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Rams’ Interim Head Coach John Fassel Talks Motivation and Morale

It’s no easy task keeping a four-win team motivated in December.

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

Rams Interim Head Coach John Fassel – Post-Practice – December 27, 2016

(Opening remarks)

“I’ll just start off by saying real quick, it’s just great to be back outside. Nothing like being out on the grass, and the sun shine to get out of the office and move around a little bit. The blood flowing makes it feel kind of good. But, today was just kind of a walk-thru, jog-thru, first day install, and it’s good to be outside.”

(On his sense of motivation from the team judging by today’s practice)

“I think today was good. It’s hard to get a real feel for the amount of energy, just because today is really an install, walk-thru, detailed practice where there wasn’t a lot of running, and maybe emotion needed. I think tomorrow will be a really good test for our psyche because tomorrow we’re going to run, and we’re going to practice hard and we’re going to go for over two hours. All we had this morning was install meetings. So,tomorrow we’ll have a little team meeting in the morning. Hopefully they kind of get our mind-set right, and come out to practice as if it’s the mid-season game, like we’ve always done. That’ll be a good test for, I think, where we’re at.”

(On the performance of rookie WR/KR Pharoh Cooper)

“I’ve gotten a real good look at ‘Coop.’ As a kickoff returner this past week, I thought he was really sharp. He’s a receiver that really carries the football like a running back. He’s got good ball skills, he’s tough. He’s really sharp and versatile on offense. We haven’t used him a lot to cover kicks, like on punt and kickoff cover. But, I know that’s something he could, if needed. I think missing the first four to five, six weeks of the season set him back just a little bit as far as developing a big role on special teams. But, as a kickoff returner and in the return game, he’s pretty sharp and he’s tough. He’s kind of like (RB) Benny (Cunningham) in a way – where Benny is the running back, kickoff returner, vertical tackle-breaker, and ‘Coop’ has a little bit of that in him.”

(On if he’s used his motivational tactic that he mentioned over the weekend)

“Not yet. I was going to this morning, but it’s a little too far from game day. We had a good little meeting on Monday. So I thought – ok, Monday, I don’t need to say anything today. I’ll hit them tomorrow. They’re off Thursday. So, kind of space it out. I don’t want to bombard them with so much that a message just gets jumbled with a whole bunch of other ones. Probably right now, less is more. But, one good shot tomorrow, and I’m over-blowing it. It’ll be short and sweet (laughter). Building up I feel like into this amazing thing, which it’s not. It’s just something I remember when I got it from a coach a long time ago. Maybe 15 years down the road when some of these guys are coaching, they’ll yank it out when they feel they need it.”

(On if he’s had players ask when he will bring out the motivational tactic)

“Yeah, and I feel like, ‘Gosh I’m going to disappoint them’ – because they think it’s going to be hot, and it’s really going to take about a minute (laughter). But, the point is to hopefully they’ll remember it. Maybe if it’s not even for this week. Like I said, sometime down the road in their lives that they’ll remember it and use it.”

(On the keys to ending the losing streak on Sunday)

“I think the focus, really, for us on offense, is to convert third downs into first downs. And doing that will add to our time of possession and give our defense the break that they need. Defensively, we saw it in the past game, we just have to finish games. But I think a lot of that just has to do with the flow of the game and all three phases working together – the offense continues drives, which lets the defense sit on the bench, so when the defense comes out on the field, they’re fresh and they can get off the field fast. And then, obviously special teams, we need, like we talked about last week, a ball around the 50-yard-line to help our offense convert into a touchdown, which we did last week. We got a takeaway on defense – touchdown. We got the ball on the 50 on a kickoff return – touchdown. Those things help the offense and the offense can help everybody else by getting first downs. We need a 34, 35-minute time of possession game, which I think, would be very advantageous to us.”

(On if he has made a decision on T Greg Robinson’s status for Sunday’s game)

“Today, we worked a couple different lineups. I probably, even though we don’t have it set yet, wouldn’t say anyways. We worked Greg at left tackle, (G Rodger) Saffold at right tackle, Saffold at left tackle, (T) Pace Murphy at right tackle – and that’s kind of the lineups we’re tinkering with. Very likely, by tomorrow, we’ll have something pretty determined because that’s our big practice. But they’ll be ready. Greg, benched last week, I talked to him about being ready to go this week, he took to it and I would imagine that he would perform at the highest of his ability.”

(On if he has talked to Robinson about the potential of switching to guard)

“Briefly. But, really, I think the best thing for him is to give him one spot and let him really just focus on that. That was a discussion, but I would imagine that there will be one position picked for him and master this position. I think that’s where he’s at and that’s what’s best for him.”

(On if he is more inclined to play it safe on Sunday with the veterans who are dealing with injuries)

“No – that’s determined a little bit by our trainer. If the trainer feels good about them going and they feel good about them going, they’re going to go. There hasn’t been any resistance from any players where you could imagine some of them maybe, they don’t want to play in the last game because they don’t want to risk an injury. But there hasn’t been any resistance, really from any guys with that mindset, which I think is good because you play football and if you start ducking out of piles or kind of standing around piles, that’s when you get hurt. You play football the right way, there’s a good chance you’re going to be perfectly fine. And also our dress list requires 46 guys, most of the inactives are the guys that are dinged up that, for sure couldn’t play anyways – or a quarterback. So, the guys that are healthy or could play will play. I talked to them Monday, I asked the guys in the meeting room, I said, ‘How many guys have six weeks of football left in them?’ And the whole team raised their hand. I said, ‘You know the significance of six weeks?’ And they understood it was teams that are playing in the Super Bowl have six weeks of football left, which is a lot of football. I said, ‘Imagine we’re Detroit or Green Bay right now in this meeting and we’re playing for the NFC West title on Sunday night. Win, you’re in and lose, you go home. Where do you think their mindset is, how can we approach this game like that?’ And that maybe falls on some deaf ears and, and obviously the human nature of the morale is a little bit different – you’re playing for a win and in, compared to just the last game is maybe a little bit different. If we can get our mindset prepared for playing six more weeks or playing for a title in the division this Sunday, that’s how we have to treat it. Sorry, I kind of went off on a tangent (laughs).”

(On how the morale of the team is right now)

“It’s always better when we come outside. Monday after a game is always tough, even in the morning, sitting in the meeting rooms for three or four hours, you’re kind of trying to build them up. Seriously, when you come outside, it’s like some life gets breathed back into them, especially (when) we get the chance to come outside and it’s sunny and it feels good. Morale usually gets lifted by that point in time, regardless of coming off a win or a loss. So it’s great to be outside.”