, all he cares about is his job and I respect that, very much so," Jim Fassel said. "I have a lot of coaching friends and when I see them they're complementary. I think they're serious and not just trying to blow smoke."

It's the kind of experience that creates the type of person ideally suited for this role. Over his next three games against Seattle (8-4-1), San Francisco (1-12) and Arizona (5-7-1), John will need to direct traffic amid the chaos and motivate a team entirely uncertain of their future beyond 2016.

Maybe John Fassel isn't completely ready -- who would be? But he has a great support system just one phone call away.


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