On Sunday, the last day the Colorado Buffaloes were without a head football coach, I spoke with a man I thought might have interest in the job.
Jim Fassel, fresh off a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, had just finished watching his son, John, help the St. Louis Rams eek out a win against the Buffalo Bills. John is the Rams’ special teams coordinator.
“I don’t miss a Rams game if I can avoid it,” he said, shortly before jumping off the phone to answer a call from John. “We talk every week before the game and after the game.”
Jim, a former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator, is hoping it won’t be long before the two talk after his own games.
Late last week, shortly after Butch Jones rejected CU’s $13.5 million offer, Fassel’s name was one of many mentioned as a possibility for the Buffs’ head coaching position. His name actually came up when the committee met to talk about potential candidates, and someone close to the search put Fassel and CU athletic director Mike Bohn in touch. They spoke very briefly and informally about the job, according to a source close to the search, but the talks never went further.
As I spoke with Fassel, he declined to comment on the CU job, neither confirming nor denying his interest in leading the Buffs. Instead, we talked mostly about his background and the competitive fire that still burns within.
“I love coaching,” he said. “That’s been my whole life and I’ve always enjoyed it.”
The next morning, it was confirmed that Mike MacIntyre of San Jose State would become CU’s next head coach.
Fassel never got a shot at the job, although that’s not a surprise. He didn’t fit the criteria Bohn made public. Bohn said all along he wanted a current college head coach. Since 2006, Fassel’s only coaching experience has come with the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League (he did win two UFL titles, however) and he hasn’t worked on a college sideline since 1989.
While Fassel won’t be CU’s head coach, could he possibly be a good fit as CU’s offensive coordinator?
He’s certainly qualified.
From 1997-2003, he went 58-53-1 as the head coach of the New York Giants, leading them to Super Bowl XXXV and into the playoffs three times.
In 1995, he was one of two finalists for the Broncos’ head coaching position, losing out to Mike Shanahan. Two years ago, Broncos president John Elway publicly stated Fassel was a possible candidate for the head coach vacancy before later hiring John Fox.
Aside from that:
- Fassel has eight years of experience as an NFL offensive coordinator, including the 1993 and 1994 seasons in Denver. Elway threw for a career-high 4,030 yards and had his first 25-TD season in 1993.
- He worked as an assistant at Stanford from 1979-83 and played a key role in recruiting Elway to the Cardinal.
- In his only college head coaching job, he went 25-33 in five seasons at Utah, from 1985-89. His defense struggled, but his offense at Utah was routinely a high-scoring unit. The most prolific passer in Utah history, Scott Mitchell, played three seasons under Fassel.
In addition to having the credentials to lead the CU offense, Fassel has strong ties to the state and a desire to live here again. He has five children and four of them — with the exception of John — live in Denver.
“Where I live is a deciding factor in coaching for me,” said Fassel, who currently lives just outside of Las Vegas.
As MacIntyre builds his coaching staff at Colorado, he’s sure to bring several members of the San Jose State staff to Boulder. Current Spartans offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren could be one of them. If not, it wouldn’t hurt to look at Fassel, who might welcome the opportunity.
“I’m too young to retire,” the 63-year-old Fassel said. “I’ve done well financially in coaching; that doesn’t matter. It’s where you live and an opportunity to win.”
Could that next opportunity come in Boulder?
The Buffs and MacIntyre could do a lot worse.