FRISCO - John “Bones” Fassel's first instinct when answering the question, “What does it take to be a good special-teamed?” is to cuss.
“One crazy ...” ... and then the highly-accomplished new Dallas Cowboys coordinator stops himself. “I probably shouldn't say (the word that) would follow.”
Fassel, 46, had been with Los Angeles Rams for seven years but his contract ran out after 2019, leaving Dallas to lure him in a coup.
In his time, he’s come to the belief that there is no single mold for a successful special-teamer. He cites a couple guys who he’s worked with over the years - "I had Corey Littleton in L.A., an undrafted kid, who showed up really fast and he had a lot of talent but a lot of great technical skills; Bryce Hager, who was a linebacker ...'' - and you see the point.
“In my experience, the best special teams players come in all shapes, sizes and speeds,” Fassel says. “There isn't one perfect special-teams guy.”
In this particular year, COVID-19 has created a decision-making crunch time, meaning there might be time to wait for kids - and instead, a reliance on known quantities.
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"It's hard without preseason games to really see some of these young guys, which is where you get a lot of the valuable information from the preseason games,'' Fassel said. "So ... the young guys are probably behind the eight ball, whether the late draft picks or the free agent guys. They got to show up quick we get into some pads and have competitive periods really over the next two weeks. So, yeah, they're under the gun for sure."
So, young or old, what are the traits mentioned by Bones?
1 - HANDS - “I've had slow guys that have just been great on special teams because they can use their hands to make a tackle,” he says.
2 - HIGH SPEED - Fast guys,” he says, “who can make big plays at high speed.”
3 - VERSATILITY - Bones mentions “versatility, and that makes sense, because all of these guys have to be position players, too.
4 - CRAZY ... COURAGE - And finally, Bones Fassel says, “I'll throw one more in there. A guy that's got a lot of courage. That might be the right word to use (in an interview.)”