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John Fassel Talks Four-Minute Meltdown, Nostalgia, and Injury Status

What did Rams’ Interim head coach John Fassel have to say about his team after looking back at the film?

San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Rams Interim Head Coach John Fassel – Press Conference – December 26, 2016

(Opening remarks)

“Just a couple of initial thoughts. Looking back at the film today and speaking with our offensive and defensive staff, my feelings and emotions after the game were kind of confirmed. Watching the tape, talking to some of the players and the emotions and the feelings that were confirmed were we were in a great position to win the football game. We had a two score lead. Even after that score we gave up to make it 21-14, we had the ball with four, four-and-a-half minutes left. In that situation, we practice four-minute offense where the goal is to get first downs and, worst case scenario, make them burn their timeouts – and we did neither. And then we punt the ball and we only netted 40 yards on it – and our punt team is better than that – so they got the ball on that last drive at about the (27)-yard line. And then they cruise down the field and score the game-winning touchdown, with the two-point conversion to go on top of that. Every Friday, we have about three or four plays at the end of practice where it’s just two-point conversions, offense versus defense. Unfortunately, we didn’t execute, we didn’t convert and we lost the game.

“Updated injuries are (WR) Kenny Britt still has a shoulder and he’s day-to-day. He’s tough, but he’s day-to-day – and it’s the same thing that we’ve been dealing with with him the last couple weeks. (T) Rob Havenstein has an ankle injury that’s also day-to-day, that we’ll evaluate over the course of the week.

“Other than that, we let an NFL football game slip out of our hands – just can’t do it. Had a good team meeting just about 30 minutes ago to talk about nothing after the season and what happens starting next Monday, but everything that between today and Sunday. So, kind of just a little mindset starter to get us going this week. I would anticipate us preparing and performing at the highest level.”

(On if he thinks the team will be happy when this week is over after everything they have been through this season)

“I don’t think so. I don’t think anybody – at least, maybe I’m naïve – I don’t think anybody in our coaching staff or anybody in the locker room is looking to just get out of here and hope we survive this last game. That’s not the feeling I get, even though there’s no doubt about it, it’s been a struggle the last three months it seems like – we’ve lost 10 out of the last 11 games. I just have faith in our coaches and players that we’ll rally one more time. Whether it’s good enough, we’ll see. Even great practice and great preparation hasn’t converted into wins, but I guess there’s really just no other options. I think we’re tough enough to be inspired one more week. Like we talked about last week, we’re all being evaluated and we’re playing for something. I talked about, even just 30 minutes ago, Kenny Britt, the first 1,000-yard season for him in his career, for a Ram since 2007. (P) Johnny’s (Hekker) inside the 20 all-time NFL record with his punt pins. (S) Cody Davis, the last two games has played every snap on ‘D’ and every snap on special teams – I think he had over 100 snaps against San Francisco. Six practice squad guys got their first taste of NFL action on Saturday. (RB) Todd Gurley needs 155 yards for 1,000, which would be a grind season to get that mark. I just put a couple things up there, not that we’re looking for the individual accolades in this last game, but there’s things out there that we can strive for that are important to us. I’m sure the guys will do it.”

(On where the team is at after meeting with them following the game Saturday and after the team meeting today)

“The morale is low, because it’s kind of been the same thing, like I said, for the last three months. If you just get a couple more wins and a little bit more hope, then the morale is higher. I don’t think the effort or preparation has deteriorated, but the morale has, just based on not winning football games, which I think is just human nature. I think my job is to build morale up where we fight for one more week. It hasn’t really been that tough of a job to do that, even though the results may look different. The preparation has been admirable.”

(On if he is getting nostalgic looking back at the last year with everything that has happened)

“Yeah, great call. I think, yesterday, when I got to spend a little bit of time at home with my wife and kids, there might have been a little bit of nostalgia. My second daughter was born in St. Louis and then there’s a lot of coaches that have had kids born. A lot of coaches on our staff still have their families back in St. Louis that didn’t move out here with them, so a lot of coaches miss their families. We’ve had a lot of players have first-born this year, probably six or seven players that have had kids since March, when we moved out here. It takes a long time to build relationships with coaches and players and I’ve been able to do that over five years. It’s hard to think of that just being done. That was my thoughts yesterday, it wasn’t my thoughts today. Today’s been all about evaluating Saturday’s tape, charting the good plays and the bad plays and giving the guys feedback on their performance and how do they get better. Meeting with the players and saying this is what we have to do to win this game. But yesterday, maybe just because it was Christmas and I finally got to see my kids, which had been a long time. Just thinking back at, not only this past year, but the past four years in St. Louis where there’s been a lot of great times, a lot of great memories, a lot of fellowship built, a lot of great relationships built. It’s going to change, and every year it changes, but of course, there’s going to be many more significant changes this year than there has been in the past. Great, question, but I wish you didn’t ask it (laughs).”

(On his reaction to Goff’s promise to turn things around)

“I had heard that he said that. I think it’s great, and I think he said it from the bottom of his heart. Like I’ve said the last couple of weeks since I’ve been able to stand at the podium, he’s super tough. For a rookie to be banged around a little bit, maybe haven’t had the success that he had dreamed of when he became the starter and became the draft pick that he was. It’s been a really good mental test for him – maybe physical test too, because he really had to withstand some hits. But for him to say that, I really think he means it. I think that him saying that, he knows he’s got to back that up. So to be able to make a powerful statement like that proves that he’s going to stand up to the fire, and deliver, and I believe that he will.”

(On what resonates the most about this year)

“I think way more than – you probably don’t want to hear it – but, way more than the win-loss record has been, the relationships that have been built. The guys in that locker room, even with the losing that has gone on, have really been good buddies. There’s been a lot of good, like I said before, fellowship – where we spent three months in Oxnard in a hotel, and everybody is away from their families just practicing football, and trying to get our feet on the ground, and figure out where our families are going to live – being away from everything really. Oxnard was out there. It was a great experience. Then, spending a really extended amount of time in training camp in Irvine – we were there for about six weeks. We didn’t move here until Week 1 of the regular season, where usually (training) camp breaks, and you got a few weeks to get back into it. A lot of time in the dorm rooms in Irvine – six weeks in the dorm room. The early season, I think there were some highs – 3-1 at one point, and then obviously, it’s crashed down since then. I think being behind closed doors in the locker room has just been some great relationships built. Not only this year, but in the years that I’ve been here. Most of us have been here the past, really, five years, so I think that’ll be something that I’ll remember. Hopefully the players will remember more so than, obviously, blowing a two-score lead with six minutes left in the game. As much as it hurts right now, I think probably people forget about that – not forget about blowing it, but probably remember how to win. But, just the actual minute-by-minute details that will probably be gone, and everybody will move on and look forward to whatever is next.”

(On how the coaches manage the roster and playing time going into this last game)

“Yeah, we actually discussed that quite a bit this morning, because we want to have the best idea of what our lineup is going to be on Monday so we can make our preparations. Right now where we’re at, 53 guys on the team, 46 dressed, most of the guys we’re dressing as inactive right now, are the guys that are injured. So, our lineup is kind of already determined on who’s available on game day. Then it just comes down to us trying to configure the right offensive line, or defensive line rotation, or special teams. New guys are in, this guy is starting on defense now. We discussed that this morning, but it’s kind of already set.”

(On if LT Greg Robinson will be active this week)

“That was something that was discussed. Part of it was (RT) Rob (Havenstein) right now is day-to-day with the ankle injury. (T) Pace (Murphy) got some work in this past game at right tackle, so that’s good. I would anticipate Greg preparing to play as if he was the starter. There’s some movement where Greg can go to left tackle, (G) Rodger (Saffold) can go right tackle. Or, keep Rodger at left tackle, Pace at right tackle, and Greg can swing. So, those are discussions that are happening right now. But, yes, I would anticipate him being active on game day, and likely playing.”

(On the possibility of Robinson being moved to guard this week)

“That’s been discussed, yes, and I think the rest of the day will determine what our lineup will be. We have really until tonight as a staff to come up with our lineup and our game plan for tomorrow’s install. So, that’s under consideration.”

(On if he knew or was surprised that it’s been since 2007 since a Rams receiver has surpassed the 1,000-yard mark)

“Yeah, I learned that last week that that was potential, and I didn’t know until this morning when I talked to (WR) Kenny (Britt) at breakfast that was his first 1,000-yard season. I knew that he was going for a 1,000-yard season and it was the first since 2007 for the Rams, but I just didn’t consider that that was his first, because I thought that he had, just under assumption. When I talked to him this morning, he was excited about it. I told him, ‘Kenny, you’re just getting better with age man. Get that shoulder right, and let’s keep going. Your first 1,000-yard season.’ I don’t know how old he is, 30 years old maybe. I said, ‘The best is yet to come Kenny. Come on man.’ He was excited that I was excited for him. Like my opening statement, the players are – everybody has got something to play for. Just believe that. I know the coaches have something to coach for – our livelihood next year. So, I would imagine we’ll have a great week.”