Ex-NY Giants Coach Fassel: UFL Has Staying Power
"I really think (the UFL) will be here to stay," said Fassel, who will guide the Las Vegas Locomotives during the UFL's premiere season, which kicks off October 8. "The league is making all the right moves to be around for a long time."
Fassel's reasoning is different than what you may think.
Each club in the four-team league will play just six games, with the UFL Championship Game being held in Las Vegas on Thanksgiving weekend. Fassel, for his part, believes one of the keys to the league's success lies within the season's length -- or lack thereof.
"I think it's ideal that it's a short season," Fassel told FanHouse. "Say you tried a 16-game season ... that's a long schedule for people who don't know anything about (the league). People might start watching but then wear out on it."
Over his career, Fassel has mixed the perfect media cocktail, blending brutal honesty and a bit of showmanship with a splash of hyperbole. In this case, though, it seems as if the likable coach isn't putting on an act. Doubting him, remember, should be done at your own risk.
In 2000, when he led the New York Giants to the Super Bowl, Fassel had perhaps his most memorable moment, guaranteeing that his team would make the playoffs after some lackluster play on special teams had sent the club to its second straight loss and a 7-4 record in late November.
To make his point, Fassel told the media he was "pushing his chips to the middle of the table," suggesting that he was fully confident in his team's ability to turn it around. Fassel, in fact, put his players on notice by threatening to permanently insert his defensive starters on special teams if things did not turn around.
Well, they did. New York won seven straight games en route to a Super Bowl loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
While the stakes aren't as high, Fassel talks as if he is all-in when predicting the UFL's success.
"One of the differences between the UFL and other leagues (that have tried to succeed alongside the NFL) is that the UFL is regular football," the coach said, alluding to the gimmicks that other alternatives have used to attract attention.
"Another thing is that, those leagues that have failed, they lose their financial compass. We are staffing just four teams, letting the league start small and let it grow."
Echoing the sentiments of others involved with the league, Fassel believes the UFL's growth potential is strongly rooted in its talent base, which the coach believes will be an asset to the NFL. Many of the UFL's players, Fassel admits, are good enough to play in the NFL and will do so.
"That definitely will happen. It's not the concept of the league (to be a minor league system), but it will happen, some players will go on to the NFL," Fassel said. "At the end of the day, NFL (personnel evaluators) want to see guys play.
"I knew we would have good players. I knew how good the guys were that I cut (while in the NFL), but I'm surprised by how good our players are. It has surpassed my expectations."
Fassel has a reputation as an offensive guru, making his mark as an innovative mind in the USFL and as an offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach with five different NFL teams. It is no surprise, then, that the plight of the UFL's players reminds him of two of his former offensive stars.
"I'm reminded of two guys that used to play for me, Kerry Collins and David Patten," Fassel said, pointing out that many veteran NFL contributors were overlooked early in their careers. "Kerry Collins was released by a couple teams, then he was the quarterback for me in the Super Bowl. Patten, the guy has three rings (with the New England Patriots)."
No current UFL players may turn out to be Collins, the current starter for the Tennessee Titans, or Patten, a 12-year NFL regular, but Fassel maintains that it's their opportunity to do so that is important. The coach, for his part, has a chance to prove that he can still coach as well.
"I never got into (the UFL to get back into the NFL)," the coach said. "I don't really care. If it helps, fine, if it hurts, fine. I know one thing: I have a lot of energy to coach this team."
And you can bet on that.